Watsonia Heights Football Club (WHFC) is bringing people together through soccer and creating a strong community in 2021 the wake of the Covid-19 lockdowns last year. WHFC has the largest player base of all sporting clubs in the council of Banyule and despite the difficulties 2020 presented for sporting clubs across Victoria, the club has seen its number of senior players grow 24% in 2021 compared to 2019 according to its registration lists.
The Director of Club Relations, Michael Girdler, recalled holding a social match for the club after the Melbourne lockdown restrictions had lifted, “Everyone said how much they had missed it (football) and sat around chatting with a beer. Everyone wanted to hang around and no one wanted to go home.”
Mr Girdler has now been involved with WHFC for 22 years, including ten years where he served as Club President. “I think the thing that I’m most proud of regarding the Watsonia Heights Football Club culture is that it has never forgotten that it is first and foremost a ‘community club’. We have always been an inclusive club, giving anybody and everybody the chance to play football,” he said. Since Girdler’s first year as Club President (2007), he said the number of senior teams has continued to grow – from just two men’s teams, to four men’s teams and two women’s teams, “We have always made a conscious effort to keep our registration fees low, so people do not miss out on the opportunity to play football for financial reasons.”
The club currently has female friendly clubrooms at both of their fields and in recent years ran a “Soccer Mums” program on Saturdays designed to encourage Mums to have a kick while their children trained for the club’s Miniroos program. “Our next endeavour is to establish an ‘All Abilities’ football program, giving those that don’t usually get the opportunity to play football the chance to do so with Watsonia Heights,” Said Mr Girdler.
After playing for clubs across three states and two different countries, Trevor Carson has now been at WFHC for 11 years. He has loved football his entire life. “Being part of a team and club is extremely important in my mind. It’s a way to make friends, be part of your community and keeps you active.” Carson still finds time for a kick while coaching at both juniors and seniors, “I’m lucky to be playing with a great bunch of young lads. They make me laugh on and off the field and this helps bring people together in a great way.”
Football is now the most played team sport in Australia, with over 2 million lacing up their boots in 2021, according to a report by On The Go Sports in February this year. “The hundreds of clubs and thousands of people playing and watching support local businesses. From buying equipment to train and play, to eating a burger from the canteen, it helps put money into our community,” said Carson.
Hyperlink 1: https://whfc.org.au/