Williamstown has pulled off a VFL Women’s coaching coup, enticing Collingwood premiership coach and 2018 VFLW coach of the year Penny Cula-Reid across the bridge to take over as coach of its women’s team.
The Seagulls women’s program has been a work in progress over the past two years, but the appointment of Cula-Reid, one of the best coaches in the league, will fast track their development.
Cula-Reid did not take the decision to leave Collingwood lightly, but felt it was in the best interests of her coaching career to take on a new challenge with Williamstown.
“The decision wasn’t easy,” Cula-Reid told starweekly.com.au.
“I’m a Collingwood girl at heart, but for my footy career and my future, it’s something I’m really looking forward to.
“I think the opportunities that Williamstown has provided me is something that I can’t pass up.
“Being at a standalone club is really going to challenge me as a coach.
“It will be good just to learn and to de-brief and reflect on the seasons that I had at Collingwood, but to be able to use that experience and bring that into Williamstown.”
Cula-Reid takes over a Williamstown side that finished rock bottom in 2019.
It will be a different Seagulls outfit next season with Cula-Reid intent on speeding up the development of the established players, topping up with some new recruits and the addition of five Adelaide Crows AFLW players each week to instill more leadership and quality.
“It’s 100% going to strengthen us,” Cula-Reid said of the Crows-aligned players.
“I’m hopeful they’re going to be able to influence the young players we have here to show them what it’s like and what they need to do to get to the next level.”
Cula-Reid has an infectious enthusiasm for her new role at Williamstown.
The 31-year-old had a beaming smile as she hoisted a Seagulls scarf into the air for photos.
“It’s exciting,” she said.
“It’s one of the oldest clubs in the land and it’s great to be a part of.
“I wish preseason started tomorrow, so I can just get stuck into it.”
While Cula-Reid is ready to embrace and learn more about the history of Williamstown, she is also keen to “put my spin on it”.
With the Seagulls women’s program in its infancy, Cula-Reid will get to shape the culture of the team and the women’s program.
“The three main things that I look at is effort, character and commitment,” she said.
“I want to make sure these girls know what it’s like to work hard because they will reap the benefits of it if they work hard.”
Cula-Reid, who grew up in Ormond, is relatively young coach at 31, but she sees her age as just a number.
Her experience in the game is her strongest asset.
She played over 200 games across 13 seasons with the St Kilda Sharks and represented Victoria on seven occasions.
“I think that’s [her age] my point of difference, being able to build relationships and connect with the girls,” she said.
“I’ve played more than 300 footy games, played for my state, played for Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Collingwood, played for Australia, so I’ve got a lot of experience in terms of football and now I’m turning that into how I can influence young players.”
After just one win in 2019, Cula-Reid wants to put out a more competitive Williamstown team next season.
She is keen for the Seagulls to build a reputation as one of the best developers of young talent in the VFLW.
“Success can be measured in so many different ways, whether it’s wins on the field or getting players drafted,” Cula-Reid said.
“That’s ultimately my goal, to get these girls prepared for the next level and the next part of their football career.”