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Jamie Harnwell driving the game forward in Western Australia

Jamie Harnwell is Perth Glory’s record appearance holder, with 256 games across three decades. Now Chief Football Officer for Football West, he spoke to Soccerscene about the changes from the NSL to the A-League, the challenges of running a football federation, and his favourite footballing moments throughout his career.

So firstly, what’s the biggest challenges facing Football West at the moment?

Harnwell: I think it’s interesting. Football West is in a really good position, being very fortunate with COVID over here and able to get out and play. The challenges are more for our clubs I suppose, and then Football West supporting them. Facilities are always a challenge for every sport, but certainly for football. We need to make sure there are enough grounds and space for people to play, but also aspects like lighting, adequate change rooms, and those sorts of things are suitable for clubs. We have a number of them almost putting up the closed sign because they have too many players and not enough space for them to play.

The other challenge for Football West and the clubs is the increase in governance requirements. We are basically a volunteer sport in many ways. And the increasing legalities and issues across that for volunteers to deal with can be difficult. So it’s time that we at Football West need to be able to support our clubs, make sure they’re adhering to good practice, and doing the right things so that they can continue to grow.

How has professional football in Australia improved since you first debuted with Perth Glory in the late 90s?

Harnwell: I think it’s actually professional football now. You know when I first started playing, I think there was ourselves and maybe Carlton who were actual full-time professional clubs. The rest were part-time as people were still working during the day, going to training at night, and trying to juggle the two. So certainly the transition into the A-League and full-time professionalism for all clubs has been huge, and just the continued increased coverage and media around the game has made us much more accessible. It’s easier to see and has a much better chance of building that supporter base across the game here in Australia.

What areas do you think the game can continue to improve on going forward into the future?

Harnwell: There’s always talent development and making sure that we stay on pace with best practices and what’s happening in other parts of the world. We are a smaller nation in the grand scheme of things in football, so we need to be smart about how we approach those sorts of things and make sure we get bang for our buck for everything that we do. The other thing is we need to try and increase the commercialism of the game and make sure that we continue to get funds into the game that can assist in the youth development that can help in costs for clubs and all those types of things. So that’s the way I know Football Australia is working hard on it. They’re starting to bring more and more partners into the game. But if you look at the mega machines like AFL, then we probably still have some way to go in that.

How can football win across young athletes into joining the sport over others?

Harnwell:
I think we’re really lucky as a game. I can’t speak for other states, I suppose – but the numbers here at Football West in Western Australia just continue to grow year in year out. We are a very attractive game for parents to pick for young boys and girls. It’s a very easy game to choose and very easy to play and train. So we’re certainly well-positioned in that respect – making sure that our clubs provide positive environments that they enjoy what they do. There isn’t the overarching focus on just winning games, but more a longer-term development based approach that will make sure talented young players will stay in football rather than going across to other codes.

On a personal level, what is your most memorable footballing memory?

Harnwell: There’s probably a few, I suppose for myself as a player – it would have been the first NSL Championship that we won. We’d had a couple of cracks at it before and sort of fell away in the Grand Final. So that first win in 2003 was huge, and really got the monkey off our back, and managing to score in that game with the massive crowd was fantastic. But I’m also a Manchester United fan, so the treble was pretty good as well. So I don’t know which one ranks better for me!

Coopers Stadium upgrades progressing smoothly

Adelaide United's Coopers Stadium upgrades are running as planned as it receives improvements to prepare for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Adelaide United’s Coopers Stadium upgrades are running as planned as it receives back-of-house improvements to prepare for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Back in August 2021, the club announced that the stadium would receive a massive $53 million upgrade in conjunction with Adelaide Venue Management and the South Australia Government.

The upgrade was announced to significantly improve training and playing environments, as well as upgrades inside the stadium to many different facilities. An increase in stadium capacity was not involved in the plans.

Adelaide United CEO Nathan Kosmina spoke to Box2Box to give a further insight into the stadium upgrades.

“The renovations are ongoing at the moment, the bulk upgrades are happening as we speak and we expect most to be complete post A-League season. However some renovations won’t be complete until after the Women’s World Cup,” he said.

Coopers Stadium (formally Hindmarsh) has been the heart and soul of soccer in South Australia since the 1960’s, and although it doesn’t resemble what it was back then, Kosmina reflected on a traditional home for football in the state.

“It’s been the home of SA football since the 60’s, it doesn’t resemble now what it was back then but its still the same block of land that it always has been so its got a lot of history and culture,” he said.

The stadium has been home to many different sporting events and organisations for over 60 years, and has hosted NSL finals, Socceroos matches, Rugby Union and Rugby League.

Coopers was also used for the 2000 Olympics where it recorded it’s largest ever attendance of 18,340, when Italy drew 1-1 with Nigeria in a group stage match.

One of the main concerns for the stadium was making sure the atmosphere inside the venue remained as intimate as possible post-renovation, to ensure the best possible fan experience for all that will attend.

“We were heavily involved in the planning and what Coopers will look like in the future and our priority is to keep that intimate atmosphere,” Kosmina stated.

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“One of the challenges is that part of the stadium is bordered by roads, almost underneath the stands and even near a church. So in terms of increasing the size of the stadium, that was never on the radar.

“What we will see in the next 12 months is a lot of back-of-house upgrades, and the change rooms have been done which has really been first priority considering we have a lot of A-League Women’s games here.

Whilst some renovations won’t be complete until after the Women’s World Cup in 2023, what will be ready is a wide variety of new stadium features that Kosmina is hoping will have a positive impact on fan and media experience.

He stated that the stand on the eastern side of Coopers will be getting one of the biggest upgrades, which includes new audio, new LED, new big TV screens, new media facilities and new food and beverage facilities.

When it comes to something such as unveiling the upgrades to the public, it won’t be too noticeable or impressive to the eye, however the process of the redevelopment is mainly designed to thoroughly improve fan experience for upcoming international events.

“This is an upgrade that has been 20 years in the making, the stadium hasn’t bee improved since the 2000 Olympics,” Kosmina said.

“After the renovations are complete, I’m sure Coopers Stadium will still be a lot of peoples favourite stadium to attend in the country for A-Leagues, the only difference is that its just being brought into the 21st century.

“Next year we should have what feels like a new venue to play at.”

You can listen to more of what Nathan Kosmina had to say on the most recent Box2Box podcast episode here.

Football Coaches Australia presents ‘The Football Coaching Life Podcast’ S3 Ep 5 with Gary Cole interviewing Michael Valkanis

Valkanis

Michael Valkanis was most recently the Assistant to John van’t Schip as the Greece National Team Coach and this week has been appointed as the new Assistant Manager at K.A.S. Eupen FC. They currently play the in Belgian First Division A, the top tier of football in the country.

Michael played his junior football at South Melbourne and as a student at De La Salle College. He made his senior debut in the NSL with South Melbourne before heading to Greece to play with Iraklis and then AEL Larissa. He played for eight years in Greece before returning to Adelaide and the A-League.

His coaching journey began at Adelaide United with the youth team and then as an Assistant Coach with the first team. A new opportunity took him to Melbourne City to work alongside John van’t Schip and then a brief spell as head coach before joining John in Holland with PEC Zwolle. This was followed by the move to Greece with the National Men’s Team.

Michael served a wonderful apprenticeship as Assistant Coach in Adelaide and Melbourne, with brief stints as Head Coach at both clubs. He is now keen to stretch his wings and take on the mantle of Head Coach as his journey continues to develop.

He firmly believes that there are many Australian Coaches good enough to work overseas. Coaches, like players, need to “get out of their comfort zone”. This is another conversation full of wisdom.

Michael’s ‘One Piece of Wisdom’ was: ‘Knowing yourself. Look in the mirror and ask who am I going to be?’ ‘What do I stand for, what are my values that will come out?’ ‘This will show to the group who you are, they stand out because they are consistent over time.’ ‘Your football philosophy will come to light through knowing yourself.’

Please join in sharing Michael Valkanis’ Football Coaching Life.

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