MATTHEW GRAY OF HAMPTON ROVERS RESPONDS ON BEHALF OF PRESIDENTS

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As the Presidents of the 2013 Premiership Clubs were presented with their flags at the AGM, Hampton Rovers’ Matthew Gray responded on behalf of all the Presidents. Below is his response. 
Good evening everybody. My name is Matthew Gray and I am the President of the Hampton Rovers Amateur Football Club. I am honoured to be given the opportunity to speak on behalf of all Club Presidents this evening. 
As premiership winning President’s – we all share a unique bond. Not so much with one another, but with our football club. We have all put up our hands to lead an organisation of volunteers aiming to make our club the best it can possibly be. And we did – it all came together and we won the ultimate prize.
This year, 2013 was my first season as President. Whilst I had been heavily involved with the Hampton Rovers for over 10 years, including roles on the committee, presidency was a daunting prospect. I, and I am sure it is not different with all other Presidents, have been extremely well supported by my committee and extended volunteer group. In March this year, the VAFA held a ‘New Presidents’ dinner at Sportscover Arena. Led by Michael Sholly, this was an opportunity for all debutant presidents to get together and all were given an outline of what was going to be expected of us in our new role. 
In my opinion, at amateur level, premiership glory is somewhat the bi-product of a whole range of elements. Sure, it takes talented footballers to win you a premiership, but a premiership cannot be won solely on football talent. You need a team of committed people on and off the field willing to all pitch in and work together. You also need a healthy culture.
We are all only too well aware of the challenges we, as amateur clubs, face. A large number our clubs are geographically surrounded by various football leagues, which quite often pay large sums of money to players. Young talented footballers trying to find their feet in a professional world are at times limited financially as they are undertaking study or an apprenticeship. The lure of additional money each week to play football is very tempting and often essential for these young men.  
How to amateur Clubs combat this? We do this by creating a culture and an environment which far outweighs the value of money. This is both as a competition and as individual clubs. 
The VAFA do an amazing job of providing arguably Australia’s best football competition outside of the AFL and state level competitions. It is professionally run and assistance for clubs and individuals is always on hand. The standard of football is first class. It is clean, fast football played on quality playing surfaces. Spectator involvement is alcohol free, limiting the risk of emotions spilling over and ensuring a family friendly environment.  
As presidents of our Clubs, part of our responsibility is to create a culture within the club. We set about building and ensuring safe, friendly, welcoming, enjoyable environments for everybody to enjoy including players, mothers, fathers, wives, girlfriends, sisters, brothers and children. 
The Hampton Rovers had a significant number of quality footballers re-join the clubs this season after stints playing for money in various leagues. These players found that whilst the money was good, it was proven to be not worth it for a range of reasons. They all joined clubs where they had very few mates, there was a distinct lack of atmosphere after a win as most players would go in their separate directions immediately after a game, the weekly travel commitments meant they leaving home early and were not returning until well into the evening which would also strain their personal relationships, they felt there was an obligation rather than a want to attend club functions and they simply were not playing for the love of the jumper. The driving factor for these players to return to the Hampton Rovers was the attraction of playing with a large number of close mates again, the desire to succeed with these close mates. 
We at the Hampton Rovers understood that these players were making financial sacrifices to return to an amateur competition, so we ensured that we invested into the playing group as a whole. The club would fund bus trips to away games which included stopping for dinner and drinks on the way home, off site boxing sessions funded by the club during pre-season, access to top quality medical and physiotherapy staff at each training session, free dinner every Thursday night. We showed the players that they were truly valued by the club. 
One thing I found as President of a premiership winning club is I have received a lot of credit and accolades for the success. Whilst it is very humbling to receive this, I ensure that there are a team of people who came together and contributed to the success. To our secretaries, treasurers, sponsorship managers, communications managers, team managers, canteen and bar staff, merchandise managers, general committee members, runners, trainers, coaches, players, statisticians, timekeepers, boundary umpires, goal umpires and everybody else involved, it’s your premiership too. Unfortunately with local football clubs, the only people who really know the work and time that is put in are the individual people themselves. 
Leagues and clubs alike would not be able to operate without the generous support of sponsors. To the VAFA’s official sponsors; Sportscover, Kooga, Royal Brunai Airlines, The Bayford Group, Club Warehouse, Leuko, Elastoplast, Bendigo Bank, SEN, Sherrin, LifeCare, Cambridge Clothing Company, 2XU, Coates Hire, Cyan Sporting Images, Carlton Draught, CUB, Winning Edge, Schweppes, Mantra Group and Higgins Bakery, thank you for your support. We trust these are all mutually beneficial partnerships. 
To my fellow presidents – well done on the season. We are all well aware of the time, emotion, and work required with the role, and we simply do it for the love of the game and the love of our clubs. 
Finally, to Michael, Tim, Sue, Brain, Blair, Andrew, Olivia, and all other VAFA employees and volunteers, we would all like to thank you for your efforts and achievements for another wonderful season. Each and every club is very proud of the association with the VAFA. 
I know all clubs will now be back into pre-season and we all look forward to another successful season ahead. I wish everyone a safe and happy Christmas and New Year and we look forward to seeing one another in 2014.