Community Football Awards

AFL Victoria congratulates community football award winners

WorkSafe AFL Victoria Country Volunteer of the Year award winner Bobbie Lee Blay (middle) from Dalyston FC

Winners of the 2021 AFL Victoria Community Football Awards have been announced in an online event held on Thursday evening.

The awards recognise outstanding contributions made to Australian football across Victoria and celebrate some of the amazing achievements that enabled football to return this year after a cancelled season.

Even though 2021 was a disrupted and frustrating year because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the game rebounded strongly because of the incredible commitment of players, coaches, umpires, volunteers and parents. The awards serve as a way to acknowledge the important role our community members play in the sustainability and growth of grassroots football.

The virtual event, broadcast via the AFL Victoria Facebook page, can be viewed as a replay on-demand here.

The 2021 AFL Victoria Community Football Award winners are:

NAB AFL Auskick Volunteer of the Year: Leon Townsend-Booth (Moonee Valley FC)

AFL Victoria State Metro Volunteer of the Year: Ernie O’Brien (Thomastown Bears FC)

WorkSafe AFL Victoria Country Volunteer of the Year: Bobbie Lee Blay (Dalyston FC)

Energy Safe Canteen Hero Award: Karen ‘Pinky’ Griffin (Mount Pleasant FNC)

Stan Alves Youth Coach of the Year: Jesse Trower (Waaia FC)

David Parkin Junior Coach of the Year: Lowell Hunter (Belmont Lions FC)

Peta Searle Female Coach of the Year: Nicola Tenabel (Ascot Vale JFC)

Gerard Fitzgerald Senior Coach of the Year: Daniel Nolan (Wallan FC)

Development Umpire Coach Award (Male): Owen Hinson (VAFA Umpires)

Development Umpire Coach Award (Female): Lisa Compton-Robins (NFNL Umpires)

Greg Sidebottom Memorial Umpire Coach of the Year: Cameron Pickering (Wimmera Mallee Umpires)

AFL Victoria Club Inclusion Award: Kyneton Football Club

AFL Secondary School Ambassador Award: Vicki Hoban

AFL Primary School Ambassador Award: Danielle Coates

AFL Victoria Country Merit Award: Tom Houlihan (Harrow-Balmoral FNC)

AFL Victoria Metro Merit Award: Jason Wellard (Fairpark FC)

Background on each winner:

NAB AFL Auskick Volunteer of the Year: Leon Townsend-Booth (Moonee Valleey FC)

Leon is a valuable member of the football community and has been recognised as a life member of Moonee Valley FC for his continued efforts over the years as a junior coach coordinator and committee member. He also received the Ferrier award for outstanding contribution to the Juniors division. For the last several years, he has taken on the role of Auskick director and has been overseeing and coordinating our Auskick. Leon set aside a mission in 2019 to re-vitalise our Auskick program. Leon took over the running of our Friday nights and brought in extra Volunteers, leveraging friends and family as needed and setting an amazing benchmark for volunteering. This year has been truly incredible—the spirit of the kids, and the professionalism of the Centre has grown even more. The enjoyment and joy of over 100 Auskickers, girls and boys, is a testament to the hard work Leon has put in over the last few years.

AFL Victoria State Metro Volunteer of the Year—Ernie O’Brien (Thomastown Bears)

Ernie joined Thomastown in 1977, and he has held many positions at the club from his time as club trainer to his seven terms as secretary. Ernie was inducted as a Thomastown life member in 1990 and he was subsequently inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame and has club legend status. Ernie now attends the club most days of the week to clean, and he ensures professional standards are maintained by everyone at the club.

WorkSafe AFL Victoria Country Volunteer of the Year—Bobbie Lee Blay (Dalyston FC)

Over 25 years in the Gippsland community volunteering in football roles, Bobbie Lee Blay does a power of work not only for the club but the league. Her passion knows no bounds—she is instrumental across both senior and junior competitions—nothing slows her down. Bobbie is a strong advocate for mental health and is a community ambassador to Outside the Locker Room. She is also involved in numerous indigenous and multicultural programs within the region.

Energy Safe Canteen Hero Award—Karen ‘Pinky’ Griffin (Mount Pleasant FNC)

Every week ‘Pinky’ is running the canteen without fail. She is there bright and early to put savs in pots, dummies on steam, pies, sausage rolls and so forth in the pie warmer. She makes the Sandwiches and salad rolls, cakes slices and soup not to mention supplies mock chicken and curried eggs for the sandwich fillings.

‘Pinky’ is also responsible for ordering all the supplies and organises people to help for catering so the canteen committee can cater for local funerals. ‘ ‘Pinky’ is a true club legend and has been the face of the Mount Pleasant for many years.

Stan Alves Youth Coach of the Year—Jesse Trower (Waaia FC)

Jesse has implemented a buddy system and combined training days and games with Jnr/Snrs. He organises bus trips to AFL games and set up a day with Essendon FC to train and meet the coaches and players.

He is also responsible for setting up a new player initiative which allows new players to recieve (shorts, socks and jumper), club membership and registration, and one membership for a parent or guardian. all for free.

Jesse is a natural born leader, well spoken, and is not afraid to speak up for what is right. He is the first at training and the last to leave on a Thursday night, and when a volunteer is needed around the club Jesse is the first to have his hand up.

David Parkin Junior Coach of the Year—Lowell Hunter (Belmont Lions)

Lowell is the U11s coach at Belmont. He arrived to a struggling junior’s team who wasn't getting required numbers to play each week and the kids were disengaged. Lowell has worked hard to bring fun and consistency to training and to the kids. He has built the Junior team to strength. His coaching philosophy and practices are exactly what the game required in the current climate, priding himself in making sure that each individual player learns and understands the game and develops throughout the season.

He has bought a great positive outlook and now the kids are loving playing for Belmont lions. He loves to celebrate all of the kids and their achievements as well as collectively as a team. As an Aboriginal man himself, he has worked hard to create a culturally safe environment to engage and retain Indigenous junior players within the club.

Peta Searle Female Coach of the Year—Nicola Tenabel (Ascot Vale Panthers JFC)

Nicola is an extremely passionate and admirable coach who is setting a fantastic example for the teams she coaches and those in her community. She attends every available coaching course and spends a huge amount of spare time researching drills and is always striving to make the team better.

On training and game day, she always conveys the right message and pushes the girls to do better each week, perfectly mixing together the right amount of hard work and fun. She's a passionate coach who is seeing significant improvement in her team which is a reflection of the hard work she has put into her role.

Gerard Fitzgerald Senior Coach of the Year—Daniel Nolan (Wallan FC)

Daniel communicates the match day schedule prior to the game, communicates very clearly the role of players individually, the game style being played in offense and defense, the structures being employed for any given day to support that style, and the KPI’s of focus for each given game critical to a good result. Whilst Daniel's team wins regularly, each match is really a live training session for each player. Daniel spends time at each quarter break with players prior to heading into a team address.

With a Secondary level teaching background, Daniel uses a range of techniques to educate, develop and motivate his playing group. Daniel's "Team First" philosophy shows repeatedly that the team functions on system, not individual talent. This enables the players to buy in and believe in this approach, so when Daniel is able to use players in a number of different roles for their development, they see the team continues to function consistently and not be reliant on any one player playing a certain role.

Development Umpire Coach Award (Male)

Owen Hinson has demonstrated a wealth of knowledge in his newly appointed role as Premier Squad Coach. His thorough understanding of the Laws of the game, and his many years of experience inumpiring prior to taking on his coaching role, have provided him with sound knowledge, that has since been passed down to the members of the Premier Squad. Owen is now a Development Level Umpire Coach.

Owen's performance during his first season as Premier Squad Coach has earnt him the admiration and respect of his peers. Owen's dedication to the role, devotion to umpire improvement, and unwavering focus on individual mental health, has shown an immediate, and vast, improvement in umpire decision making, group morale, and overall atmosphere.

Development Umpire Coach Award (Female)

Lisa is a keen new coach suggesting and implementing come and try female umpire night at NFNL. Facilitating these sessions and promoting these sessions.

Lisa Demonstrates good knowledge of umpiring and manages groups/drills well. She is focused on increase female participation in umpiring. In her first year, she has planned and facilitated multiple sessions and is well respected in the umpiring community.

Greg Sidebottom Memorial Umpire Coach of the Year—Cameron Pickering (Wimmera Mallee Umpires)

Cameron took over the role of Head Coach at AFL Wimmera Mallee Umpires(AFLWMU) in 2020. He has displayed great leadership and knowledge in educating the new umpires in the group and continues to challenge and educate the older umpires in the group. Training has been challenging in the circumstances, Cameron has kept the group engaged through social media throughout the interrupted season.

Cameron continues to seek opportunities to improve himself and thus pass that knowledge onto the group. Cameron engages with AFL Victoria Umpires leadership group to keep the group up to date with the latest information. As a leader Cameron has developed an environment that makes all, both new & existing umpires, feel welcomed and appreciated. This is reflected by the numbers that attend training on a weekly basis, after the weekly training the group have a small get together and mix together.

AFL Secondary School Ambassador Award—Vicki Hoban (Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar)

Vicki Hoban, the Director of Physical Education and Sport at Lowther Hall in Essendon, is always engaged and open to participate in AFL programs. Vicki is always involved in arranging clinics for the Year 7-9 girls, as well as assistance with inter-school sport and education. Vicki is a very good ambassador for community sport, particularly in female football.

AFL Primary School Ambassador Award—Danielle Coates (St Francis of the Fields)

Danielle has contributed significantly to some of the great outcomes that have been achieved with AFL Central Victoria in the local Bendigo area. She has strongly supported the promotion of the game within her school of 575 students, junior clubs and the community. In particular, she has been supportive when coming out of COVID 19 lock downs with some of the AFL CV promotions that have been on offer. The school implemented with FDM support, in school sporting experiences, supported our new initiative with an after school promotion, supported the development of SEDA College students to deliver programs at the school, being flexible and agile when it comes to our AMMI AFL Football Clubs Virtual experience, along with contributing to new ideas to support the effectiveness of these new initiatives. She has also promoted the importance of connecting schools to near by Auskick Centers/Coordinators and junior football clubs.

AFL Victoria Club Inclusion Award—Kyenton Football Club

Kyneton have been nominated due to their incredible work in the disability and LGBTQIA+ space.

• They fielded a FIDA team, whilst working alongside the Macedon Ranges Shire Council. This was a huge achievement being that the next closest FIDA team in an hour drive away.

• They hosted their first Pride Cup event, with the influential Darcy Vescio being a guest speaker.

• They prioritised equality and fairness at their football club, which they shared with their community in true Tiger Tribe style – with passion, energy and a fun environment.

AFL Victoria Country Merit Award—Tom Houlihan (Harrow-Balmoral FNC)

Tom started playing football at the Harrow Football Club in 1967 as a 16 yo. He has been involved in football since that day.Tom has played with the following Clubs: Harrow FC, Douglas/Harrow/Miga Lake FC(DHML), Casterton FC, Pigeon Ponds FC,Tom has had the following Administration roles: 1992 – 96 President DHML, 1996 – 98 First President of the merged Harrow Balmoral FNC, 2004 -05 Netball President of the Harrow Balmoral FNC. 2007 – 2021 Member of the Horsham District Football Netball League – portfolios include –governance, records, junior development

Tom was instrumental in the merger of the DHML FC & Balmoral FC to form the current Harrow-Balmoral FNC, this merger has been very successful. Toms vision and foresight was a key reason for the merger. Tom was elected the first President of the merged Club.

Toms vision for the new club was: Family Club, a combined & equal Football & Netball Club, equality for both communities, provide an opportunity for juniors to play football & netball.

AFL Victoria Metro Merit Award—Jason Wellard (Fairpark FC)

Jason Wellard has been involved with the Fairpark Football Club for the best part of two decades. He has been an active member of the general committee and has held several official positions including Club President from 2010-2012.

Jason makes himself readily available to help out the club in the day to day running, and always puts his hand up to help on match day. He has always had a bit of a soft spot for our Under 19 side and has taken on the role of team manager in this team for over 15 years. Jason steps in to help with any job that needs doing, at any time including merchandise manager, tribunal delegate, serving in the bar and canteen and also working as club confidante.

There has not been a time, when Jason has not been involved in some capacity while at the club. Jason’s focus is on providing the best possible opportunities for all players, which then subsequently flows on to be a benefit to all club members, making the club more family friendly, inclusive and community based.

Jason is an extremely kind hearted person and thrives on giving to his local community. He is a genuine person; a humble man who continues to volunteer each and every year-and not for recognition. What you see is what you get with Jason, and he very willingly puts in many hours behind the scenes.

Jason’s contribution to the Fairpark Football Club (and thus to the football community in the area) has certainly surpassed any expectation of any individual – well and truly beyond the call.