EXCLUSIVE: Football Federation Victoria CEO Mark Rendell believes the Harry Kewell effect is starting to trickle down from the A-League to grassroots football in the southern state.
Speaking at the FFV’s annual awards night, Rendell said the Socceroo superstar’s signing for Melbourne Victory was a boon for the game at national level, and for the state federation which administers the game at grassroots level.
“Since he signed and Emerton signed in Sydney we’ve been hearing a lot about the A-League on the radio. This time of the year in Melbourne it’s very hard to get any cut-through with the AFL,” Rendell told au.fourfourtwo.com.
“That just goes to show we’re not even in season and we’re already talking about it [the A-League]. The media is already talking about it so hopefully Sydney versus Melbourne Victory will be a huge crowd and it’s a credit to FFA and the clubs for what they’ve done"
As for the FFV, Rendell expected the large numbers at grassroots level to be boosted even more by the Kewell factor.
“It doesn’t just help the VPL or the WPL it helps the sport. It’s going to create a lot of interest in the sport. There is a buzz already around it and what it means is that more kids will want to play. More kids will play for clubs, more kids will come through.
“These are the pathway clubs to A-League clubs and international stardom. So it’s good for everyone in the sport.”
VPL golden boot Richie Cardozo added that Kewell’s arrival was exciting. “Even friends of mine who don’t follow football have been asking and inquiring and saying they’ll head out to a few games. So it’s definitely exciting for the league, the team and the city," he said.
And the FFV are hoping this Saturday’s Grand Final double at AAMI Park will be another boost for the sport in Victoria.
In the first of the double header, the Women’s Premier League grand final is between Laura Spiranovic’s South Melbourne and Sandringham.
This is followed by the VPL grand final between Oakleigh Cannons – coached by manager of the year Arthur Papas – and Green Gully.
“I know Green Gully have over a 1000 kids coming down and I’m expecting a big crowd and a great atmosphere and the players, what they said last year, they loved playing on AAMI Park," said Rendell.
“To allow the second tier clubs to play their grand final on the best football stadium in the country is fantastic."
On Monday night the FFV CEO was on hand to help honour the best in the Victorian game with Jason Trifiro of Northcote City winning the Gold Medal for player of the year.
The media award for player of the year went to Richie Cardozo who also scooped the golden boot for his standout season with Hume City.
Coach of the year in the VPL went to Arthur Papas of Oakleigh Cannons.
In the women’s section Laura Spiranovic bagged both the Golden Boot and Player of the Year after her stellar season with South Melbourne.
The striker, sister of Socceroo Matt, will trial with Melbourne Victory W-League side next week.
“We’re proud of what we do and we’re proud of what the clubs do on the field,” added Rendell. “And tonight showed that the game is very strong in Victoria."