By ZAC MILBANK
Woodville-West Torrens coach Sam Lonergan has revealed he fought back tears as he announced his sudden departure to the playing group on Tuesday night.
As co-captain Patrick Giuffreda spoke in glowing terms of Lonergan, it prompted the Eagles mentor to reflect on the strong relationships he was quick to build with his players in just 12 months.
Speaking on SANFL Radio, Lonergan said he was leaving Oval Avenue with a heavy heart to take up an opportunity as a development coach with AFL club Richmond.
After the Eagles narrowly missed playing in the major round this season, Lonergan predicted the club would bounce back to finals participation under the incoming mentor in 2020.
The Tasmanian paid tribute to the support he had received from club officials, including chief executive Luke Powell, who played a significant mentoring role during Lonergan’s decision-making process.
Despite only being at Maughan Thiem Hyundai Oval for a year, Lonergan said the experience of being in charge of a club’s entire football program would prove to be an invaluable one as he expands his career.
Powell said the club was supportive of Lonergan furthering his career at elite level.
”While it is disappointing to lose a great person and coach in Sam, we fully support his decision to take on such a great opportunity in the AFL system,” Powell said.
”Our club will always encourage its people to enhance and better their careers at the highest level, be that as a player, coach or an employee in the professional sector.
”Sam has endeared himself to this football club and has developed strong lasting relationships within his short time at the club. Sam will continue to always be part of the Eagles family and we wish Sam and his family all the success in the next chapter of their lives.”
The Eagles have already begun their search for Lonergan’s replacement as they join SANFL rival Central District in the search for a new head coach.