The decision to join Brisbane's AFLW program is one a former south-west teacher-turned-elite football coach doesn't regret.
Earlier this year Paul Henriksen, who taught at Terang College for 18 years, finally accepted Lions coach Craig Starcevich's offer to come onboard.
Starcevich had posed the question of Henriksen the past two seasons but because of the previous overlap between his AFL and VFL roles with the Lions, he wasn't able to commit.
The former educator arrived at Brisbane in December 2016, when he left his teaching job to head north and become an AFL development coach under newly-appointed Lions mentor Chris Fagan.
Prior to that he had impressed as coach of Vic Country and Geelong Falcons' junior sides.
Since then Henriksen has fulfilled many roles with the Lions' male programs - he is currently head of development - but at the moment he is focused on the women and their quest for a second flag.
As the side's defensive coach, he is in charge of one of the strongest back lines in the league, which will be put to the test in a preliminary final against Adelaide on Friday night.
Henriksen is excited for the challenge against the most successful AFLW club in history.
"It's what you play footy for really, isn't it at any level?" he told The Standard.
"The girls have been training really well and had the week-off (after) beating Richmond two weeks ago and now have the big challenge of Adelaide footy club on Friday night at Metricon.
"There's a lot of history there between the two clubs, there's a long history there over the seven seasons - a couple of grand finals against each other and a lot of finals footy, so we're under no illusions. It'll be a tough test against the Crows."
Due to the Gabba being out of action for cricket, the minor premiership-winning Lions have been forced to play three of their past five matches at Gold Coast's Metricon Stadium.
In a good sign for their chances of progressing, all three games have been wins, highlighted by a 22-point victory against the Crows in round eight. While it's not exactly the home-ground advantage they are entitled to, Henriksen has faith the side can deliver on Friday.
"The ground holds no fears for us and the style of footy that we love to play," he said.
"We're looking forward to it and it's a home state final. It's not a home ground final as such but we've had success on that ground over the last five-to-six weeks."
In his short time with the female program, Henriksen has noticed similarities and differences between mentoring the men but is adamant he has benefited from the "good change of scenery".
"It's just different because you can always feel that you can add value to the program," he said.
"You have to coach a little bit differently, in terms of how you do it and what information (you give).
"But they have a real hunger, they are unbelievably hungry for more knowledge and the more that you can give them the more they thrive on it.
"It's really put a vibrancy in my coaching and it's giving me a chance to grow and we talk a lot about that at our footy club and that's not just players, it's got to be coaching staff as well."
It's really put a vibrancy in my coaching and it's giving me a chance to grow and we talk a lot about that at our footy club and that's not just players, it's got to be coaching staff as well.- Paul Henriksen
Although his time with the Lions has coincided with a successful period for the club's men's, women's and VFL sides, it hasn't all been smooth-sailing for the ex-Falcons leader.
In 2020, when COVID-19 put the AFL season on hold for more than two months, Henriksen was one of the many staffers around the league who were stood down until it returned.
Rather than sit around with little to do, he decided to reconnect with his teaching roots and spent four weeks at a school in outback Queensland.
Henriksen looks back fondly on the adventure, saying it was "great at the time".
"It was a great experience to get out there and just learn a lot from different people," he said.
"We had teachers there who had come from Sudan and you just learned a lot of life experiences during that time, like a lot of people made in 2020."
He may not be a teacher - in the traditional sense anymore - but Henriksen has found similarities between coaching and his original trade.
He regularly corrects people who say he's left the profession.
"I actually am teaching still, it's just perhaps not in the typical classroom," he said.
Six years on from his move to the sunshine state, Henriksen still has a strong affection for the south west - the area where he was born and bred.
Soon enough he'll be back home for a much-needed holiday.
"We've got a caravan and we put that in at Surfside (caravan park) for three weeks or so we're looking forward to getting back down there in December and January over the Christmas-New Year period," he said. "I always put the caravan in there down there at Lake Pertobe. I always get home as much as I can. I love getting home, I miss home at times."
Should Brisbane defeat Adelaide on Friday, the Lions will face the winner of North Melbourne versus Melbourne in the decider.
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Matt is a sports journalist at The Standard.
Matt is a sports journalist at The Standard.
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