Northern NSW Football is delighted to announce the recipients of its Local Champion Awards for May.
The NNSWF Local Champion Awards are a monthly recognition of individuals and teams who make a difference across the football family as we thank them for their commitment to their club, team, community and football.
Coach of the Month
Blake Richards – Swansea FC
For Blake Richards, coaching his daughters is the one thing he looks forward to most every weekend.
Richards coaches an under-7s girls team at Swansea FC. He has three daughters aged eight, six and four. The two eldest play football at the club, with the youngest not far away from joining them.
Richards moved up to the Hunter from Sydney five years ago. The motivating factor was to be a dad again. The first four years of his girls’ lives he worked 15-hour days and not had the chance to enjoy spending as much time with them as he would have liked.
He wanted to be there more for his girls so, when his wife fell pregnant with the couple’s third child, they took the opportunity to uproot their life so Richards could focus on being a father.
“The change meant I could go to school pick ups, coach games, go to training in the afternoon. To me that was living the dream,” Richards said.
“I changed jobs, we moved, basically everything in my life changed so I could be a dad for the girls and be an active part of what they’re doing.”
It was two years ago that after a morning on the beach with Nippers, one of the coaches asked Richards if he would like to bring his daughter along to football.
They had never been involved in organised sport before except for Nippers. But his two eldest daughters fell in love with football straight away.
“We got them registered and it went from there,” Richards said.
“I’ve always tried to play an active role at the club without holding a title. I guess I would sort of be the MiniRoos co-ordinator. This is my second year coaching and it’s the one thing I look forward to every weekend.
“I’ve grown to love it. What I love is watching the girls go from strength to strength. I come from a background working in mental health so I try to take stuff I’ve learnt from there and bring it across.
“We focus on the fundamentals but the girls have gone from not being able to dribble and having no understanding of the game to now I can literally stand on the sideline, even though you’re allowed on the pitch, and these girls are finely tuned machines. You can just let them go, they know what they’re doing and they’re just brilliant.
“[I love] the camaraderie they have off the field [as well]. As soon as someone drops to the ground near the ball the girls stop. No kicking, no pushing. If someone stacks it around the ball they know to stop immediately.
“But for me the proudest thing was that the team we started off with last year every single one of them came back this year. Seeing them come to training with a smile on their face, that’s what it’s all about.”
As well as coaching, Richards helps set up grounds and volunteers in the canteen. It is this effort and commitment to Swansea FC that further strengthens Richards’ commitment to the club and make him such a valuable contributor.
Kootingal FC strive to develop players while fostering friendship and sportsmanship. The goal is not to win matches at any cost but to be inclusive and encourage a genuine enjoyment of the game.
Committee members and coaches view every player as important and recognise them as individuals. There is a large number of children playing for Kootingal who have parents on the committee or parents who represent the club’s men’s and women’s teams.
With a strong culture of volunteering Kootingal FC have taken on the responsibility for running the canteen at Gipps Street one Saturday each month for the remainder of the season. A quick look at the club’s social media channels highlights the importance of community. In recent weeks the club have supported ANZAC Day services and NNSWF’s Female Football Week by incorporating player profiles on a number of females contributing to the club on and off the field.
Tyler tries his best every week and always puts in 100 per cent. Tyler follows his coach’s instructions and supports his teammates to achieve their potential. In a recent game an opponent fell over but, instead of trying to score, Tyler stopped to ensure his opponent was ok. A rare strength for such a young person to have.
Celeste is an inspiring, young, female referee. She works hard and is always polite and composed. Celeste, who referees with North Coast Football, is an inspiration for other aspiring young female match officials.
This group have been playing together for the last three years and set a goal to play up an age group in the under-10s Inter-district competition this season to help challenge the players to continue to grow. The boys train twice per week and undergo many drills well above the norm for eight-year-old boys. They learn that success is a product of hard work and dedication. They have a pass first mentality and are always looking to set up their teammates, which is not always common in junior football. The boys show up to every training session focused and prepared to work hard to ensure they improve. They encourage each other and work together, having not lost a game in three years.
Karen runs her own business from home and raises three children while also holding the role of secretary at Camden Haven FC. She allocates the teams, runs canteens, looks after social media and looks after coaches and players.
She puts in so much time and effort to make the club run and without her there would be no club. Karen is also a member of the local sports and recreation committee and helped Camden Haven FC acquire a major grant to upgrade its facilities.
With a predominantly new committee Karen has stepped up to guide everyone, leading the way with a new registration system and liaising with local council. She is a miracle worker.
Northern NSW Football Community Football Manager Ross Hicks congratulated the recipients and thanked them for their contribution to football in northern NSW.
“Without people like Blake, Tyler, Celeste and Karen as well as clubs like Kootingal FC and Charlestown JFC we wouldn’t have a game. They make football what it is in our region,” Hicks said.
“It is their commitment to their clubs, teams and football community that make the game and improves the experience of playing football for the people around them.
“We thank them for their contribution and congratulate them on being named NNSWF Local Champion Awards winners for May. We wish them all the very best for the rest of the 2022 season.”
Monthly award winners are also nominated for the annual Local Champion Awards in October.