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Oakleigh Cannons well-placed to build on its competitive foundations

The Oakleigh Cannons are a club who are a staple of the top tier of Victorian football.

The Cannons have competed in the Victorian National Premier League consecutively for the past 17 years, gaining promotion when they lifted the State League One Championship in 2003.

Since then, the senior men’s team have won one minor premiership in 2006, however have fallen to three grand final defeats in 2011, 2012 and 2016.

After eight games this season, the club currently sits in fifth place in NPL Victoria and are well placed to once again be up there at season’s end.

General Manager at Oakleigh, Aki Ionnas, believes the club can finally break their grand final hoodoo this year.

“I do believe that we can win it,” he told Soccerscene.

“Chris Taylor has put a very good squad together; all the boys are fantastic. We’re confident these boys can take us all the way.”

If it eventuates it will be a great reward for the club, based on the events of the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Like any other club, it was obviously hard,” Ionnas said.

“For players, kids, juniors, the committee…it was a hard season with no football.

“Kids are used to going to training and playing soccer, your supporters, your sponsors, your members are used to going down to the club, and before you know it, you’re at home in a lockdown.

“So, it was very hard mentally for a lot of people.”

The club was established in 1972 and currently plays its home games at Jack Edwards Reserve, a facility which seems like a perfect setup for a club who plays in the top level in Victoria.

The venue has a capacity of 4,000-5,000 people with upgrades over the years continuing to lift the overall standard of the facility.

“About six years ago our facilities got upgraded with a brand-new synthetic ground as well as a junior pavilion. That was done all through hard work from our chairman Kon Kavalakis, who was responsible in liaising with council and other key parties to get these facilities.

“We’ve recently had a state-of-the art scoreboard that’s gone up last year and started using it this year.

“There’s always work going into the improvement of facilities. Even though the synthetic ground was done six years, we’ve resurfaced it again only a year and a half ago to reach top FIFA standards.”

Ionnas revealed that the club was in the progress of talking to council in regards to further developing the ground, something that the AAFC partner club sees as a priority in the future.

Oakleigh’s General Manager is relatively confident that the club is ready to take the next step and enter a national second division when it eventuates.

“Look, it all depends once we see the final model that it’s financially viable,” he said.

“If it’s financially viable, then yes.

“It all depends on what the model is going to look like and what it’s going to cost. Speaking to a lot of clubs, that’s what they are all waiting for.

“We are an ambitious club, we would always like to compete at the highest level, we’ve got very good sponsors, very good backers, a very strong board who are all business minded and great infrastructure which we will eventually develop further.”

According to Ionnas, the strong affiliation the club has with the local Greek community has positively impacted the fortunes and finances of the club over their history.

“We’ve got very strong support obviously in the Greek community,” he said.

“We’ve had strong support for a long, long time. We’ve had a major supporter in Delphi Bank who has been our sponsor for 15 years I believe. It’s a massive thing for that to happen continuously.”

Ionnas hopes the club continues to be consistently competitive in the near future, across all aspects of the sport.

“Obviously, we want the club to be a strong club irrespective where it is playing, we want to be up there both on and off the park.

“Our chairman and president Stan Papayianneris have done enormous work, each in their own way, to get the club to where it is now. Oakleigh should remain a strong club because it’s got enormous support away from the field.

“We can’t thank everyone enough for supporting the club.”

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

DFL and AWS introduce two new Match Facts to Bundesliga coverage

Bundesliga analysis

The Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have announced the addition of two new Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS that will premiere as graphics during broadcasts and in the official Bundesliga app during the 2021-2022 season.

The two new Match Facts – Shot Efficiency and Passing Profile – will bring the total number of advanced statistics to eight, with each of them aiming to give fans deeper insights into the action on the pitch.

The first of the new advanced stats – Shot Efficiency – compares the number of goals that a player or team has scored with how many goals the player or team should have scored based on the quality of their chances.

The second – Passing Profile – provides deeper insights into the pass quality of a player or an entire team. Both of the stats are generated by gathering and analysing the match feeds from live games in real time as they are streamed into AWS.

Both new stats made their debut during Matchday 4 on the clash between German Champion FC Bayern München and the second-placed team of the previous season RB Leipzig.

The two new Match Facts will better showcase the action on the field – giving fans, coaches, players, and commentators visual support for analysing the decision-making of players and teams.

Andreas Heyden, Executive Vice President of Digital Innovations for DFL Group, was excited to further innovate the matchday experience for viewers based both domestically and internationally.

“Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS allows us to give fans more insight into the game of football, broadcasters more interesting stories to tell and coaches and teams, more data to excel at their game,” he said.

“Last year, the reception for Bundesliga Match Facts around the world was very positive, and we expect through ML and AI to continue to innovate on these analytics to make them even better.

“These two new stats give fans a view into player efficiency that hasn’t been achieved before, and we are just at the beginning of our relationship with AWS. I’m excited to see how technology will continue to evolve the fan experience and the game.”

Jamie Harnwell driving the game forward in Western Australia

Jamie Harnwell is Perth Glory’s record appearance holder, with 256 of them across three decades. Now Chief Football Officer for Football West, he spoke to Soccerscene about the changes from the NSL to the A-League, the challenges of running a football federation, and his favourite footballing moments throughout his career.

So firstly, what’s the biggest challenges facing Football West at the moment?

Harnwell: I think it’s interesting. Football West is in a really good position, being very fortunate with COVID over here and able to get out and play. The challenges are more for our clubs I suppose, and then Football West supporting them. Facilities are always a challenge for every sport, but certainly for football. We need to make sure there are enough grounds and space for people to play, but also aspects like lighting, adequate change rooms, and those sorts of things are suitable for clubs. We have a number of them almost putting up the closed sign because they have too many players and not enough space for them to play.

The other challenge for Football West and the clubs is the increase in governance requirements. We are basically a volunteer sport in many ways. And the increasing legalities and issues across that for volunteers to deal with can be difficult. So it’s time that we at Football West need to be able to support our clubs, make sure they’re adhering to good practice, and doing the right things so that they can continue to grow.

How has professional football in Australia improved since you first debuted with Perth Glory in the late 90s?

Harnwell: I think it’s actually professional football now. You know when I first started playing, I think there was ourselves and maybe Carlton who were actual full-time professional clubs. The rest were part-time as people were still working during the day, going to training at night, and trying to juggle the two. So certainly the transition into the A-League and full-time professionalism for all clubs has been huge, and just the continued increased coverage and media around the game has made us much more accessible. It’s easier to see and has a much better chance of building that supporter base across the game here in Australia.

What areas do you think the game can continue to improve on going forward into the future?

Harnwell: There’s always talent development and making sure that we stay on pace with best practices and what’s happening in other parts of the world. We are a smaller nation in the grand scheme of things in football, so we need to be smart about how we approach those sorts of things and make sure we get bang for our buck for everything that we do. The other thing is we need to try and increase the commercialism of the game and make sure that we continue to get funds into the game that can assist in the youth development that can help in costs for clubs and all those types of things. So that’s the way I know Football Australia is working hard on it. They’re starting to bring more and more partners into the game. But if you look at the mega machines like AFL, then we probably still have some way to go in that.

How can football win across young athletes into joining the sport over others?

Harnwell:
I think we’re really lucky as a game. I can’t speak for other states, I suppose – but the numbers here at Football West in Western Australia just continue to grow year in year out. We are a very attractive game for parents to pick for young boys and girls. It’s a very easy game to choose and very easy to play and train. So we’re certainly well-positioned in that respect – making sure that our clubs provide positive environments that they enjoy what they do. There isn’t the overarching focus on just winning games, but more a longer-term development based approach that will make sure talented young players will stay in football rather than going across to other codes.

On a personal level, what is your most memorable footballing memory?

Harnwell: There’s probably a few, I suppose for myself as a player – it would have been the first NSL Championship that we won. We’d had a couple of cracks at it before and sort of fell away in the Grand Final. So that first win in 2003 was huge, and really got the monkey off our back, and managing to score in that game with the massive crowd was fantastic. But I’m also a Manchester United fan, so the treble was pretty good as well. So I don’t know which one ranks better for me!

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