Club update: Statement from the President



Dear members, supporters and corporate partners of the Williamstown Football Club.  


I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with access and insight into all the exciting developments occurring within our Club at present.  


Downer Oval Ground Surface Redevelopment


The upgrade to the playing surface at Downer Oval is well underway. In September this year, the Hobsons Bay Council approved a $2 million investment in our ground surface redevelopment so that it will meet the needs of the many teams who use our facilities, ranging from our Men’s and Women’s State League teams, the Western Jets boys and girls teams and a multitude of community users.


It was welcome news that Pitchcraft were appointed to undertake the works, having successfully reconstructed AFL venues such as Etihad Stadium, Manuka Oval and Eureka Stadium. Therefore, we can be assured of an extremely high-quality surface.  We thank the Council for their commitment to this key community asset, and we look forward to further increasing its utilisation due to this upgrade, with matches beginning at the ground from May 2021.  


Facilities Project Masterplan


In addition to the surface upgrade, our Club is also in discussions with the State and Federal Governments to assist in furthering our facilities project masterplan.


Our aim is to redevelop our facilities to include new unisex, accessible changerooms for umpires, teams and local community users at an estimated cost of $3.6m. This upgrade will result in a professional training and administration facility with many important key community interfaces.


These facilities will not only support the range of teams that currently utilise the ground, but will promote and support sporting inclusiveness in Hobsons Bay and the surrounding municipalities.


We will continue to keep you updated as we progress on this project.


Confirmation of License in 2021 VFLW Season


Another wonderful development in the last couple of weeks was receiving confirmation of our license in the 2021 VFLW season.    


The format of the competition will be very similar to 2019 with 12 teams, however there will be one key change and that relates to timing.


The competition will now start in late February and will run concurrently with the NAB League Girls competition and the AFLW competition.


So, what does this mean for our Club;  


- Once again, we are thrilled to be a key team in this competition, one of only 2 VFL clubs taking part.  


- Our inclusion demonstrates our Club's integral connection between the NAB League Girls competition, community football, and AFLW competition. We are a clear talent pathway for women to play football at the highest level, which was once again demonstrated by Williamstown-listed player Amy Smith being successfully drafted to the North Melbourne Football Club this year.  


- It also means that we don’t have to wait too long for the blue and gold to be on display with our team taking the field in about three months’ time.  


We all know that 2020 has been a trying year for everyone, but I would like to extend a special thank you to a few key people driving our women’s program. Namely, Club Director Mel Backhouse, our Football Manager Claudia Davey, our coach Penny Cula-Reid and our CEO Jason Reddick. They have all worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that, despite the challenges of this year, our women’s program is primed and ready to go.  


We eagerly await restrictions being lifted allowing our women’s team to get back to training.    


Confirmation of License in 2021 VFL Season   


Like our women’s program, our men have also been granted a license in next year’s 2021 VFL and East Coast second-tier competition.  


I know that there has been a lot of innuendo and conjecture around the proposed makeup of the new competition, so I will take the time to explain some of its key elements;  


- There will be 22 teams in the competition, which include the addition of the following teams:

  • Sydney, Greater Western Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
  • Two standalone teams from Queensland being the Aspley Hornets and Southport Sharks. 

- The 2021 season will consist of only 16 rounds, beginning in late April. The reduced draw is primarily due to minimising costs and ensuring there is flexibility in the draw should Covid-19 remain a significant concern next year. However, our belief and aim is that the competition will expand to 21 games in the 2022 season.  


- The competition's primary goal is for teams to compete for a premiership. However, a strong development profile remains with six under 22 players fielded in each team every week.


So, what does this mean for the WFC;  


- This new competition is clearly a change from what we have previously experienced, but change is not necessarily a bad thing. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is how much we value some of life’s simple pleasures, with football being one of those. We have missed it immensely, whether you are a player, supporter or employed in the industry, so we are so pleased that it will be back in 2021 and that our Club is a vital part of the competition.  


- In our opinion, this state league competition will clearly be the best competition outside of the AFL.  


- This new competition enhances our Club's reputation as a destination and pathway for young players who wish to develop themselves to reach the AFL. Having to field six under 22 players is not something new to our Club and we have done this over many years. We have always supported and promoted player development. Most recently the likes of Lachie Shultz, Brett Bewley and Michael Gibbons successfully graduated through our Club and men’s program.  


Arriving at this new competition structure has been a power of work behind the scenes in a truly collaborative approach between the AFL and our fellow Clubs and I thank all parties for their determination and positive attitude to achieving a common goal for all to benefit.  


VFL Coaching Vacancy  


You will have also seen over the last week that our senior men’s coach Andy Collins has resigned to accept a full-time teaching position. Collo informed the Club that his new teaching role resulted in him being unable to fulfil his 2021 contract as full-time coach at our Club.  


Collo has been a great servant to our Club with many highlights, however achieving the ultimate goal of a premiership in 2015 was the clear standout!   We wish him all the best in his future endeavours.  


In the meantime, the Club has begun the pursuit for a full-time replacement and our search is well and truly underway.


To ensure that we leave no stone unturned and find the best possible coach for our Club, we have established a very strong and experienced coaching selection panel. And I’m pleased to announce that Peter Schwab will be part of our panel.


Peter has a myriad of experience in this domain. He was the AFL Director of Coaching between 2010 – 2013, CEO of AFL Victoria between 2007 – 2010, Hawthorn AFL Coach between 2000 – 2004 and he was most recently part of the Brisbane Lions coaching panel that appointed Chris Fagan.  


We are thrilled that he has committed his expertise to assist our Club with this process. In addition to Peter, the panel will also include the key organisational and footballing expertise of our very own Club Directors Kim Kershaw, Troy West and our CEO Jason Reddick.  


We look forward to updating you on this matter in the next couple of weeks.    




I trust that this update has provided you with a little further access and insight into the exciting developments at our Club in recent times.  


While 2020 has presented significant challenges to our Club, our Executive Team led by Jason Reddick and our Board have worked tirelessly to ensure that we are well positioned both on and off the field.  


However, there is no doubt that we couldn’t have achieved this outcome without the support of you, our members and corporate partners. To those who committed and invested in a Club membership last year, or committed to supporting our Club through a corporate partnership – thank you, we are a member-owned Club and exist for you.  


Your support is vitally important for our Club and our continued success on and off the field, therefore, if you can, please continue to invest in a Club membership, and join as a corporate partner for season 2021.  


Until next time, stay safe, let's stick together and go the Towners.  


Clint Rippon


Williamstown Football Club  


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