IT is being touted as the biggest coup in Maccabi Australia history. AFL premiership-winning coach Mark Williams has been announced as the director of coaching and development for Maccabi Victoria.
As part of his job role, Williams will mentor and guide coaches across all Maccabi sports, as well as taking up the position as senior coach at the AJAX Football Club.
Announced at the AJAX best and fairest night last week, it was the appointment nobody saw coming and is expected to take Maccabi and AJAX to the next level.
In an exclusive one-on-one interview with The AJN, Williams said the opportunity to join such an impressive organisation was too good to turn down.
“As a teacher, I’m into developing people and to be given the opportunity to look at all sports, talk to their coaches and upskill them on different aspects of coaching.
“So whether it’s tennis, cricket or basketball, I’m here to give them good ideas so they can improve their coaching and ultimately the kids are getting more out of their time,” he said.
The appointment was made through the Henry Jolson Pathways Program, launched in 2015 to significantly improve the professionalism and sporting excellence of all Maccabi clubs and their members.
The former Port Adelaide coach, who has spent the last few years as an AFL assistant coach at GWS and Richmond, said he’s excited to take on the unknown.
“I’m a bit of a trailblazer … so to be the first AFL coach [in the VAFA], I’m really looking forward to it.
“I wanted to check that it wasn’t just a kick and giggle and mucking around. This is as traditional footy club as I’ve been in, the laughter, the fun, I saw the boys checking the scores to see how they were going in the best and fairest.”
Maccabi Victoria president Brian Swersky was inundated with phone calls from people all over the country wanting to get involved with Maccabi and AJAX alongside Williams.
“Maccabi is all about connecting Jewish people in a healthy sporting environment and this appointment lifts the standard,” he told The AJN.
“It is probably the highest profile appointment the organisation has made, hopefully taking us to the next level … it really does lift the profile and lift the professionalism of the organisation.”
Williams told the crowd at the best and fairest night he was excited to learn more about the Jewish culture and religion.
“I’m very open to learn, I’m big into world history, so to listen to the stories about parents and grandparents who have got amazing stories about survival and togetherness and how they depend on each other … it’s the makings of a great team.”
Williams came across AJAX when his kids played against them in the juniors, and he said he was blown away by the community club.
“I was delighted that a religious community would be so interested in the Australian culture of football and I thought how cool is that.
“They don’t want to be isolated, they want to be inclusive and I love that about it.”
After weeks of negotiation with Maccabi Victoria and AJAX president Ronnie Lewis, Williams was given a tour of the AJAX facilities and expected a strong turnout for the 2017 preseason.
“Honestly, anyone that is interested who was sitting on the sidelines, I’d love to see them out there, because it is about getting the best team.
“If this team wants to be good, then they need to have the best players out there; and I’m certainly willing to give anyone a go who wants to come out and have a crack at it and see where they stand.”
It is expected Williams’ appointment will attract Jewish players who are playing outside of AJAX, including players from outside of Victoria.
Williams was appointed coach of Port Adelaide in 1999 and coached the club for 274 games, including the 2004 premiership before serving as an assistant coach with Greater Western Sydney and Richmond.
By Daniel Shandler