BY JARRAD GARDNER
Coburg’s current longest serving player Jesse Corigliano notches up his 50th VFL match this Sunday against Werribee at Piranha Park.
A product of the VFL development league and now Coburg vice-captain, Corgiliano is proud to reach the milestone but admits it’s been a long road to this point.
“I’m pretty proud of it because of where I’ve come from, I struggled in my first few years and barely made the list and saw all my mates playing VFL footy while I was playing local or just scraping in to play a development game” he said.
‘Rigga’ joined the Lions for the 2015 season, securing the final spot on the club’s list and spent his first two years bouncing between the development side and his local club Strathmore.
His breakout year came in 2016 when he won the Eric Lines medal for the club’s development league best & fairest, helping him overcome self-doubt and gain belief in his own abilities.
“I started playing some pretty good footy, and me actually playing good footy was a surprise to myself because I pretty much had no confidence in myself” he said.
“I probably didn’t deserve to play development league when I first got here, but when I started playing good footy in development I was kind of like “what’s going on?” and then to win the award was nice recognition for a bit of hard work.”
Corigliano believes it’s not only his football that has improved in his time at the Lions, he has also developed as a person and as a leader during his career, which he attributes to his longevity at the club.
“As a person I think is the biggest thing, I remember speaking to Nick Carnell when he retired and he was saying that he didn’t realise how much footy would help him in his work life.”
“The traits that you learn at footy clubs, especially one like this where you’re an underdog every week and your facilities aren’t like the other VFL clubs, I think it just instils some really solid traits that are really valuable to footy and outside of footy.”
“That’s what I’m most proud of, the development of me as a person and the way I play footy and I think that’s what’s gotten me to fifty games.”
The vice-captaincy position is one that Corigliano admits he “probably wasn’t ready” for until this year but one which has helped him grow even further as a person with the guidance of head coach Leigh Adams.
“There’s a couple of books Patch has given me to read to understand how different people react and what strong culture is and some examples around the sporting world.”
‘Rigga’ was fortunate enough to lead the side out in our round 10 clash with Northern Blues, and although he was forced from the ground with injury in the first quarter, says he learnt a lot from that experience.
“Me and Bunks (Luke Bunker) did paper scissors rock for who would be captain, unfortunately it only lasted a quarter for me but it was good running out with the guys and doing the coin toss, just something I never thought would happen” he said.
Looking back on his first few years at the club, Corigliano realises how important the leaders of the club were to his development and hopes to build those same relationships with the current crop of younger players.
“I really looked up to guys like Nick Carnell and Ben Clifton, Danny Younan who’s at Essendon now was a big one for me, Daniel Venditti, those kinds of guys not so much personally but I suppose in hindsight now how important they were to the group.”
“Those guys had played together for four or five years and we haven’t had that until now, guys like Pete, Ex, Bunks, I can see them along with myself as long term players for the Coburg footy club and hopefully that will hold us in good stead.”
“It’s more the people around the club, we went to the legends night to celebrate all the past players and all the good times they had and Ben Clifton got inducted and he never played in any premierships but he said that he just enjoyed and learnt so much despite never winning a flag” he said.
“I’ve still thoroughly enjoyed my time at Coburg despite not winning as many games, it would be awesome to be more competitive and make finals and that’s something we’re striving towards but at the same time I love my footy here.”
He says the “best thing” about the club is the relationships he’s built along to way and knows he will continue to build throughout his career.
“Losses are tough and we don’t like them but it’s easier to forget when you form such good relationships and have good friends at the club.”
“Coming to the footy club (after a loss), it’s just like “alright let’s move on” guys like Jack Sandric who are just hilarious and it’s always good coming in and then as you build friendships you begin to talk about things that aren’t footy.”
If he had to compare himself to an AFL player, the first name Corigliano mentions is a former team mate and now Fremantle star Luke Ryan.
“Luke Ryan who I played with is someone I like to watch, how he positions himself behind the footy to take intercept marks but I also think I have an aspect of a rebounding game, being able to run and break lines.”
‘Rigga’ knows he couldn’t have reached this milestone alone and took the time to thanks some of the people closest to him while also reflecting on the words of a former AFL champion.
“I could go on for ages, first of all my family, my girlfriend Cyd and her dad and everyone who comes and watches me.”
“I read Sam Mitchell’s book and he said how selfish athletes are and even though I’m not a professional athlete, I didn’t understand what he meant until playing at a high level.”
“I leave for work in the morning and don’t see mum, dad and Cyd until late at night, weekends are gone, I can’t go out the night before a game so a massive thankyou to them for putting up with it, it wouldn’t be easy especially when I come home flat after losses.”
“All my teammates past and present, the reason I’m still at Coburg is because of the relationships I’ve formed with people so I really appreciate all those guys.”
“Obviously, all the coaches and staff, especially Oz (Ben Osborne) the defensive coach who works with me before and after training.”
“So whether it’s coaches, admin staff or volunteers, I just want to see a big thankyou to everyone who’s helped me along the way.”
“The people that come to Coburg are really good and the people that stay are even better people.”