It would be an understatement to say Chris O’Connor wasn’t expecting to finish the RMIT Women’s Football Academy Presentation Night holding the inaugural Club Person of the Year shield.
“I was certainly honoured to have received it but in reality, when you look at the enormous effort put in by many, it really should be a collective award,” says Chris.
“I think of the work Mitch Lower did to recruit players, same with Sarah McKenna and the work she did around building the culture at training, all the work Eliza did in contacting clubs and obviously the work Sally Tanner has done.
“Whoever you talk to, they can’t believe the work Sally has done in all these different areas. We really have to recognise that Sally has been managing the Uni relationship and so much has been flowing from that. And the support from RMIT – from people like Martin Bean the Vice-Chancellor – was just so important in us achieving what we have.”
Over the last 10 months, the executive committee member has been part of the initial vision and strategic direction of the Academy. He has also worked in a coaching capacity at training with many of the Redbacks.
Chris received a standing ovation from the 70-strong audience of players, coaches, support staff, interns, friends, family and partners in the Garden Building at RMIT’s City Campus as he accepted the shield from fellow executive committee member and long-time brother-in-arms Scott Chisholm.
“Firstly, it was a celebration of the culture of the club,” Chris says of Presentation Night.
“We came together mostly in mid-March and to be sitting there, standing, watching and listening and seeing so many people – who were not known to each other back in March – be so friendly and excited to see each other, to listen to the sound of excitement and joy is a reflection of the culture and the positive nature that the whole club has created It’s all the little things that created that positive and supportive culture. I think that was really a celebration of what we’ve achieved.
“We’re already planning for next year and are excited for how much bigger the Academy will be this time in a year with some of the organisations that are already contacting us wanting a relationship.”