Werribee Football Club wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for the support of such a diverse and passionate local community. Chris Gallagher - WFC’s Community Development Manager - is the man who has helped foster such a strong bond with the local people over the years, a relationship that encourages them to get active and involved in local sport.
Through initiatives such as Auskick, The Huddle Schools Football program, Multicultural Schools program and the Active Kids program, Chris and the WFC team put a huge emphasis on providing kids with the opportunities to learn how to play football and experience what it means to be a part of a team.
Chris says these programs are a great way to help the wellbeing of children throughout their formative years.
"I just think sport in general is a good way to have kids doing something they love and keeping them active. If they’re involved in a team sport, it’s less likely that they’ll be out there doing something illegal," he says. "It’s easier to push those messages across in a group."
After growing up in Geelong and studying sports and leisure management at La Trobe University, Chris started working as a part time Community Development Manager at the Werribee Football Club in 2009 before moving to a full time position in 2010.
Chris' love for football (which he says has been a part of his life since he was nine) and his passion for working with children made him the ideal candidate for the task of bringing such a diverse community together.
"I’ve always worked with kids ever since I did my uni degree, so I always get satisfaction out of them learning a new skill or bettering themselves, whether it’s becoming more confident or learning about their teammates or Australia or sport," Chris says.
Unsurprisingly, Chris says participation rates and the number of people supporting WFC are always growing due to the time and effort the club puts into its relationship with the community. Unlike any other VFL team, WFC is so committed to the increasingly diverse population of people in Wyndham that it also has a dedicated Multicultural Development officer. The aim: to increase participation rates of young migrant people and break down barriers that might hinder them from joining a sporting community.
"I think having our players and staff out in the community of Wyndham is hugely beneficial for both the community and the club," Chris says of the impact that Werribee Football Club's programs have on the community.
"It pays to see how many families and kids come down here on game day to get involved. It seems like all school programs we do are pushing the right message about healthy eating, getting involved in a team sport and being active."
It's easy to see why Werribee Football Club is so successful in garnering the support and participation of the local community when it has such dedicated and passionate people working as part of the team. But when it comes down to it, Chris says football doesn't discriminate, and that's why it has the power to pull so many people together.
"It doesn’t matter what height you are, what race or religion - it brings everyone together. There’s a lot of support out there for families and there is always an opportunity for kids and families to get involved," he says.
At the end of the day, Werribee Football Club's impact on the local community is a testament to how powerful football can be in bringing diverse groups together and bettering the place they call home.
Written by Kara Ready