Northern NSW Football launches Indigenous Reference Group

Northern NSW Football (NNSWF) has announced the exciting formation of its inaugural Indigenous Reference Group.

The group is made up of seven highly respected members of the football community – including former Matilda Gema Simon, Moree FC’s Darrel Smith and Mick Hugo from South Cardiff FC, as well as Casey Manton (Metford Cobras), Casey King (Italo Stars), Kaliela Thornton (Tamworth FC) and Mat Moncreif.

The group met for the first time virtually on Thursday night (February 3), with the initial meeting a success.

NNSWF Female Participation and Inclusion Officer Annelise Rosnell facilitated the meeting and was thrilled with the positive start for the group.

“It was a really good beginning. We were able to open some initial dialogue on what we want to achieve and how we want to go about it,” she said.

“We have some amazing people who have joined the group and I know given their knowledge and experience we have the ability to make some real progress in this area.

“Our aim is to work together on Indigenous football activities and how NNSWF can better engage Indigenous communities, players, coaches and referees.

“There is plenty of hard work to do but this was certainly an encouraging start.”

NNSWF’s Indigenous Reference Group will meet at least quarterly, but more frequently if needed during the season. Rosnell will report recommendations to NNSWF, which will be factored into the Member Federation’s decision-making process.

NNSWF have been taking positive steps towards connecting with the region’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage.

The Member Federation launched its inaugural RTC Group Indigenous Round across its Premier Competitions last season, in conjunction with National Reconciliation Week.

NNSWF also introduced its first RTC Group NNSWF Talented Indigenous Scholarships to provide assistance to eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recipients from the Hunter Region and regional northern NSW across playing, coaching and officiating.

The scholarships will again be available in 2022, with details on how to apply made available soon.

Gary Cole: Still striking the target

There are very few people in Australian football who have left their mark on so many facets of the game like Gary Cole.

From his early days in the Victorian Premier League as a professional footballer which led to a prolific goalscoring record in the National Soccer League (NSL) and significant success with the Socceroos, Cole has experienced it all.

Cole wasn’t the type who could hang up his boots and not play any further part in the game, so he pursued coaching positions in the Victorian State League, Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and the NSL.

He was also the first Director of Football at Melbourne Victory from 2005 to 2011 and occupied a similar role at Sydney FC in 2012.

Recently, Cole has completed an eight-month stint with Football Australia (F.A.) in trying to establish a National Academy.

Significantly, he has occupied an active role on the Board of Football Coaches Australia (FCA) for the last three years and was recently elected as President.

Although there have been periods he has been absent from the game, Gary Cole identifies strongly with the desire to see football in this country prosper.

In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Gary Cole discusses his recent work at the F.A., shares his opinion on the standard of playing and coaching, and the means by which football can be improved on and off of the park.

ROGER SLEEMAN

You were recently with the F.A. but your position was made redundant.

What did you achieve while you were there?

GARY COLE

My specific role was to initiate the setup of a National Academy, similar to the previous AIS.

I reconnected with people involved in coaching education at the FA and also met up with representatives of the member federations.

However, ultimately the FA decided not to invest in the Academy.

Whether it was a question of affordability or their lack of desire, I wasn’t privy to the reasons behind the decision.

Nevertheless, the FA Board should be asked to read a document compiled in 2021/2022 called; “The One Football Strategy”, which revealed a hunger for the Academy to be established with the FA and the member Federations working in unison.

Furthermore, with the appointment by FIFA of Arsene Wenger as Chief Football Officer who has stated every nation should have a National Academy or Centre of Excellence by 2026, it flies in the face of the decision to close the AIS in 2017 and the reluctance to invest in a National Academy now.

R.S.

What do you observe as other problems in the system?

G.C.

Player development and talent identification are key factors in producing a better quality of player.

Graham Arnold said before the last World Cup in his Gap Report that players from u/17- u/23 don’t get enough game time.

in his role as Chief Football Officer at the FA, Ernie Merrick has a big job to review and change the system because people involved in coaching at the moment are frustrated by the current pathways and lack of investment in the game.

R.S.

When you were at the FA, how did you rate the expertise of your colleagues and other employees  in the organisation?

G.C.

I had already worked with Will Hastie at Football Victoria and rubbed shoulders with seasoned campaigners Ian Crook and Gary Phillips – who I’ve both known for a long time.

However, they’re all busy people who are fully occupied in their coaching development and administrative roles.

Regarding other employees at the FA, it isn’t always the case that obtaining a university degree in sports management guarantees a contribution can be made to the game.

If football isn’t your first love and you don’t have a background in the game, it makes it much harder.

While I was there, I witnessed a high turnover of staff which indicated that maybe the wrong people were being employed.

R.S.

How can we get more former professional players involved in media, coaching, marketing and operations?

G.C.

Professional Footballers Australia are trying to encourage current players to think about remaining in the game and they are paying for their courses.

Some players want to get away from the game and follow a new career but for others, it’s a matter of examining their skill set which doesn’t happen enough.

One of the biggest problems is the current regime feels threatened by the presence of former players which is a big mistake.

Surely, the retention of more former players in life after football can only benefit the sport due to their total understanding of the product.

R.S.

We are producing very few tactically accomplished players in the game.

What is the solution?

G.C.

I was invited to the National Youth Championships in Coffs Harbour last year by the FA and spent some time with former Socceroo striker, Josh Kennedy.

There were players on view with reasonable technical ability but there was a dearth of quality strikers.

Control and passing technique were excellent but they didn’t know where the ball should be going before and after the pass was made.

It shouldn’t be just about maintaining possession which the current coach education emphasises.

What about penetration behind defences to create goal scoring opportunities?

In relation to the quality of players in general, every coach I speak to decries the quality of players coming through the system.

When we replaced the AIS and State institute of Sports because the Dutch said not enough players were getting a chance, we set up academies in the A-League and NPL clubs.

The intention of the model was theoretically sound,  but as Wenger says the reason to establish national academies is so the best play with the best which provides the ultimate learning environment.

R.S.

You spent six years with Melbourne Victory from the start of the A-League and it was the boom club of the competition for many years.

What has happened?

G.C.

The club had lost its way to some extent when Geoff Lord was replaced as chairman and Ernie Merrick and I moved on.

However, when Ange Postecoglou became coach and was succeeded by Kevin Muscat, the performances on the park improved and AAMI Park was always full.

After they vacated their positions, recruiting wasn’t up to scratch and then Covid struck.

When Tony Popovic took over two seasons ago, the mood became positive leading to a Australia Cup win and just missing out on the Championship.

Unfortunately, the club finished last in the league last season and I believe the reluctance to start U/23’S from the Academy was a major reason for the poor performance.

In contrast, the Mariners – with the smallest budget in the league – gave their youngsters a chance and achieved wonders while Adelaide United provided opportunity for their youth players and also performed very well.

Notably, there has been a clearing out of the Football Department at Victory and Poppa has a new squad so hopefully the club will benefit on and off the field.

Unquestionably, the A-League needs a strong Melbourne Victory.

Northern NSW Football backs international opportunities for youth talent with Green Room Futures

Green Room Futures and Northern NSW Football

Northern NSW has partnered with Green Room Futures to streamline international pathways.

Green Room Futures is a Victorian-based USA college opportunities service. The company specialises in helping to place Australian students in US colleges, particularly in helping place student-athletes.

Green Room Futures does this by providing ever student with a personalised package that comes with a full money back guarantee.

Under this new partnership, Northern NSW Football and Green Room Futures will help prospective students to access a network of more than 5,500 colleges across the USA.

Green Room Futures is confident that they will be able to provide student-athletes of all skill sets and academic coursework desires the opportunity to compete for scholarships and places in some of the best programs in the US.

The partnership is set to kick off with Green Room Futures hosting a live online forum on October 11 at 7:30pm for football families in northern NSW.

The forum will focus explicitly on the US College Soccer Pathway opportunities that Green Room Futures can offer.

It will provide the families with an in-depth look into the college recruitment and scholarship processes that their child can expect if they choose to follow the US college pathway.

The forum will provide prospective families with the unique financial considerations of US college application and will also cover steps and timelines that will have to be undertaken when families are exploring suitable US college opportunities.

Northern NSW CEO Peter Haynes expressed the football federation’s delight at this chance to tap into such a lucrative base of knowledge for its players.

“We are excited to partner with Green Room Futures and help give young footballers in northern NSW the opportunity to explore the pathways into the United States College systems,” he said via press release.

“This is a great chance for our young players to potentially experience something different not just for their football careers but in terms of valuable life experience as well.”

This is an exciting and lucrative partnership sure to be welcomed by the Northern NSW footballing community.

By being able to tap into Green Room Futures knowledge and through their money back guarantees families accessing this partnership will be assured that they are giving their child the best access and chance for them to go overseas and play the game they love.

It will be the hope of all football fans in Australia that this partnership proves successful as having more Australians playing internationally is a great way for the beautiful games profile both home and abroad to grow.

Hence, deals such as this are win not only for the families and players but also for the wider football community.

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