Last Friday night South Melbourne Districts Auskick Coordinator David Wolf was crowned the Victoria NAB AFL Auskick Volunteer of the Year in front of over 500 people at the AFL Victoria Community Football Awards.
Wolf has done a remarkable job in not only running a highly successful centre that boasts over 300 participants, but has also established one of the more unique working relationships in community football.
And while he is a truly deserved recipient of the award, the ever-humble Wolf was quick to pass on credit to those that have assisted him along the way.
“Yeah it was one of those things that was really unexpected I’ve got to say. As I said on the night, it’s really the team effort putting the whole thing together and individual awards don’t sit easily with me but still it was really nice to be recognised,” Wolf said.
“It is reflective of all the effort the team put in over a long period of time to put on a really good program.”
Wolf has run the centre for five years said he’s built upon all of the terrific work that came beforehand, while adding a few extra initiatives to aid retention, grow female participation and support some of the disadvantaged kids.
But Wolf’s greatest accomplishment is the unique and fruitful partnership he has forged with the Saigon Swans Football Club in Vietnam.
After initially travelling to Ho Chi Minh City (commonly referred to by its previous name, Saigon) on a holiday, Wolf caught up with the people behind the Swans’ local Auskick program to discuss the growth potential of the game in Vietnam.
“It is massive,” Wolf said.
“Vietnam, particularly the south, has a really strong connection with Australia and particularly Melbourne and our game is super attractive to Vietnamese kids.”
The partnership was strengthened after Wolf organised a trip back to Saigon with a number of his Grade Three Auskickers and their fathers in a bid to help them spread the AFL gospel abroad.
The trip proved successful beyond all expectations.
Wolf’s kids helped run clinics with the Swans and even had the chance to play an Auskick match against the local Vietnamese children during half time of the AFL Asia Cup match between Vietnam and Cambodia.
Wolf said that what had initially began as an Auskick trip quickly transcended the realms of football and helped the kids experience significant personal development.
“The kids just grew. You could see in terms of (being) community leaders at that age you could just see them grow so much in such a short period of time,” he said.
“I was watching our nine-year-olds teaching Vietnamese kids. The footy overcomes the language barriers.
“(They became) nine-year-old ambassadors not only for our club but the game in general.”
The success of this trip has seen the idea floated to make it an annual event. And it’s a plan that has long-term viability as Wolf and the South Melbourne Districts Auskick centre have been invited back to Vietnam by AFL Asia to help set up Auskick in the north of the country.
“We’re planning already for that next season,” Wolf said.
“We’ll take next year’s Grade Threes so in my view it’s a way of keeping that Grade Three year level interested in Auskick if they’ve got something to aspire to so I’ll try and fuel that on and have that as an ongoing legacy of the club.”
A man that devotes much of his time and effort to his centre, Wolf says he motivated purely by the chance to make a difference in the community.
“It’s that age old question – why do you do it? And it really is just to make that difference in kids’ and parents’ lives,” Wolf said.
“It’s pretty rewarding. You sit back at the end of the Saturday and you might have put some hours in during the week and, you know, (you’re) on the email system at one o’clock in the morning, but Saturday when it all comes together and you see the kids with a smile on their face and all the parents go home happy it’s a pretty good day.”
By Will Hunter
David Wolf accepts his award on Friday night.
Photo courtesy of AFL Victoria.