With his playing and coaching duties and external media commitments, Michael Barlow has had his hands pretty full since returning to Werribee.
But the former Fremantle and Gold Coast Suns star hasn’t stopped there, combining with Werribee Community Development Manager Chris Gallagher and newly appointed Multicultural Development Officer Mar Gattek to help deliver the club’s community programs across Wyndham.
Central to that work is Barlow’s role with Manor Lakes P-12 College to deliver its Football Development Program, an initiative the school is working to build into an elite player pathway.
“It’s a pretty intensive program,” Barlow explains.
“We run an hour each Monday for the grade five and grade six kids and then another hour for the year seven and year eight kids as well.
“There are about 2000 kids at the school, and it’s a really diverse region, so there’s a lot of untapped talent.”
Just two weeks into what will be a year-long program, Barlow is still very much in his early days in the role, but he is relishing the opportunity to promote the development credentials of the club that gave him his own start in elite football back in 2008 and has been encouraged by what he has seen so far.
“It’s something I’m enjoying, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the kids and seeing the improvement week to week while keeping the Werribee banner very prevalent in the local community,” he says.
As busy as he already is, Barlow appears to have plenty more community work in store for 2019.
Werribee is currently investigating the possibility of rolling out further development programs in schools across Wyndham and – with Barlow’s assistance – has committed to again hosting a number of junior school holiday programs at Avalon Airport Oval.
“We’re working through what it will specifically look like, but there will be the opportunity for some one-day or two-day superclinics where the kids will be able to live the life of a VFL – or potentially even an AFL – footballer,” Barlow explains.
“It’s just about giving them a taste of what it’s like to be part of a mature and developed football program.”