Reigning William Buck Premier champions St Bernard’s officially announced former AFL assistant, Mark Riley, as their new senior coach for the 2016 VAFA season.
Replacing outgoing premiership coach, Anthony Rock, Riley will re-enter the coaching fraternity following a 12-month break in 2015 after spending 20 years with Fremantle, Melbourne, Carlton, Gold Coast and WAFL powerhouse, Claremont.
Despite enjoying his time outside the world of football and focusing his energy on his role as Corporate Partnerships Manager for male indigenous program, Clontarf Foundation, Riley often felt frustrated on weekends when he had no involvement in the game he had dedicated the majority of his life to.
“When you work in AFL football it encompasses your entire life,” Riley told VAFA Media.
“In fact, sometimes you don’t live outside the bubble it’s just football, football, football.
“So I’m enjoying being out of that but I did miss the comradery and the teaching and the developing of players. I missed that part of it.”
When he made the decision to take up a coaching position once again, Riley took his time to consider all options but knew it was not going to be with the AFL.
“I just didn’t want to go back into that arena where you’re wondering whether you’ve got a job every two years.”
“Plus I really enjoy what I’m doing with the diversity of working for the Clontarf Foundation. It’s just something completely different, I’m passionate about it and you meet a lot of different people outside the envelope of football.”
Although he had ruled out a return to the AFL, Riley could not pass up the opportunity to work with St Bernard’s after a number of positive meetings with several members of the club, including Craig Connolly and outgoing coach, Anthony Rock.
“They’re really impressive guys and the club sounded as though it had a really good rustic and earthy feel about it,” he said.
“I went through a couple of presentations with them and they said I could have the job if I wanted it.”
Discussions with two key members of the Snowdogs’ premiership team helped Riley with his decision to accept the role.
“I coached Adam Bentick at Carlton and he’s a wonderful young man – a really, really high quality young person,” he said.
“I also coached Chad Jones when he was an Under 19s player at Claremont back in Western Australia and they both said it was a really good club, had good people around it and had a good feel to it.”
With the club in a great position to compete for the 2016 William Buck Premier flag, Riley is confident he can handle the pressure which often accompanies expectation.
“I was always advised never take over a premiership team but at the end of the day when you’ve spent 20 years in the AFL you end up learning how to handle a little bit of pressure,” he said.
“I’m quite an optimist and that’s very much a positive that if they won a premiership, obviously you don’t have to come in and reinvent the wheel.”
St Bernard’s committee released a statement on Tuesday morning announcing Riley’s appointment which you can read HERE.