Report: JEFF STEPHENSON
SAM Cunnington played his first senior match with Cobden in Victoria’s Western District as a 15-year-old.
By the time he was 19 he was club captain.
Then, after making the bold move to switch clubs and join arch-rival Camperdown, coached by Phil Carse, the honour again fell on his broad shoulders when he was appointed the Magpies’ captain in his second year in 2017 introducing a new slant on an old proverb that if the captaincy fits – wear it.
Not too many players can boast they have captained two clubs in the same competition before they turned 21 – but Sam can.
The new Redlands midfielder therefore has packed plenty into a short, yet eventful career that still has plenty to play out.
For the strongly-built, hard-at-it, 24-year-old, leadership sits with him as does a hand fit the appropriately-sized glove.
And that’s the way he has always treated it.
“By the time I was 19 at Cobden the club was in a stage of rebuilding and there were a lot of young guys on the list.
“It got down to the fact I’d had a lot more experience than most of the others and I was prepared to take on the role.
“I just thought if the glove fits then go for it.”
It’s his intention to bring his leadership attributes to the fore with the Bombers as the next phase of his impressive resume rolls out.
Sam went through both the Under 16 and Under 18 programs with Geelong Falcons, played for the Victorian Country Under 15s and has been a regular in Hampden’s inter-league side the last few years.
His switch from Cobden to Camperdown at such a young age came about because his life revolved around the latter at that stage.
Family, school, football and his first job centred upon Cobden.
Then came a girlfriend in Camperdown followed by a new job in the town and when approached by the Magpies to make the switch he decided that’s the road he should take, confirming however it was still a very difficult decision for him to make.
The new road led him, Phil and the Magpies to last year’s premiership decider, which they lost by just 11 points to powerhouse Koroit.
The Magpies had upset Koroit in the second semi-final in a match Sam described as “the greatest” he’d played in, which was particularly appropriate considering they hadn’t defeated the Saints in the previous seven years.
He believed the grand final was there for the taking at three quarter-time, but despite all the motivational talk and the belief in the group, the Magpies simply couldn’t step up to the plate when it mattered the most.
“It was like we were all waiting for someone else to provide a spark.
“I dunno why – it just didn’t happen.”
It was after the grand final Sam decided he might look further afield – and by that we mean a long way further.
Queensland was on his radar after concluding the time was again ripe for a change.
“I’d been living in small country towns all my life and decided I wanted to try something different.
“I thought a move would be good – so I decided to follow the sun – that’s what you do for holidays and I reckoned it could suit me and so I wanted to make it a reality.
“It was after Phil was announced as coach of Redland that I rang to congratulate him and he asked me what my plans were.
“I told him and he extended the invitation and here I am.
“After that, I said righto, what have I got to do and I thought the best thing was to get down to work on my fitness.”
So, there he was late last year running laps when he recognised a figure doing the same on an adjacent oval.
It was Darcy Graham – a tough son-of-a-gun Hampden League opponent from Warrnambool – and Sam thought there was no way he was going to let his rival take the honours in the art of endurance running.
“I ran and ran – but so did he.
“I couldn’t let him outdo me.
“I thought to myself I’m not going to stop until he does.
“He never did. The guy’s a machine.”
Neither of them knew it then but they were each preparing for the same cause.
Yes, both are now teammates at Redland Bombers.