Billy Celeski’s BootLab getting off on the right foot

Former Socceroo and Melbourne Victory star Billy Celeski says cleaning boots is important for players who dream of playing professionally.

The cleaning of boots has becoming something of a time-honoured tradition amongst seasoned professional football players.

For many who have scaled the heights of this great game, the memories of cleaning boots as a youngster was a humbling reminder of where they started, and considered an important lesson in the requirements of discipline and respect that grounded them on their way to the top.

In the modern day, it is not often you see elite youth players cleaning the boots of the professional peers, but former Socceroo and Melbourne Victory star Billy Celeski says cleaning their own boots is an important discipline for players who dream of playing professionally.

It was that thought process that saw Celeski identify a business opportunity and one that he has pounced on with the launch of his new boot-cleaning product, Bootlab 101.

“I wanted something that would teach kids about the importance of respecting the tools of their trade,” he told Soccerscene.

“And that’s what boots are. They are our tools, and as players we have to take care of them.”

The Bootlab 101 Boot Brush is a visually striking product.

It wouldn’t look out of place amongst the high-tech, high-design aesthetic of an Apple store.

But when it comes to Celeski’s Boot Brush, its ingenuity is in its simplicity.

A 300 ml bottle with a squeeze valve attached to a brush.

Simply fill the bottle with water, squeeze to release the water onto the boot and use the brushes to scrub them clean. Simple!

No more dragging muddy boots through the house to laundry and no more excuses from brining muddy boots into the clubhouse.

Celeski – who was a creative force on the field as a player – said however simple its application, the conception, design and manufacture of the brush was meticulously planned and carried out.

“Initially when we looked at what we could do, the research was based on looking at what kids get when they signup for a club or an academy,” he said.

“You get your kit, you get your drink bottle and maybe some merch, which is great, but what are we giving them to teach them about the importance of caring for the tools they use to play?

“I wanted to come up with a device or product that was going to trigger them to ensure they looked after those tools.

“At the end of the day, parents spend a lot of money on registration and boots and being able to take care of those boots is an important lesson for kids to learn about having respect for what their parents do for them, and a good discipline to get into when it comes to respecting themselves as well.”

Celeski employed the services of an industrial designer to bring his vision to life and said that with the product now on the market, the feedback has been great.

The brush is already in the hands of A-League and W-League stars and internationals like Jamie Maclaren and Melissa Barbieri, and Celeski said first impressions have been good.

“We gave a couple out to some professionals just to get some feedback and the flow on from that has been great,” he said.

“The feedback is good and we are getting professionals from overseas who are getting in touch with us and buying the product for themselves.

“Hopefully if we can show that it’s good enough for the professionals, then the clubs and academies and players will want it for themselves as well.”

Celeski said the Boot Lab 101 was working with a number of clubs to make the Boot Brush a part of the kit they provide players.

“We’re speaking to a couple of A-League clubs and there’s a lot of interest from NPL clubs as well, because they have players from under-7s right up to their seniors,” he said.

“We’ve cast the net far and wide and now that the product is out there and people are starting to get it in their hands and see how effective it is we’re getting good feedback.

“Players can clean their boots on the spot and leave all that mud and dirt on the ground where it’s meant to be and out of their clubrooms, their lawns or their laundry.”

With B2B a core focus of Boot Lab 101’s sales strategy, Celeski confirmed his company is looking at the best branding possibilities for the bottles, so that they can be branded with club logos and sponsors.

Boot Lab also offers wholesale pricing for clubs, academies and associations who place large orders.

“The brand is starting to get out there,” he said.

“I feel as it is early days, but the feedback is good and we believe we’ve delivered a quite innovative product that doesn’t really have much in the way of comparable products.

“Once we start announcing some of the clubs we’re working with, I’m confident we will see a domino effect and more will come as a result.”

You can purchase the Boot Lab 101 Boot Brush via the company’s online store. 

Clubs, academies, federations and interested stockists can learn more about wholesale pricing via the Boot Lab 101 website.

Matthew Galea is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Football Coaches Australia appoints Ernie Merrick as FCA Ambassador


Football Coaches Australia (FCA) is pleased to announce the addition of Premiership and Championship-winning A-League Men’s coach Ernie Merrick as an FCA Ambassador.

Ernie’s ongoing legacy in Australia football is assured. To date, he has left an indelible imprint on Australian football, and on those he has worked with.

Through his statesman role, FCA looks forward to Australian football coaches continuing to be able to tap into Ernie’s considerable football experience and expertise. Ernie will also be able to provide valuable commentary and insights on FCA issues relevant to coaches in Australia.

Ernie Merrick OAM was a PE teacher, as well as an amateur football player before entering the head coaching ranks.

Ernie’s most recent A-League role was as Newcastle Jets FC Head Coach where he took the Jets to the Grand Final in his inaugural 2017/18 season. He is the former head coach of the Victorian Institute of Sport, Hong Kong national football team, and A-League clubs Melbourne Victory FC and Wellington Phoenix FC.

Under Ernie’s leadership, Victory won the 2006–07 A-League Premiership, finished second in the group phase of the 2008 Asian Champions League and in the 2008–2009 season, won the treble, the Pre-Season Cup, the Premiership and the Grand Final.

During the 2009–2010 season, despite severe season-ending knee injuries to key players, Victory once again reached the Grand Final.

In committing to the FCA Ambassador role Ernie stated:

When asked by FCA to become an Ambassador and Technical Advisor to FCA I felt privileged and honoured. I hope to be able to work with FCA to provide ongoing professional development mentorship to aspiring coaches.”

FCA President Phil Moss acknowledged the appointment by stating:

“Ernie’s credentials as a coach speak for themselves – without a doubt one of the most successful to grace the national competition – but he is also a top-class human being who passionately cares about people so he will add significantly to our organization & our members.”

Long-time football colleague, and current FCA Executive Committee member, Gary Cole endorsed Ernie’s role.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Ernie (Merrick) since the mid-eighties when he came to Preston Lions in the NSL as a young assistant coach to Billy Murray. Our paths crossed again when he was Head coach of the Victorian Institute of Sport, where he helped develop wonderful players like Vince Grella, Simon Colosimo, Adrian Leijer and Billy Celeski. We then had the opportunity and privilege to help set up and build Melbourne Victory Football Club.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with Ernie as he is a wonderful leader and has the gift of being able to make the complex simple. He is a Pro-Licence Coach, with a teaching and sports science background, yet simplifies rather than confuses, which helps him to be the wonderfully successful coach he is, as well as a great developer of players.”

FCA looks forward to further Australian coach Ambassadorial role announcements within the near future.

Melbourne Victory extends Victoria University partnership

Victoria University

Melbourne Victory have announced the extension of their partnership with Victoria University, making them the Club’s Official University Partner for this upcoming season.

Having been a Major Partner since 2017, Victoria University provides an opportunity for its students to engage and connect with Melbourne Victory, delivering a pathway for students to gain invaluable experience in a range of departments within the Club.

The upcoming 2021/22 A-League Men’s and Women’s seasons are set to be exciting for the Melbourne Victory faithful. The Victory’s A-League Men’s side are set for a resurgent year under Tony Popovic, whilst their A-League Women’s side will be looking to retain their championship trophy from last season.

Managing Director Caroline Carnegie was looking forward to developing the relationship further.

“Our relationship with Victoria University presents an exciting pathway for students to develop careers in sport,” Carnegie said.

“We have had students enrolled in both the Masters of Sport and Exercise Sciences and Masters of Sport Business work with us through the Melbourne Victory Academy Internship Program, which has seen them assist across a number of key areas of the Club.

“We have also created opportunities through this partnership for Melbourne Victory participants to be exposed to new educational programs through our community team, that they may not have otherwise been aware of.

“We are proud to be able to make and indeed continue this connection and develop pathways to educational opportunities through our partnership.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Adam Shoemaker was pleased to continue the strong partnership with Melbourne Victory.

“At VU we pride ourselves on partnering with principle, establishing deep alliances with industry partners that creates opportunities for our students, staff and the communities we serve,” Shoemaker said.

“We are pleased to offer educational opportunities through our Season 2021/2022 community programs as we work together to uplift our people.”

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