A complete changing of the guard for Wattle Park AFC

Posted on - Latest News, Featured, Division 3

It’s been a big couple of months for the Wattle Park Amateurs Football Club off-field, with the official name change recently and the unveiling of newly-appointed women’s head coach Mel Dell’Olio.

On the field in 2022 was rather a different story, especially for the men’s squad, which has gone through its own fair share of changes over the last couple of years after introducing a development thirds side to the already established reserves and seniors. Mixed results across all three teams, specifically with the reserves falling agonisingly short in the 2022 grand final and the seniors missing finals altogether, have provided the club an opportunity to really assess where they’re headed and then set the ball rolling for a successful 2023. This means the changes keep coming, with the Animals incredibly pleased to officially welcome new senior men’s head coach Glenn Hopkins to Bennettswood Reserve.

Hopkins joins the club with the backing of many years both on and off the field, having played for Werribee in the VFL before beginning his coaching journey at the Heathcote Football Club and leading them to premiership glory in just his second season. Since then, he’s been involved in various metro and country clubs, and most recently was the reserves coach of division 1 team Hoppers Crossing in the WRFL.

His appointment to Wattle Park AFC is his first foray into coaching a VAFA team and he’s ‘looking forward to working with players who are playing for the right reasons. His interest in the Animals comes from a friendly suggestion, but shares that after some research and discussion, he found there was a young and emerging playing group to work with. ‘The club’s potential became quite obvious and through the interview process, this was certainly reinforced. Everyone I spoke to was so passionate about their club and where they wanted to be, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the club’s direction.” he told the Animals media team.

More specifically, the opportunity for growth and development was incredibly appealing to Hopkins, as well as being able to build something around the band of more experienced footballers.

‘Building footy clubs is important to me. I want to be part of a club that continues to be vibrant and progressive, and is highly respected in the community for its values, and is welcoming and inclusive.’ Acknowledging the last couple of years, Hopkins says ‘2022 restored our confidence in footy after being able to complete a full season. Our challenge now is to get back to what footy clubs do best and that’s providing an environment where we can have fun and connect more as a group.’

Hopkins has major on-field goals for 2023, hoping to cultivate a learning culture that engages and interests all players. His focus is on wanting players to build a consistent ‘performance-based attitude’, and fully believes that bringing energy and enthusiasm to every training session and game is key to this. His coaching philosophy is founded on the idea that ‘celebrating every achievement will create a positive feel to everything we do’, noting that the willingness to buy in will be worthwhile.

‘I see this footy club as a blank canvas, and the potential we have is what excites me the most for the years ahead.’

The club is also pleased to announce Mel Dell’Olio as the women’s head coach for the 2023 season. After a few rocky years, Dell’Olio brings a wealth of experience to a team desperate for some stability and development, having both played and coached football for many years.

Nicknamed the “Bull” for always running into tackles on the field, Dell’Olio played for Swinburne University before he made the switch to coaching, having taken the reins of both the men’s reserves and seniors teams until the opportunity came up to coach the women’s side, where he was at the helm for five years. ‘[Coaching women’s footy] was a steep learning curve, but one I thoroughly enjoyed.’ Dell’Olio said.

The appeal to coach for the Animals came long before the interview process, with Dell’Olio citing his ‘good rapport with the club when coaching against them’ as one of the reasons he was drawn to Bennettswood Reserve in the first place. But it was an ‘engaging and enthusiastic panel’ speaking of the passion and commitment already present within the women’s team for 2023 that sealed the deal for him.

‘I strongly believe I can help the team improve. There’s a core group that has stuck together despite results not going their way, and I’m really excited to discover what we can be.’