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Phil Moss: Australian football coaches deserve better
Former Central Coast Mariners coach Phil Moss claims football coaches in Australia deserve more respect and a higher level of support.
Speaking exclusively to Soccerscene, the former A-League coach claimed associations such as Football Coaches Australia (FCA), which he is currently president of, will improve the conditions and reputation of coaches in Australia.
“I think the main aim (of FCA) is to wrap coaches with a support mechanism, give them a collective voice and really drive towards a level of respect for coaches that we haven’t seen in this country,” he said.
“We’re always the easy option when things go wrong.
“There’s an old saying, when the team’s going well the players are great, but when the team’s losing it’s because the coach doesn’t know what he is doing.”
Moss had various coaching stints in his career at Dee Why FC, Northern Spirit youth (assistant), Manly United and the Olyroos (assistant) before moving to the Mariners in 2010.
He took over from Graham Arnold after being an assistant coach for the club in the three years prior, which included a championship winning season in 2012-2013.
Moss led the Mariners to a third placed finish in his first season as head coach in 2013-14.
However, he was eventually sacked near the end of his second season in charge after disagreements with the owner.
“We had a fantastic first season, we had a lot of success, we missed the grand final by one game,” Moss said.
“We also missed out on the second round of the ACL by a point and then we sold a lot of players. In the January transfer window of the following season, I think I lost six players in that period and that proved to be really tough.
“Things spiralled out a bit from there and the owner and I fell out. There was only going to be one winner in that situation.”
Moss believes a lack of appropriate professional support at the time of his removal, planted the seeds for his eventual involvement in FCA.
Central Coast ended up compensating Moss in the region of around $500,000 according to The Daily Telegraph, after his case for wrongful dismissal was settled before a court date. (Moss would go on to be an assistant coach at Sydney FC in 2017).
“I had my family, my closest friends, my mobile phone and a pretty good lawyer and that was it. That’s where FCA sort of morphed from.
“My mantra is to make sure no Australian coach is ever in the same situation I was in. Plenty of others before me were in (that situation) with no real support.”
Steps in the right direction have been taken to improve the employment conditions and general well-being of coaches through work driven by the association.
FCA recently released the findings of a study completed by the University of Queensland on these factors.
The report showcases data which highlights the need for contractual guidelines to be implemented, as well as standardising grievance and dispute resolution procedures, among other things.
FCA hopes to address these issues and move quickly into a process to fix them.
“We’re fighting for better conditions for coaches and probably a bit more uniformity,” claimed Moss.
“We are working hard on a well-being program for coaches, to support coaches in and out of jobs and in that transition into a job and out of a job. So, all those things are really important to us.”
The association was also in contact with the FFA and A-League clubs, before the start of this A-League season.
“Greg O’Rourke and the FFA were kind enough to give us a slot during their agenda with the coaches.
“That was an opportunity for us to ask the coaches what their issues were, going into the season.
“We’re in the process of sharing that information with FFA and working through that, and not just with the FFA but obviously the new operating company of the independent A-league.”
The organisation has a seat at the table in the discussion for the introduction of a national second division, thanks to FFA Board member Remo Nogarotto.
Nogarotto is the current chair of the National Second Division Working Group.
Moss is thankful for FCA’s inclusion in the conversation, in what will provide elite Australian coaches with more job opportunities in the future.
“Full credit to Remo and his working group, for seeing it fit to include coaches.
“At the end of the day, coaches are responsible for the happiness and the satisfaction of four key stakeholders, the ownership and boards, the dressing room, the fans and the media.
“So, when you’ve got that sort of vested interest in the game, holistically, it seems really illogical not to have coaches part of the discussion and part of the decision-making process around the game.”
After being formally elected as president of FCA in July 2018, Moss was re-elected at an AGM in August of this year, in what was a proud moment for him.
Speaking about the privilege of leading FCA, Moss said: “It’s a massive honour. Probably aside from coaching in the A-League as a head coach, it’s right up there.”
Football Australia CEO James Johnson looks forward to growing futsal’s footprint in Australia after outlining a vision for a national program.
“As part of our clear strategic agenda, we outlined a vision to create a national program for futsal and beach soccer by working closely with our Member Federations in a unified, inclusive and collaborative manner,” Johnson said.
“With the culmination of this process, we are delighted that Football Queensland and Football Victoria will be hosting the National Futsal Championships in 2022 and 2023 respectively.
“There is a clear appetite throughout Australia for football to increase its imprint through futsal and beach soccer. Queensland and Victoria now have the opportunity to showcase this and bring it to life over the next two years, in a way never seen before.”
By granting the hosting rights to different cities, Football Australia believes the NFC will be a national tournament.
The Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre will host the relaunched tournament on the 5th-9th of January 2022.
“The National Futsal Championships are a highlight of the Australian football calendar, and we are excited to stage next year’s event at the state-of-the-art Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre,” FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci said.
Anthony Grima, Football Victoria’s Head of Futsal, believes the announcement was a step towards achieving FV’s futsal strategy.
“This is a huge win for Futsal in Victoria and one for me that should be dedicated to the many amazing individuals who are at the heart of the Futsal community here in Victoria,” Grima said.
“Hosting the NFC will leave a lasting legacy for Futsal and football in Victoria and inspire and enable more people to take up this amazing sport.”
The recently announced Home of the Matildas features a international sized futsal pitch, and it could host the championship.
Kimon Taliadoros, CEO of FV, said this news ensures that Victoria remains the home of sport.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the people of Victoria. By hosting the National Futsal Championships, we will further enhance the state’s ability to host events and tournaments and support the Victorian economy by bringing interstate visitors back to Melbourne to experience the wide range of products, services and experiences that this great state has to offer,” Taliadoros said.
“Futsal has been on the national agenda for some time now, with Football Australia recently having released the ‘XI Principles – for the future of Australian football.’”
The return of the NFC will allow a pathway for players to compete against the best talent Australia has to offer.
John Didulica’s insight into Australian football is entrenched in a broad and intimate exposure to the game from all areas of the pitch and beyond across many years of playing and working in the game.
His long-standing involvement in football has seen him take on a variety of roles including helping to usher in the Melbourne Heart in their inaugural years as Director of Football Operations, leading Professional Footballers Australia as their Chief Executive Officer and now as Director of Football for a Melbourne Victory side looking to rebuild in the A-League.
His chat with Soccerscene saw a whole range of topics covered, namely his efforts to help push the Victory into a new era, his impactful learnings from his time at the Heart and his recent efforts in helping to produce the ‘Football Belongs’ series with Optus Sport.
Obviously, it’s been a very challenging few years for Melbourne Victory’s A-League side with underwhelming performances on the pitch and difficulties off it, how was it for you coming into a club off the back of some difficult seasons?
John Didulica: I think it’s been an exciting time for me personally to be back involved with football. Melbourne Victory has had such a proud history in its own right, but equally the club has played such a big role in shaping modern Australian football. To be given an opportunity to work here is a great honour and privilege, like anybody who gets to work in football.
The fact that they’ve had a couple of lean years on the pitch doesn’t detract from all the great things they’ve done over the best part of two decades. Coming into the club, with that in mind, it’s not about re-engineering everything or discarding a couple of decades of history. It’s just about trying to more deeply understand what’s worked, what hasn’t worked and where we need to get better to ensure that we’ve got the right standards across not only the team but also all the other areas of the club.
And making sure that we start, day-by-day through our actions, showing that we want to be better. There’s nobody in the world who can come in with a magic wand and say “If you do ‘A, B and C’, you’re going to get a better performance on the park”. The key thing for us is, through our actions, to everyday try and be a little bit better. That’s certainly led by Tony Popovic – that’s the way he approaches his preparation of the team and I think as a staff that’s what we’re adopting.
Hopefully the results on the pitch will in-time reflect that, and restore the confidence of the team, the members and the club which has been tested in recent seasons and we need to show them that we can be trusted with their club.
For you, was it about coming into the club knowing exactly what needed changing or was it about listening and learning?
John Didulica: I think it always has to be about listening and learning. Absolutely that has to be the starting point. I’ve got some models and framework which I like to operate within, but populating that and identifying what needs to be done sequentially is very much about listening and learning.
It’s about seeing where we’re at now, what the acute areas that required immediate attention were, and in our case, it was pretty obvious. We had a brand-new coaching team that we needed to bed down; we had a lot of squad reconstruction that needed to happen; we had to reboot the entire medical department, so, there were a whole of things facing us right from the outset.
Counterintuitively, that’s helped us to build a lot of momentum as it’s forced us to get things done pretty quickly and in a really decisive way. And with a lot of new people on board there’s a lot of really good ideas being shared and I think overtime we’ll start bedding those things down.
But it’s certainly not about disregarding what’s happened over the best part of two decades just because of a couple of lean seasons. I think if anything, the lessons from 3-5 years ago are a lot louder because Victory’s lost its way in the last couple of seasons.
We’re still lucky to have people like Carl Valeri around who has been a great servant at the club for many years and who works in the role of Player Operations Manager. It can just remind us of what we’ve done well in the past and can ensure that we’re continuing to bottle the great things that Victory has done in the past rather than reinvent the wheel.
With the acquisitions of Tony Popovic and numerous proven A-League talents, what are Victory’s objectives for the coming season on the pitch?
John Didulica: Our aspirations are absolutely to challenge for trophies, that’s our expectations internally and I’m sure they’re shared by the members as well. They want to see a team that’s challenging for Honours – that’s certainly Tony’s mindset.
We’re strategically focused on bringing elite Australian talent into the squad and that’s been our absolute priority. Chris Ikonomidis, Josh Brillante, Jason Davidson, Jason Geria, to name a few, are all highly regarded elite proven international level players. So, to have those guys come in it’s a really powerful core and foundation for the club.
And, we might not get everything right in season one because we have so much to do, but I’m really confident that we’ve got a super strong core that will ensure we have a successful season and will only get better in the years to come.
There’s a seduction to going for a couple of big-name players and bringing them in and hoping that they can be a sugar hit, but I just don’t think that’s sustainable and I don’t think that’s what we need at the moment. Because we’re going through so many changes, we need to be able to make as many sure bets as possible. I think with a lot of the players and coaching staff we know exactly what we’re going to get, and we know their history is decorated.
There has been a drive at the club to re-engage the Victory faithful who have ridden through the tough recent history. For Victory fans, what do you believe are the key values off the pitch that need to be reflected on the pitch?
John Didulica: The number one thing I think is for the administration team to match the ambition that the fans have for their club. Our fans at Melbourne Victory are hugely ambitious for what Melbourne Victory can be. Games like we had against Liverpool, that was a magical moment for a lot of people.
Building AAMI Park, something like that doesn’t happen without Melbourne Victory being a success. There’s huge moments and huge steps forward for the sport that are a consequence of Victory doing well. So, the fans see that and are proud to be associated with this club.
Where we need to get back to now is matching the ambition that the fans have for this club. And that’s what we’re committed to doing and I think the board’s demonstrated that by signing Tony Popovic, who’s one of the best Australian coaches and players that are very ambitious, so we know we’re going to get people who are just as ambitious as we want to be.
And I think that sits at the heart of what we’re trying to achieve – matching the fans’ ambition and energy for our club. And if we do that, I know we’re going to be successful. Because we’ve got fans who live and breathe the club and if we reciprocate that then I know we’ll be successful.
You’re now coming into an A-League side that has been around since the beginning of the league’s creation, but taking it back over 10 years ago you spent a few years at the Melbourne Heart from their inauguration. What did you learn from your time at the side in their early years?
John Didulica: One of the things I’ve often learnt on a personal level is to be resourceful and resilient. We didn’t have huge budgets and we ran incredibly lean. We were up against Melbourne Victory who had had such great success as a club.
From my perspective it was great to add to the tapestry of football in Melbourne. The pressure of the Melbourne Derby was, for me, one of the real highlights in A-League history. Those nights have been fantastic regardless of whether you were on the red side of the fence or the dark blue side of the fence, they were great nights.
In terms of that experience [at Melbourne Heart], resourcefulness and resilience were key. What resonated with me during that period was getting a more acute understanding of what the implication taking shortcuts were. When you’re at a club that’s resource-poor, sometimes you have to do that. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s not sustainable.
So, very much coming into Victory it’s key that we’re not going to take shortcuts. We’re going to make sure, to the extent possible, remove as much risk from what we do. That means bringing in high calibre people, servicing them effectively and having the right support around people. Even in those days at Heart we still managed to produce some incredible players; Aziz Behich, Eli Babalj, Curtis Good – these guys were all capped because of the opportunity they were given.
There’s a lot of lessons that I’ve taken with me about the capacity to run youth effectively and hopefully that can be something we can continue to build on here at Victory.
A challenge for Australian football throughout its history has been its search for an identity in the midst of such a diverse sporting landscape. From doing such a deep dive with ‘Football Belongs’, what was confirmed about Australian football for you and what surprised you?
John Didulica: Ultimately, what I was investigating through that series was why is it that we’re not comfortable in our own skin. As football fans we’re always looking for some sort of external validation for who we are. And the more you unwrap football the more you understand the way Australia’s evolved, and therefore the role played by football in shaping modern day Australia and how deeply embedded football is in all of these key themes of Australian life.
And that’s something to be so proud of as a code. We don’t need external validation for what we are as football supporters, I think we should be incredibly proud of what we’ve done. Projecting that forward, I think football has the power to help Australia become a far more progressive nation in the decades ahead.
In the same way football helped Australia navigate the influx of migrants has shown, with the likes of John Moriarty and Charles Perkins, it showed a genuine way of respecting Indigenous footballers. There’s a lot football can do about helping Australia navigate the challenges that we’re going to face as a nation in the generations ahead.
As a sport, we need to take a leadership role in those areas. Anyone who is passionate about football knows it is more than just a sport. Nobody follows football for the ninety minutes on the pitch, as beautiful as that is, we’re all in it because it touches us far deeper. It’s about connecting to your ancestry and the broader community and being able to explore the broader world.
How many football fans would know the capital cities and flags of the world by virtue of their passion for football? Football is an incredible portal to the world and we need to celebrate that more. And it’s about having confidence in celebrating.
A club like Victory is a great segue in regards to ‘Football Belongs’, because Victory’s got a lot of opportunity to lead in a lot of those areas. We’re the biggest football club in the sporting capital of the world in the world’s biggest sport. If you bring those three things together, Victory is uniquely positioned to lead in an incredibly compelling and exciting way.