Mt Druitt Town Rangers coach Stewart Montgomery: “We represent an area that doesn’t get the respect it deserves”

Western Sydney has become synonymous in recent years with the successful cultivation of countless talented players and coaches that call the region home. One of those coaches is Stewart Montgomery, who currently leads a Mount Druitt Town Rangers side that continues to defy expectations.

The NSW National Premier Leagues 1 club were left frustrated by yet another Covid-impacted season, with Montgomery’s Rangers stuck in sixth place. And if not for greater fortune and a few finished chances, it would have been Mt Druitt’s Popondetta Park playing host to the Central Coast Mariners in the FFA Cup in place of the Wollongong Wolves.

Having been instrumental in developing this Rangers side into the resilient and competitive NPL team that it is today; Montgomery’s footballing experience provides significant insight into the effort and long-term planning that goes towards clubs in the semi-professional tier. Here are his thoughts in this Q&A.

Montgomery
Stewart Montgomery (right) following Mt Druitt’s NPL 2 Championship in 2018.

Just to start off, are you able to provide some insight into your own footballing background and what’s led you to where you are now as the Head Coach of Mount Druitt Town Rangers?

Stewart Montgomery: My background in football stems from playing in my younger years and coming through what was the State Leagues of NSW. I played in the National Youth League competitions with Penrith City and into the old National Soccer League. I then ended up at Polonia FC in the Men’s State League.

After a break from football, I started my coaching journey where I took up positions within the Nepean Association in the FNSW Metro League comp, going on to coach in NPL Youth League. From there, I took up the Technical Director’s role and Head of Football at Mt Druitt, where I’ve been for 10 years. During that time, I was also fortunate to be offered a head coach role at Western Sydney Wanderers YL in their inaugural season. It was a great experience and I learned a lot there under Ian Crook.

After the 2020 season, we made some changes to the coaching structures where I filled in and took over. Last year was good and we plan to be back up there again. Given how 2021 went we will keep the same coaching structures for 2022. I’m finishing my A Licence off in the immediate future so it all works well.

What was it like experiencing this second consecutive lockdown in NSW as coach of the Rangers?

Stewart Montgomery: It was the right thing to do, but it was frustrating. We were in a good position and were having a strong season with an ambition to come home strong and secure a place in the semi-finals.

Within the Men’s NPL we were unanimous that it was the right thing to close the competition down at that point, to focus on safety and also what was going to come in the future with regards to making sure that the 2022 season is the best it can be. Credit to all of the clubs and Football NSW for getting that done.

Mt Druitt

It’s certainly been impressive to see the Rangers become such a competitive side in NPL 1 following their promotion a few seasons ago. What has it been like for yourself at the club to be a part of this journey?

Stewart Montgomery: It’s been a long-term plan, and there’s been a lot of really good people that have contributed to that over the years. 10 years ago, when I came to the club, we had our boys’ Youth League sitting in the lowest tier of competition going in Football NSW leagues.

Our focus then was to make our youth and boys programs the best that we could. And that could be done with the right application, management and curriculum-based coaching. We won consecutive promotions in YL and now I believe many people would recognise the Mount Druitt Youth League program is a really strong one. It’s never easy for teams to come and play in our Youth League side.

Once we’d secured that, we looked at how we then move from Men’s State League 1 to NPL 2, and then to NPL 1. Again, that was a long-term plan that we worked on with a combination of youth and experience. And we’ve had some great people that have come through the program and helped us with that. Securing promotion at the end of the 2018 season was all part of the plan, and was achieved through great leadership from a whole range of coaches and players.

Our intentions from there turned to focusing on being the best that we can be in NPL 1. In that first season in NPL 1 it was like “what the hell is happening here?”. In our second game of the season away to Manly United, the first half saw four substitutions made for what were half-a-season ending injuries. We didn’t secure a win until Round 6, and from Round 7 went on to secure a sixth place finish, which was only three points off fourth place.

This season we had secured ourselves in the top half of the table and were really closing in on semi-finals and a top-three finish. For 2022, we’ve stated that we’re going to win the comp.

Mt Druitt

For you coming into the club originally, was there a collective realisation from everyone that there needed to be a shake-up and change? What was it that sparked that shift and long-term planning?

Stewart Montgomery: That same line of questioning was put to the board some 10 or 11 years ago prior to me coming on-board. The existing executive spoke to our long-term executive about needing fresh ideas and blood, and needing to push the club forward. Popondetta always had a fantastic facility and area in which to grow from, but we weren’t growing.

Financially we weren’t in a strong position and we weren’t commercially viable in terms of what we were doing with our local community, by engaging sponsors and bringing our local government authorities and council members into our program so that they could all understand what we were doing and where we wanted to get to.

So there was a whole new committee change where we drove the future desire for the club. From there, we’ve continued to challenge and push for all of the opportunities and grants. We’ve got a $5.5 million synthetic field going on the outside; one-and-a-half synthetics on the outside of where our junior fields are. And there’s a lot of positives still to come.

It was that change to make the internal decisions to put fresh blood in and from there, we’ve had a good bunch of people that are all there for the right reasons. We still keep in touch with our past executives as they, like all of us, put their heart into the club. Many still support and sponsor the club. We are very lucky there. Now we’ve got the likes of Narelle Telling and Jodi Yeo plus others who have given us a balance with the female side of the executive, and our female program is only getting stronger.

We’re really happy with where we are at, but we’re still restless in that we feel we still haven’t achieved anything other than become a serious contender. We haven’t won anything yet and that’s what we’re here to do.

Rangers

What was the transition process like for you to go from a Senior Technical Director to Head Coach of the Rangers?

Stewart Montgomery: We’ve always worked really closely as a team, but there’s obviously a fine line between being the head of the football program and allowing the first-grade coach to have their own freedom. Because I knew the existing coach well, we aligned on many things. So, it was a really consultative approach around how we secured players, what positions we were looking for, what kind of player DNA we were looking for and what were the attitudes that they brought to the club. In essence, a ‘no dickhead’ type policy.

At different times during our push for promotion we went into the transfer market to pick someone that might be coming off their NPL 1 first grade journey who would still have so much to offer at NPL 2 level. And we were really good at picking that special player. It’s a fine line but it’s one we’ve been able to tread pretty well.

In terms of the people that I’m working with, Stamati Glaros has come in and he’s working closely with me. He does as much around the program as I do, and he’s been at the club before. Bringing in those people that really understand what we’re about means we’re not changing too much. I’m big on succession planning.

Tarek Elrich

What has it been like to lead the Rangers and to represent the Mt Druitt community?

Stewart Montgomery: We represent an area that doesn’t get the respect it deserves and we take the park to represent the whole of the City of Blacktown and Western suburbs. We take a lot of pride in that and we’ve got a great, passionate vocal support that gets behind us.

A lot of people are waiting for us to fall over and they’re expecting us to drop back down. So, every day we approach it in the same way where people expect us to not perform, and every time we do the opposite of that we send a message.

PFA Co-Chief Executive Kathryn Gill on the discussions leading up to Collective Bargaining Agreement

Kathryn Gill

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between Football Australia and Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) was recently formed for 2023-2027, bolstering the future for the Socceroos and Matildas.

The CBA will put a number of key changes and initiatives in place – namely payments, commercial partnerships, gender equality, work-life balance and life after football.

As a former Matildas captain, PFA Co-Chief Executive Kathryn Gill has been the perfect role model for those rising up through the ranks, and also in her leadership to turn this CBA into reality.

She spoke with Soccerscene to outline the key milestones achieved for the new CBA and what we can look forward to over the four-year duration.

The path towards the 50:50 payments and the key conversations that made it happen:

Kathryn Gill: Women’s football has undergone a global explosion over the past four to five years. When we signed the previous collective bargaining agreement in 2019, the women’s game was threatening to reach new heights, and our gender equal model reflected that trend.

In 2023, we needed the new agreement to reflect this new reality, and most players were comfortable moving away from a centralised contract structure to a meritocratic payment model, mirroring the Socceroos’ match payments.

Players provided direct feedback in player meetings, steering committee meetings, and in the negotiations with FA to share their views.

The outcome was that the players now have a payment model that incentivises performances, creates competitive tension within the team, and is a fit-for-purpose gender-equal payment structure in line with the Socceroos.

There is still work to do to increase player salaries in club football, but we are hopeful that it will continue to grow in line with global trends.

How revenues will benefit the Australian football community with programs for current and former players:

Kathryn Gill: Under the CBA, a percentage of the players’ share of revenue is redirected into player development support programs and services, which are vital to the ongoing support of players and ensure that football remains a sport of choice for Australian athletes. That money is to support the current national team players. However, for the first time, the CBA guarantees investment in our past players via legacy funding from the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

That funding will ensure our players can stay in their careers longer, help them to prepare for life after football, and enable the PFA and FA to invest in areas that will allow us to support our retired and former professional players better.

The importance of giving back towards the PFA Footballers’ Trust:

Kathryn Gill: Players are deeply passionate about many issues within football and society, from reducing the cost of football to climate change and human rights. Their aim is to make the Footballers’ Trust the most impactful sports charity in Australia. The CBA is a great vehicle to foster the players’ commitment by building a deeper level of impact on many existing and new initiatives across the next four years of the agreement.

There were 40 players in the negotiation process, was there anyone in particular that stood out in discussions?

Kathryn Gill: The CBA is the players’ agreement, so as many players as possible in and around the national teams provided their input into their deal.

The players were constantly at the table and in the negotiations, even though many had to join from overseas at various hours of the morning or evening.

Our Executive Committee Members in particular – Andrew Redmayne, Lydia Williams, Tameka Yallop, Elise Kellond-Knight, Jackson Irvine and Mat Ryan – were deeply involved given their representative roles with the union.

Dandenong Thunder to enjoy $700,000 LED lighting upgrade at George Andrews Reserve

Dandenong Thunder lighting upgrade

Greater Dandenong Council and Dandenong Thunder have recently confirmed that works have commenced for new powerful lighting towers to be built at George Andrews Reserve.

The upgrade will cost $700,000 and is being jointly funded by Greater Dandenong Council ($500,000) and the State Government ($200,000) with a plan to improve the ground’s overall quality for both training and matches. They formerly had 200-lux LED towers and they will be replaced by 500-lux towers.

For the Greater Dandenong local council, the focus was to improve the facility for the community to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits through the increased amount of playable hours at the reserve.

Importantly, the project ensures that the Thunder have a ground that is up to professional competition and broadcast standards which means they can broadcast and host games that are viewed by a national audience, a huge step forward for the NPL Victoria club.

This broadcast upgrade also opens up the possibility to expand to national matches involving the Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City A-League women’s teams and an even more ambitious goal of hosting a Matildas game. The ground can easily hold 5000 people and the lighting and broadcasting standards will be fantastic after this upgrade.

Dandenong Thunder shared the positive implications this light upgrade has for the club.

“The new lights mean the club will be able to host a number of games, not only that but it’s a step forward to the clubs ambition to be part of the NSD (national second division),” a club spokesperson told Soccerscene.

“The support from local council has been nothing but fantastic, Dandenong want to be a sporting hub for the south east suburbs.

“With the FA cup we have seen A-League clubs play at local level clubs, having these new high powered lights we will be able to broadcast at a higher quality, no more yellow light broadcast.”

This news presents an exciting future for Dandenong Thunder and the matches played at George Andrews Reserve. The quality of training, matches and broadcasts has improved tenfold and it matches the size of the NPL Victoria side that have big ambitions.

Most Popular Topics

Editor Picks

Send this to a friend