We know that volunteers play a critical role across all levels of Football in Western Australia. We are fortunate each year to be able to formally recognise a number of our outstanding volunteers through our Optus WA Football Volunteer of the Year Program, supported by the Sunday Times, which is held at the Sandover Medal.
Further to this, the AFL also recognises state volunteers across some key categories including Community Club, Auskick, Diversity, Disability, Coaching, Umpiring and Schools through the AFL National Volunteer Awards. In 2020, WA has finalists across each of the nine categories.
It is important to note these volunteers were nominated at the conclusion of the 2019 season and were due to travel to Melbourne in May this year during Volunteer Week to be recognised by the AFL. As the finalists were unable to travel as a result of COVID-19, the event has been rescheduled with the national category winners to be announced on AFL Grand Final Day.
The broadcast acknowledging our finalists, and the announcement of the category winners will be on Channel 7 at 7:20am AWST this Saturday, 24th October.
The national category winners each receive a $1,000 cash prize, and an additional $500 prize for their affiliated group (Club, Auskick Centre, Umpire Group, School) or a charity of their choice. The remaining nominees each receive a $200 cash prize.
This is a fantastic achievement for each of the finalists and is a small recognition for the outstanding work that all volunteers in footy undertake week in and week out across the year.
The WA Finalists across the nine volunteer categories are:
Community Club Volunteer – John Sobolewski (Sorrento Duncraig Junior Football Club)
John was been president of Sorrento Duncraig Junior Football Club for four years and a committee member for 10, managing the largest community club in the country. John has worked relentlessly in establishing female football at the club, working with the district and fellow presidents sharing best practice strategies.
John worked towards establishing an inclusion program for 2020. He supports the district with ground use and advice regarding female development squad training programs, junior competition by-law change suggestions as well as coach development within his club and supporting umpires throughout the Subiaco district.
NAB AFL Auskick Volunteer - Mimma Rombola (Stirling Saints Junior Football Club Auskick)
Mimma has been able to successfully grow the Auskick numbers in the short time she has been Auskick Coordinator. Her passion for enabling kids to play sports has driven a lot of the strategies she has brought to the role, making Auskick 2.0 a fun program for the kids.
Mimma has always organised the parent helpers for the program before the weekend. Most parents feeling confident when they are called upon as a result of the coach education session she ran at the start of the season. Mimma organised many of the club’s themed weeks and fundraisers and was the lead in the school visits and shopping centre activations.
Mimma changed the Auskick day to allow kids who play soccer on Sundays were still able to attend Auskick and has organised Auskick trial nights to allow kids to come down and see if they like it before registering.
Diversity Volunteer – Sharon Wood-Kenney (Djinda Falcons & Ocean Ridge JFC)
Sharon has had significant impact on advancing Aboriginal players’ football in the West Perth Football District. For the past eight years she has managed the Nicky Winmar and Kirby Bentley teams, and has managed the Djinda Falcons Program. She has also been a part of the Kickstart Program where she has helped link players with other counselling, career, and football services.
Sharon works to develop pathways for Aboriginal footballers and helps link players with external support to help them beyond the footy field. At West Perth Football Club, Sharon has worked as a mentor and counsellor for male and female players. Sharon has engaged kids at Ocean Ridge JFC and has worked to help get funding to support their fees and has developed programs to offset club fees through volunteering with the club.
Sharon works to bridge the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal families by having the conversation. She has worked in the West Perth District to educate coaches and administrators on the culture of Aboriginal players and with junior clubs to facilitate cultural awareness.
Disability and Inclusion – Heather Timms (Fremantle CBC Integrated Team)
Heather has provided 10 years of loyal and unmatched service to the Fremantle CBC Football Club, the CBC All Abilities Team and the WA State Team. Her involvement with the Perth Football League Integrated Competition has driven sponsorship, increased membership and has increased volunteers within football.
Heather uses her roles in football to create environments that promote inclusivity, belonging and fairness for all. Heather continuously displays a strong ability to positively influence clubs and groups to improve culture and uses her vast experience to support people through their journey.
In addition to this, Heather uses her extensive network to build the capacity of the club and the State Team for people with intellectual disabilities. Heather has two sons living with a disability and understands the barriers that often precent people being welcomed. Heather does her upmost to promote football in WA as a sport that is accessible and available to all people.
Junior Coach – Jack Lewsey (West Coast Junior Football Club)
Jack is professional, calm, and his 360-degree coaching style has the boys thinking more about their actions, or inactions. Jack applies his psychology degree to coaching, which helps the boys learn and enjoy their footy.
He encourages all players to develop skills, demonstrated by their ability to play all positions on game day. Jack regularly gives positive constructive feedback to all players in front of their teammates and parents, which helps the team learn and develop.
Early in the season Jack addressed the parents and requested that they hand their children over at each training and game as it was his job to coach. The role of the parents is to cheer, not to coach. Jack warmly greets umpires, opposing team volunteers and spectators. The Coach zone on game day is controlled, calm and positive.
Jack has developed a sense of fun and love of footy with the team. The level of engagement between Jack and the players is fantastic. A love of the game, great friendships, and a desire to continue to play for the team is a natural outcome.
Senior Coach – David Lewis (Busselton Football Club)
David is in his second year as coach of the Busselton Magpies Colts group. A quietly spoken and humble coach, David’s engagements with the game and stakeholders are always positive.
On game day David is always focused on what’s happening within the games and on aspects that can be controlled. His reflections and player addresses relate specifically to how the game is unfolding and how the group is meeting it’s KPIs. David communicates calmly and respectfully in a manner that players understand and positively respond to.
David works closely with the Youth Coaching Group to provide players the opportunity of Colts football. David has created an environment where the year 11/12 teams are closely aligned, and players develop a team spirit that enhances their transition into the Colts squad.
Umpiring Service – Daniel Gibbons (Demons District Football Umpires Association)
Daniel Gibbons started umpiring in 2002 at age 13 and has since umpired seven grand finals, which is now the record for the most consecutive number of grand finals. Daniel is a polite, well-spoken, humble young man. He is well respected by his umpires, parents, peers, club presidents, volunteers and WAFC staff who have week-to-week dealings with him.
As Umpire Manager, Dan imparts his knowledge of the rules of the game onto the umpires to ensure that they are well skilled and confident. He guides and supports the Umpire Coaches, mentors each week at training and attends games in support. Using his network, he organised AFL Umpires, Brett Rosebury and Dean Margetts, to umpire a junior football game.
Daniel is a match day coach for the Hendrie/Margetts Development Squad. Many of the umpires in this squad have benefited from Daniels coaching as they have come through the ranks of the Demons’ District.
Primary School – Will Hammond (Amaroo Primary School, Collie)
Will created a survivor program that ran through terms two and three, which involved students competing in team challenges each Friday. Parts of the challenges involved games of football, where points scored in each game would go towards their overall team score.
There was then a grand final which included a breakfast with the teams and teachers, a breaking of the banners ceremony and the grand final match which was watched by the whole school with commentary provided through a student commentary team.
The program involved each student from year four upwards in the school. Each team shared roles and responsibilities to ensure each member was involved. The program also engaged all the teachers, even those who weren’t previously exposed to football.
Student’s participation in the Survivor Program is dependent on their classroom manner and behaviour, which has subsequently resulted in improved behaviour from the kids.
Secondary School – Brett Nelson (Edmund Rice College – Catholic Agricultural College, Bindoon)
Brett is a proud Noongar man from Northam, with family in Tammin and Merredin. Brett’s connection with other Indigenous families in the areas have inspired young people to play football. His passion for football started at a young age, within his own family and as he went through schools in South Australia and Alice Springs.
Brett has played a large role in increasing the number of students joining the local football team and was instrumental in getting girls to join. Many of the students attend Edmund Rice College as a result of the football programs available. During Monday staff meetings, the football achievements from the weekend are highlighted, as well as an article which he writes for the school newsletter that features on the College website.
Brett takes the current borders to Toodyay for training and has hosted several team bonding sessions during the season. He often takes on a role mentoring students who are struggling. Brett is at the front-line, offering a range of training activities each week and healthy eating options through the kitchen. Brett’s enthusiasm and love for the game is apparent in every conversation.