Lawrie McKinna: A true survivor

Since 1986, when he first appeared for Heidelberg United in the NSL, Lawrie McKinna, the current Sydney Olympic CEO, has seen it all in Australian football.

After playing stints with Apia and Blacktown City, he eventually teamed up with David Mitchell at Sydney United and Parramatta Power in coaching roles, followed by Northern Spirit in his own right.

When the A-League commenced in 2005, Mckinna was involved at Central Coast Mariners and eventually became mayor of Gosford.

In recent times, he was CEO at the Newcastle Jets until the opportunity arose two years ago to take the helm at Sydney Olympic.

It is no coincidence that Lawrie McKinna faces one of the greatest challenges of his career in preparing the club to be ready for the start of the National Second Division in the winter of 2025.

Fittingly, on Saturday January 13th, a challenge match commemorated the first NSL  match between Sydney Olympic and South Melbourne which was played on April 2nd, 1977 at the Sydney Sportsground.

It was a unique day for football as it was the first code in Australia to form a national competition.

Lawrie McKinna is well aware of the famous players who appeared on that day, notably Gary Meier and Joe Senkalski for Sydney Olympic and former Socceroos, Jack Reilly, Billy Rogers, Duncan Cummings, Jimmy Mackay and Peter Ollerton for South Melbourne.

In fact, it was Peter Ollerton who scored the two goals for South Melbourne to secure his team’s victory.

In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Lawrie McKinna discusses the current state of Australian football, his vision for the success of the National Second Division and the significance of the Sydney Olympic v South Melbourne clash.

ROGER SLEEMAN

Looking back over all those years you’ve been involved in the Australian game, how do you see its current state?

LAWRIE McKINNA

When I first played at Heidelberg in the NSL, there were big crowds but we played at poor stadiums like Connor Reserve and Sunshine Reserve in the winter. Furthermore, we played in ankles of mud which was very much like playing in Scotland.

The current A-League stadiums are top notch with good surfaces and part of the criteria for the B-League will be for this to be replicated.

One of the glaring weaknesses of the A-League is the lack of media as the other codes receive blanket coverage.

If the game is trying to entice more support there is no incentive for the general sporting fan to follow it so this must be addressed.

However, the success of the Matildas is well known and the Socceroos popularity has never been greater so these strengths have to be built on.

R.S.

Do you think the right people are running the game?

L.M.

I don’t even know who is running the game since Danny Townsend left the APL.

I’ve never seen Nick Garcia, the new APL CEO, because he’s never appeared on television.

There are very large staff numbers at the APL but they’re invisible people.

James Johnson, the FA CEO, is their spokesperson and at least people recognise him but there still isn’t enough exposure of the FA Management to the supporters.

R.S.

Newcastle Jets, Perth Glory, Western United and Brisbane Roar are in survival mode.

Is this a satisfactory situation?

L.M.

This is not the only country in the world with financial problems so it’s a matter of getting the right owners who will commit for the long term.

However, it’s not a bottomless pit so better broadcast deals are required to bring money into the game.

R.S.

What do you see as the vision for the National Second Division and how can it integrate with the A-League?

L.M.

The admission of the first eight clubs is positive but a 12-club League is desirable.

We also need Adelaide, Brisbane and Tasmania to be represented to make it a truly national competition.

At the moment, a new television deal is being worked on to encompass the Matildas, Socceroos, Asian Cup and National Second Division and this was the major reason the new League was postponed until 2025.

R.S.

Will there be promotion from the B-League to the A-League?

L.M.

There won’t be for a number of years and the only way it could happen is if there is a bid for an A-League licence which would be in the vicinity of $10 million.

Eventually, there will be relegation from the B-League to the NPL and promotion upwards.

R.S.

Why should the B-League be more successful than the NPL?

L.M.

Simply, of the eight teams accepted for the B-League, seven of them were former, large NSL clubs who have strong community support and financial backing.

There’ll be more money spent to get better players into the League and also compensation will be provided to the clubs if an A-League club signs a player.

At the moment, there is virtually no compensation for the sale of NPL players to the A- League and if a player moves overseas , there’s usually a free transfer clause in their contract.

Also, contracts in the B-League will be for 2-3 years while in the current NPL they’re usually only for one year.

There’ll be more movement between NPL and the B-League with the aim to provide players with more games and opportunity which is one of the weaknesses of the current system.

R.S.

What is the main purpose of the match between Sydney Olympic and South Melbourne?

L.M.

Apart from recognising the famous match of April 2nd, 1977, we are attempting to reconnect the Olympic fans who haven’t identified with the game and the club since the end of the NSL.

At the Greek festival, I attended last weekend there was a lot of interest expressed about the B-League which resulted in some promising ticket sales for the match.

The venue at Netstrata Stadium is ideal and we intend to play our home matches there in 2025.

We also hope those former fans will bring their children to the games and create a new generation of supporters.

National Second Tier foundation clubs revealed for 2025 start

National Second Tier - Foundation Clubs

Football Australia has officially named the eight foundation clubs to take part in the inaugural National Second Tier (NST) competition from March/April 2025.

The eight clubs match Football Australia’s criteria from a comprehensive process that determined if the clubs were ready to compete in the NST competition, with proposals from each team outlining the role they’ll play for this important step in Australian football.

The inaugural clubs are all based in eastern states, with New South Wales and Victoria boasting five and three teams respectively.

  • APIA Leichhardt FC – Leichhardt, New South Wales
  • Avondale FC – Parkville, Victoria
  • Marconi Stallions FC – Bossley Park, New South Wales
  • Preston Lions FC – Reservoir, Victoria
  • South Melbourne FC – Albert Park, Victoria
  • Sydney Olympic FC – Belmore, New South Wales
  • Sydney United 58 FC – Edensor Park, New South Wales
  • Wollongong Wolves FC – Wollongong, New South Wales

In a statement to media present in Sydney, Football Australia CEO James Johnson shared his delight for today’s confirmation.

“The establishment of the National Second Tier is a transformative step for Australian football, aligning perfectly with our 15-year strategic vision outlined in the XI Principles. It symbolises our commitment to reconnecting the football pyramid and enhancing the competitiveness of our national game,” he said.

“These clubs were chosen following a comprehensive and multi-phased NST Application Process that began in early 2023.

“Each club demonstrated not only their readiness in terms of operational and commercial elements but also their alignment with the strategic objectives of Australian football.

“This is more than just a competition; it’s a cornerstone in our mission to fortify the foundations of our sport. The National Second Tier will be instrumental in nurturing talent, engaging communities, and elevating the overall quality of football across the country.”

The inaugural season of NST will involve home and away matches culminating in a competitive Finals Series.

In early 2024, an additional 2-4 clubs will be considered through a refined application process, opening the floor to clubs outside of Victoria or New South Wales to make it truly national.

At this stage, two competition formats are being considered, but this is based on the successful selection of additional clubs next year:

  • A 10-team competition with two rounds plus a Finals Series, totalling 18 regular season matches.
  • A 12-team competition with two rounds plus a Finals Series, totalling 22 regular season matches.

The NST will be a key component of media rights from 2025 onwards, with a shifting focus to see how promotion and relegation will play a role as the competition evolves.

The upcoming 2024 season will see the eight foundation clubs and prospective new entrants continue to competing in their own Member Federation National Premier Leagues’ competitions, before moving towards a smooth transition to the NST.

Indigenous Football Week highlights the impacts of John Moriarty Football

John Moriarty Football

Indigenous Football Week (IFW) 2023 was celebrated October 30 to November 5, recognising the impacts of Indigenous football program John Moriarty Football (JMF).

Putting into consideration that it is Australia’s longest-running and most successful Indigenous Football initiative for 2-18-year-olds, JMF perseveres with its mission to create a beacon of light for social change as well as providing a pathway for Indigenous footballers and communities.

Overseeing JMF is an expert advisory council, Indigenous Football Australia (IFA), which was established to increase social change through football, expand the operations of JMF and ensure equal access to football for grassroots and elite Indigenous players.

Speaking with Soccerscene, JMF Program Director Jamie Morriss and JMF Scholarships Coordinator  & IFA Council member Allira Toby discussed the overall impact of assisting Indigenous peoples and their communities around the country.

What was the process involved in organising the Indigenous Football Australia Council?

Jamie Morriss: We looked at bringing in expertise across a range of different areas, including previous Socceroos and Matildas, and also sport more broadly as well as academia and media. The council has majority Indigenous membership and is gender equal. Its goal is to strategically guide John Moriarty Football. The IFA Council meets once a quarter to discuss where the strategy and direction of the program is going.

Having lots of great experience along with great individuals on that council provides expertise and thinking to help us unlock doors and continue to drive the program forward.

What is the procedure for kids to be involved in the Scholarship?

Allira Toby: A lot is involved in the scholarships. We have a criteria that identifies kids in the communities that have the potential to go far professionally in football. A key component of this is the individual Scholarship Holders, with the support of their family, making a commitment to attend school.

A JMF Scholarship starts at the grassroots level in our community hubs. We provide football training and development, mentoring, help with their studies, providing football equipment and club fees, and even travel to tournaments. As their talent and skills develop, they may then qualify for a Sydney Scholarship during their high school years. In Sydney they will attend a top sports high school, receive extensive football training and development, wrap-around pastoral care, mentoring, tutoring, placement with a football club, and much more.

How many kids have gone far in becoming a professional footballer?

Allira Toby: We have one individual so far playing professional football. Marra woman Shadeene (Shay) Evans is the inaugural JMF Scholarship Holder. She has played for the young Matildas and is currently playing for the Central Coast Mariners in the A-Leagues.

We also have a number of talented Sydney Scholarship Holders who are well on their way to playing professionally and are already playing in high level tournaments and competitions.

What is the vision for JMF?

Jamie Morriss: To grow it across Australia. Ideally we would have a hub operating in each of the states – currently we are in three states, but we would like to offer the program nationwide, with the view of having more staff on the ground to run the grassroots program so we can impact as many kids and communities as possible.

Are there any fees involved for this program?

Jamie Morriss: Not for us – we offer the program free of charge to all the communities that we are delivering to.

We have some contributions from schools and partners that we are delivering to so they help with our fundraising efforts. For the scholarship players that we support in Sydney, we cover their registration fees, boots, shinpads, additional training sessions and we support their travel to and from community so they can go home for the school holidays.

John Moriarty and Shadene Evans in 2018

The sister program of JMF, Indi Kindi, is an innovative early years education initiative for birth to five year olds, delivered by locally employed Aboriginal staff.

The Indi Kindi program includes Indi Footi which activates young brains through movement and develops basic football and motor skills, balance and coordination in a fun and non-competitive environment.

Having been recognised across the A-Leagues, JMF will continue to have an everlasting impact.

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