Sam Wright
Ex-Kangaroo Sam Wright (r) has been appointed as Collingwood's new AFLW coach Image by Hamish Blair/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

Pies appoint ex-ballet employee Wright as AFLW coach

Justin Chadwick December 22, 2023

Collingwood are pinning their faith on Sam Wright to lead the Magpies on a merry dance up the ladder after appointing the former North Melbourne utility as their new AFLW coach.

The Magpies have been on the lookout for a new coach since parting ways with Steve Symonds in November.

Symonds led Collingwood to finals action in each of his first four seasons, but a disappointing 11th-placed finish in 2023 cost him his post.

Wright has been an assistant at North Melbourne’s AFLW program for the past two seasons.

And if his playing career is anything to go by, the 33-year-old isn’t afraid to think outside of the box.

We have appointed Sam Wright as Senior Coach of our @CollingwoodAFLW program 🤝

Sam played 136 games for North Melbourne, and joins us after working with the Australian Ballet, Cricket Victoria, and two seasons as an Assistant Coach with the Kangaroos’ AFLW side. pic.twitter.com/gLj0Sbckai

— Collingwood FC (@CollingwoodFC) December 22, 2023

Wright’s AFL career was in grave danger of being brought to a very premature end after undergoing multiple surgeries on both of his ankles and also dealing with ligament and stress reaction problems in his feet.

Out of desperation, Wright and North Melbourne turned to ballet to find a solution to his ongoing feet issues.

Wright was able to return to the field following a 701-day absence to play 16 games in 2018, but he added just four more appearances in 2019 before retiring two months shy of his 29th birthday.

His experience with ballet had whet his appetite.

Following his 136-game AFL career, Wright joined the Australian Ballet for a three-year stint as a dancer welfare and development coordinator.

Wright then joined Cricket Victoria as a player development manager, spending time at both the Melbourne Renegades and Melbourne Stars.

Collingwood president Jeff Browne was impressed by Wright’s experience outside of the AFL.

“While Sam brings extensive experience within our game as both an AFL player and a coach, the work he has done to develop himself as both a person and a leader in a number of diverse environments outside of our game is equally as impressive,” Browne said in a statement.

“His background, combined with his character, will greatly benefit our program and we look forward to seeing him play a pivotal role in driving the continued development and growth of our playing group.” 

Wright said it was an honour to be named head coach of the AFLW Magpies. 

“I am grateful to be able to play a role alongside every player and staff member in driving elite standards within the AFLW program which will in turn lead to success,” Wright said.  

“I look forward to meeting this talented group of footballers very soon and cannot wait to get to work in what will be a very exciting next chapter of this program where we will strive to get better, together.”

NORTH MELBOURNE LISTS SAM WRIGHT’S BALLET-INSPIRED COMEBACK PATH

*Round 6, 2016 – Injures right ankle – misses three games.
*Round 11, 2016 – Sprains left ankle – surgery.
*Round 19, 2016 – Return via VFL. Sore. Last game for year.
*September, 2016 – Surgery on left ankle. Clean-up.
*December, 2016 – Surgery on right ankle.
*Pre-season series, 2017 – Return. Plays one further VFL practice match.
*April, 2017 – Suffers foot injury – misses eight weeks.
*Round 10, 2017 – Return via VFL. Three games.
*August, 2017 – Season over. Further ankle surgery.
*November, 2017 – Ballet to assist with recovery.
*January, 2018 – Return to main training.
*March/April, 2018 – Return for VFL practice match & start of season.
*Round 7, 2018 – First AFL game in 701 days