By Todd Whelan
AFL Goldfields Regional General Manager Rod Ward is leaving his position, after 17-years at the helm.
Ward, 50, sat down with the Moorabool News sports reporter Todd Whelan, to reflect on his career in the AFL’s Regional system before he embarks on the next chapter of his life as General Manager with the Ballarat Greyhound Racing Club.
TODD: Why have you decided to resign from your position?
ROD: I just think it’s time for a new challenge. This new position provides an ideal opportunity to refresh and reinvigorate myself.
TODD: What has been the most rewarding aspect or feature during your time in the role?
ROD: Sustained growth across the various competitions, I think. (For example), there were four underage football groups when I started and now there are 10. On the netball front there were three senior netball grades, now there are six.
TODD: How difficult is it to ‘share the love’ evenly across the four leagues under the AFL Goldfields banner – I refer to funding, relevance and validation?
ROD: It hasn’t been that hard – just focus on the highest priority and attend to the areas with the greatest need. We’ve always been willing to provide assistance to any organisation that has asked for help.
TODD: How would you describe the current off field position of the BFNL?
ROD: We’re in a very strong position. Some clubs have their challenges, but we couldn’t have wished for a more even competition than the one we’re having this year.
TODD: How do you see the competition in five years time? Is 11 teams the ideal number?
ROD: I would anticipate a 10 or 12 team competition.
TODD: Were you the subject of much scrutiny given your successful history with Darley as a 200-game player and Administrator?
TODD: How did you cope with that?
ROD: I would try not to personalise the criticism for one and I would remove myself from any differences that involved Darley.
TODD: The quality of the playing surfaces especially in Ballarat are fantastic – how big of a project was that with regards to time and money?
ROD: We lobbied fiercely for an upgrade across all grounds. We thought the state of the grounds were hindering junior development and manifesting itself (low selection numbers) at the draft. Since the appointment of Craig Fletcher as Mayor (Ballarat) we’ve seen a five-year plan for all oval surfaces, lights and facilities come to fruition. The plan is still ongoing and near completion.
TODD: How important of a role does the Netball competition play in the affiliation?
ROD: Enormous right throughout the region. The sustainability and viability of some clubs has been on the back of their netball success. Not only do they increase membership numbers and drive standards, people from the netball program hold Executive Roles at the Club and are the ultimate beneficiaries of their expertise.
TODD: Given the extensive nature of the content, do you foresee the football and netball medal nights being held separately in the future?
ROD: This is a decision for the future administration. For me, I hope the occasion remains a joint night – we’ve had a bit of a revamp this year to shorten the event.
TODD: Who is your tip to win the Henderson Medal this year?
ROD: Alik Magin (Sunbury)
TODD: Who will win the Premiership?
ROD: East Point to go back-to-back
TODD: I’m sure I speak on behalf of all involved with the BFNL in wishing you all the best in your new venture, and thanking you for your extraordinary contribution over the last 17-years. Good luck Wardy.