Mark Rudan – ‘Western United to become Australia’s next biggest club’

Mark Rudan has always been a quiet achiever. He always let his boots do the talking either as a no nonsense central defender or fullback.

Mark Rudan, the Western United senior coach, has always been a quiet achiever.

As a professional player he always let his boots do the talking either as a no nonsense central defender or fullback.

Life after football can be very difficult for many former players but Rudan has made the transition to coaching with total aplomb.

After cementing his career with NSW NPL 1 club, Sydney United, where his teams won a number of honours, Rudan turned the fortunes of a depressed Wellington Phoenix in the 2018/19 A-League and recently completed an outstanding, maiden season with debutantes, Western United.

However, if you ask Mark Rudan whether life is easy in the cutthroat world of football coaching, he will confirm a consistent work ethic , detailed research, analysis and preparation and superior man management skills are essential in any coaching success story.

In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Rudan reflects on his playing career, coaching experience and football philosophy.



You were part of that amazing Sydney United production line of the 1990’s which included Jason Culina, David Zdrilic, Tony Popovic, Ante Milicic, Paul Bilokapic , Ante Moric and Sean and Mark Babic.

Can this ever be replicated?


Football goes in cycles but a lot of things we do now on the pitch were done in the 1970’s.

However, these days, there are vast improvements in preparation, player welfare and diet.

People try to complicate the game but it can be a very simple if you treat it that way.

In relation to the golden era at Sydney United, you have to remember there was a strong tradition in the Croatian community and a way for our parents to integrate into the wider community through the football club.

Consequently, we gave everything on the football field in recognition of our heritage.

I remember the youth coaches like former Socceroo, Dennis Yaager who helped me so much and in particular,Maurice Sullivan, the legendary club flanker, who coached me in u14’s and was a great influence on my career because he told me if I put the work in I could make the grade.



When you first came through the Sydney United youth system, did you ever believe you would reach the pinnacle in Australian football coaching?


When I first started playing, coaching was the furthest thing from my mind and I just wanted to be the best player I could be.

I wasn’t blessed with exceptional talent but I possessed an inner determination, resilience and a motivation to get the best out of myself which are qualities often more important than star quality.

Today, I regularly see young talented players who have the skills set but don’t have the necessary qualities to fight for success.

My identification with coaching really developed when I was in Germany at Allemania Aachen with Jorg Berger, my second coach at the club.

His understanding of the game and ability to adjust tactics and formation during a game and his man management skills, separated him from any other coach I’d known.

He was the first person who really made me think coaching could be an option after my playing days were over.



How much did Les Scheinflug, coach of the Young Socceroos, influence your philosophy of football at the 1995 finals?


Les was good because he liked me and that does help when the player has the confidence of his coach.

Les made me vice captain to Mark Viduka which was a great honor.

Also, he played with a back three which I utilise as a coach today.



Who was the major influence in your playing career and early development?


Yaager and Sullivan encouraged me to have the belief I could go so far in the game but you needed to follow certain steps to get there.

After the 1997 World Cup loss to Iran in Melbourne, I went up to my colleagues from the AIS like Muscat, Horvat, Viduka and Moore who inspired me.

At the AIS, Ron Smith and Steve O’Connor converted me from midfield to central defence and playing next to Craig Moore was a great plus because he coached me in that position.



What did you learn playing in Japan at Avispa Fukuoka during the 2008 season ,and can you relate your experiences?


I was 32 years of age when Pierre Littbarski took me there after I was coming out of contract with Sydney FC. Fortunately, John Kosmina was prepared to let me go because there wasn’t a long term future at the club for me.

Japan showed me what true professionalism was. If they could train six times a day they would because you had to drag them off the pitch.

I wished I’d gone there when I was younger because it would’ve developed me as a footballer.

Their youth system intrigued me and in my first training session in Japan, their first touch, positional play and passing ability were incredible

I watched their Youth Academy players who played 50-60 games from 13’s up, while training every day.

We talk about overkill and overtraining here but you only have to go there to see how they’ve achieved so much which changed my ideas on the youth system as it should be presented in Australia.

Foe every youth player who we rate in Australia, there are a thousand like them in Japan.


Western United’s Mark Rudan exclusive with Soccerscene



How important was your coaching experience at Sydney United?


Sydney United is a high pressure club and I believed if I could cut my teeth for 3-5 years, it would be ideal for my coaching preparation.

I wasn’t a player who had a big name and could get a job easily so I had to do it the hard way with the necessary work input to provide longevity.

The year before , the club avoided relegation by one point so I was able to change the whole structure of the club , including the youth team setup.

In the first year we became champions of the NPL and we won the Australian Championship.

All in all we won two Australian Championships, two Premierships and the Waratah Cup in the five years I was at the club.

It was a great grounding before I received the offer from Wellington which helped me not to be overawed and end up on the scrapheap in the first year.



Your efforts at Wellington Phoenix were remarkable?

Can you explain how you did it?


At the moment I walked into the club , I could see both players and staff were down.

I spoke to each board member, including chairman Rob Morrison and asked, do you think we can win a trophy?

There wasn’t much belief but I was optimistic and I wanted to rebuild just as I’d done at Sydney United.

It was a matter of planning to change the objectives and culture of the football club.



Roy Krishna was a large part of your success at Wellington.

How did you extract maximum value from him?


I knew Roy had natural pace and he could finish.

I got to know him well and particularly his background so I was able to gain his respect and assist in his self motivation.

I changed his role to more of a central striker rather than a winger.

I told him before the season started he would be the leading striker in the A-League but he didn’t believe it.

We worked hard every day on his positioning, different runs and their timing and his finishing.

The fact he won the A-League Player of the Year and the Golden Boot in 2018/19, followed by Diamanti winning the player of the year in the recently concluded season were proud moments for me.



Could you tell us about Diamanti?


As a coach, I needed to get the best out of him.

Initially, he called me Mr. as all the Italian players do.

However, I had to earn his respect and looking at his record, it was no different when I brought Steve Taylor to Wellington who was managed by some great people like Sir Bobby Robson.

Dimanti fitted into the culture of the club but I needed to fit him into the team pattern which he proved many times over.



A feature of your season at Western United was your ability to blend experience with youth, e.g. Diamanti, Berisha, Durante, Calvert and Paine with Perias, Dillon,Skotidis and Cavallo.

It was a brave step so were you confident of achieving success?


Long days up to twelve hours in establishing the new player structure was the norm but as a coach it’s my job to get the best out of all players and develop their full potential for the team

Risdon had been out in the cold for a few seasons but came back to his best and returned to the Socceroo squad.

Also Paine was challenged and had his best year yet and Burgess came out of his shell and really hit his straps.



Besart Berisha was a revelation during the season.

How did you achieve that outcome?


We knew he hadn’t played much football in the last twelve months after Victory let him go.

One conversation with him in Germany convinced me I wanted him for the new club because he revealed the mentality I required for the team to succeed.

Berisha is a great professional who doesn’t like being taken off and he gave me the glare when he was replaced in one match. I spoke to him about the importance of working together which really resonated with him.

He has that winning mentality and was so important in the winning streak of seven wins in eight games post COVID-19.

Young players looked up to him because in every moment he demonstrated his quest to improve performance, despite his age.



That magnificent goal setup by Dylan Pierias for Steve Lustica against Sydney FC in the second last round of normal competition was a spellbinder.

Why didn’t Pierias get more game time during the season?


Pierias was previously an out and out winger so we had to improve his aerobic capacity for the wingback position. There’s no doubting his electrifying pace as he cruised past King and Tzavellas to design that goal against Sydney F.C.

This took all year to develop because he had to be trained in the wing back position and we had to improve his defensive qualities.

These young players are used to playing a 4-3-3 formation and find it hard to adjust to a 3-5-2 system.

4-3-3 only allows you to play with one striker and this is the reason we’re not producing any good strikers at the moment.



What is the future of Western United?


It will be the biggest club in Australia within 5 years because its located in the largest growth corridor in the country and some of the best people in Australian football are on the Board and employed in the Executive.

I have a three year deal and I’d certainly like to be there for the opening game of the new stadium which is two to three years off.

CrowdedVENUE makes stadium safety simple 

CrowdedVENUE focuses on visitor safety, revenue generation and user experience to create a secure stadium event for all.

CrowdedVENUE focuses on visitor safety, revenue generation and user experience to create a secure stadium event for all. 

They have become a unique combination of IoT hardware and a purpose-built software application that collects, transmits, analyses and presents the behaviour of pedestrian/crowd movement without any need for manual processing during or after study. 

CrowdedHUB sensors merge together the very best in physical identification, including Wi-Fi scanning, Bluetooth scanning, Thermal and 3D imaging of environmental sensing to create a valuable collection of unique data that is independent of any infrastructure. 


CrowdedVENUE’s boasts an incredible data gathering hardware system that is regarded as the most secure in the industry, with automated anonymisation at the source and a multi-layered security application. 

Crowded uses the very best in technology to offer an accurate and cost-effective pedestrian movement analysis solution that addresses the growing demands of both the private and public sectors. 

A network of independent sensors are able to accumulate over 90% of individuals in most areas. That information is then sent directly to Crowded who will automatically generate data relevant to the venue or location. 

The CrowdedVENUE software application continually accesses each sensor on their own to safely extract anonymous data and perform detailed analysis, maps and charts to display all the results. 

The following areas are covered in data collection extending to both inside and outside the venue: 

  • Volume per location 
  • Dwell times per location 
  • Most popular locations by visitors,  
  • Most popular routes by visitors,  
  • Top routes by direction with average journey times 
  • Safest route analysis 
  • Event-based predictive evacuation strategy 
  • Visitor heatmap 
  • 3D imaging 
  • Raw.csv Download 

CrowdedVENUE is related to the PoC’s belonging to stadia and other high-profile indoor venues. CrowdedRAIL and CrowdedCITY are two of the other sectors under the Crowded umbrella where they are predominantly utilised by the public sector as part of a multi-faceted range of consultancy services.  

However, CrowdedVENUE has been developed to help the end-user more directly in a manner that is extra simple, clear and easy to use. This approach enables the client to improve visitor safety whilst increasing revenue generation. 


The CrowdedVENUE service creates an increased level of value compared to its core function. By providing the stadium the means to transcend all current data collection and football monitioring solutions in favour of a real-world IoT “smart” service, it has everything required to become the global standard in crowd safety and visitor experience tools. 

“CrowdedVENUE is one of several services in the range that offers seamless integration into existing infrastructure via its API function.” they said.  

“Crowded is a fantastic solution for new works as a standalone service, but when a major venue already exists, such as a stadium, it is usual for that environment to be operating a proprietary app for visitors, usually based around experience.  

“The CrowdedVENUE API gives you the best of both worlds, allowing you to retain the control and familiarity of your current services, whilst seamlessly integrating the entire value proposition of Crowded.  

“For venues that do not have a current consumer-focused application, CrowdedVENUE is again the perfect choice for you.  

We will guide you through the design, installation and testing phases of installing a visitor app and the Crowded back-end analysis package, helping you to maximise value for both the venue and its visitors, with minimal operational impact.” 

Crowded not only tracks movement of crowd behaviour accessible, robust and cost-effective, but does it in a manner that is safe and secure, making sure that personal information of all visitors is protected. 

With Data Protection and Privacy Law being such a growing concern, Crowded was built specifically to protect the personal information of visitors alongside the integrity of the data the service gathers.” they said. 

“Any potential personal information is anonymised at source, by the hardware itself. This ensures that no personal information is ever in our possession. 

“In addition to this, Crowded provides the user with all the raw data gathered in .csv format. This gives each user the opportunity to observe the integrity of both the data set and the analysis performed by the application.” 

With a variety of data capture services available, CrowdVENUE presents as the ideal point of call for the safe recommencement of fans to stadiums with COVID-19 slowly easing in Australia. 

For more information on Crowded, including extra details on each individual sector, pricing packages and contact, you can find it here. 

2020 Australian Coaching Conference registrations soar

Despite enduring a difficult season due to COVID-19, more than 1200 participants have registered for the 2020 Australian Coaching Conference.

Despite enduring a difficult season with setbacks due to COVID-19, more than 1200 participants have registered for the 2020 Australian Coaching Conference.

The unbelievable milestone has been achieved with the conference set to take place in a few weeks on Saturday 28 November.

Football NSW normally hold this event at their headquarters of Valentine Sports Park, but restrictions caused by the pandemic have led to it going online. It’s meant that more coaches have got on board, with those from across the country, Asia and even the UK, Brazil and the United States.

“Having made the decision to go online this year, we have collaborated and worked well with FFA, Football Coaches Australia and the other Member Federations to ensure that as many coaches as possible had access to some of the wonderful speakers and content that we are providing,” Peter Hugg, Football NSW’s Head of Football said.

“Having reached 1200 registrants already, our goal is now more than 1500 which will be a tremendous achievement.

“We have already announced legendary coach, Arsene Wenger, formerly of Arsenal and now with FIFA, and he will kick off the day, and last week, we announced that two iconic players of women’s football, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain – both of the champion US Women’s team of the nineties – and they will chat with former Matildas’ coach Tom Sermanni.

“Some more big names will be rolled out over the next few weeks leading into the day”.

With the conference going online, participants will have the ability to watch the event and then have access to it later for future reference.

“The technology platform that we have invested in for this year’s Conference is similar to that offered by many of today’s streaming services,” Chris Adams, Manager of Coach Development said.

“That is to say, that whilst the Conference is formally held on Saturday 28 November, and registrants will be able to participate and watch it on that day, those who can’t will have access to all the content after the event, and will be able to continually refer to it over the course of the summer and throughout next season ‘on-demand’.

“The same obviously applies with the four themes and the sessions that are held simultaneously. We have sessions on youth development, coaching the female player, football science, medicine and research and learnings from the international scene, grassroots football and some further content on futsal, and the coaching of special population groups.

“What has been particularly pleasing is that a number of clubs and associations have taken up our special offer and ‘bulk purchased’ our discounted club deal, essentially offering coaches within their organisation the opportunity to participate and benefit from the learnings and further their own development. Whilst our early bird offer has concluded, the club offer will remain until the event.”

“FFA have approved 30 CPD points for participation in the event for those seeking to maintain their FFA Accreditation, but regardless, I am confident that there will be something here for everyone”.

Registrations for the 2020 Australian Coaching Conference are still open and you can apply here.

Vaughan Coveny: How the NSL bred elite players, coaches, and administrators – Part 2

Recently, George Vasilopoulos and Peter Abraam spoke with Soccerscene to explore how the NSL’s community-driven model became a production-line for elite sporting administrators and commercially thriving clubs.

With the prospect of a future National Second Division gaining traction, the revival of the community model in Australia’s topflight may once again become a reality.

To continue the conversation, South Melbourne legend Vaughan Coveny joined the returning Vasilopoulos to share his experiences from a player’s perspective and provide his insights into the club’s culture of success, both on and off the park.

“I was playing at Wollongong and Frank Arok was manager at the time. South Melbourne was one of the biggest clubs in the country at the time and everybody wanted to go there. I was honoured to get the call,” Coveny recalls.

“What made the club so successful was the high expectations and standards set by everybody. It wasn’t just one factor or one superstar player, but the whole club. That drive for success and high level of standards filters down. It’s how these big clubs create that aura about them.”

The Kiwi would go on to make almost 300 senior appearances for South Melbourne over three stints, scoring more than 100 goals.

“Initially, Frank (Arok) was there with Ange (Postecoglou) as his assistant. We had a young squad. Frank was a bit older and experienced, he had coached Australia and just oozed enthusiasm and love for the game which rubbed off on the players,” Coveny said.

The forward scored more than 100 goals for South Melbourne FC.

“He got a lot out of that younger group and was responsible for developing a lot of those players to eventually play for the Socceroos.”

Coveny himself would go onto become the record goal scorer for the New Zealand national team, while many others forged successful careers domestically and abroad.

Although Arok inspired and nurtured the young playing group, he departed in 1996, leading to the appointment of his assistant – at the time untried head coach, Ange Postecoglou.

For George Vasilopoulos, Former South Melbourne FC President (1989-2002), there was plenty of pressure to make the correct decision but ultimately, he decided the best approach was to promote from within rather than seek an external candidate.

“It was risky, as he was seen as a very young man for the job. There was a lot of resistance from board level but at the time I was happy to take the risk given his character and knowledge,” Vasilopoulos said.

“I remember that we lost a number of games to start the season and people were convinced it was the wrong choice. Many people wanted to sack him, but I was there in 1979 when the club finished last and the reason for that is that we sacked three coaches. I learned a lot of lessons from that period, good and bad. I knew we needed to stick by him.”

“In those days I would attend every training session and spend every weekend with the players, travelling to games and in the dressing rooms. I had an extremely close relationship with the group. They would tell me that he was the right man for the job, and it was them, not the coach causing the poor results.”

Coveny experienced this period first-hand and was part of the squad that ultimately went onto achieve great success under Ange Postecoglou.

After a disappointing 1996 season where South finished 8th, the club would make a preliminary final before winning back-to-back championships in 1998 and 1999.

“When Ange took over, he brought his own style. A different style and philosophy to Frank. He had a great team to work with and because he (Postecoglou) was a previous player, he knew exactly what it meant to win championships,” Coveny said.

The club’s talented group drove the team’s on-field success and this further built the strong relationship the players and coaches shared with the fans.

Like many other football clubs throughout Australia, South Melbourne’s fanbase was, and continues to be, entrenched in the city’s migrant community.

This is something Vasilopoulos believes contributed to the tightknit atmosphere which promoted inclusion and ultimately led to a large supporter base made up of people willing to invest time and money back into the club.

“Football promotes diversity. When I started following the club in the 1960s it was vital for bringing people together. A lot of people who arrived in Australia at the time not knowing the language or customs had a common interest to focus on,” Vasilopoulos recalled fondly.

“This wasn’t just for Greek people but for all of the people in the area who supported the club. It was a place for people to get away from politics and work and come together for the love of football.”

For the players, this commercial success during the 1990s led to many benefits. From elite training facilities to world class infrastructure, the lucrative sponsorship dollars were heavily reinvested into the club and its personnel.

Coveny remains New Zealand’s record goal scorer.

“I played my first game when Bob Jane Stadium opened. I remember we lost against West Adelaide, but there were 16,000 people at the ground.”

“That’s why the players want to go to the best clubs. We had great fans, but also the best facilities and the best of everything. As a player, it encourages you to develop and excel.”

“Club sponsors are so valuable to clubs. At the time, our sponsors and supporters were very generous. If players or staff were producing on the field, we got the best of everything. This translated to contract negotiations, where players at most of the clubs were well looked after. Without the sponsors and the fans, that revenue simply wouldn’t have been there,” Coveny said.

The success of the club during this period, commercially and on-field, was founded on a community model where passionate fans and administrators contributed their time and money. Although this led to the club becoming a powerhouse of Australian sport during the 1990s and early 2000s, the sporting landscape has largely changed. Today, many argue whether this will governance style would translate to the modern era where privatisation rules and clubs rely on the investment and influence of their owners.

Coveny, who now works as Head of Football at Essendon Royals, is hopeful but somewhat pessimistic that at the community-driven model can translate to today’s elite sporting environment.

“I think it’s a lot harder these days. It could work but now you need the resources and facilities. In football, we always struggle for grounds and funding and often have to share facilities with other sports,” he said.

“It may be achievable, but it would need a lot of work and people and clubs would have to work extremely hard to make it happen.”

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