Amongst the joys and excitement that peaks when a club achieves promotion, there is a reality that hits which includes a range of fresh challenges that suddenly present themselves.
The club needs to consider subjects such as the importance of having a suitable venue, of the spike in expenses, and of the calibre of playing capabilities on the park, amongst a long list of agenda items to be attended to.
Bankstown United FC is a club that was formed only a few years ago in 2015, and has already, in its infancy, achieved the milestone of State League Premiers in 2018, coupled with achieving promotion to the National Premier Leagues 3 NSW Men’s competition in 2019.
Football NSW caught up with Bankstown United FC first grade coach, Scott Belgre, to try and find out some of the factors that have contributed to the club’s success thus far.
FNSW – Tell us a little about when and how the club was formed a few years ago?
Scott Belgre – “The club was formed in 2015 when a group of passionate individuals got together with the idea of providing a representative pathway for the local juniors in the Bankstown district linked to the Association. The key players in the creation of the club were George Pizanis (Panania RSL Diggers FC) and Petar Finka (St.Christophers FC), with Petar being the inaugural First Grade coach of the club.
Initially the club began with only Association Youth League and SAP, but in 2016 a senior program was approved by Football NSW, with the club entering the State League Men’s competition, and also granted a licence to compete in the NPL2 Youth League in the same year, all complementing the existing SAP teams.”
FNSW – What have been some of the biggest challenges the club has faced in its infancy?
SB – “There have been many challenges that the club has had to overcome, which is common for any new club starting from scratch.
One of the biggest challenges initially was obtaining ‘buy-in’ from the Association member (clubs) with Bankstown United FC’s overall vision. After much effort and collaboration, this is something that has been achieved, with all of the local clubs wholeheartedly and actively involved in supporting Bankstown United FC.
The member clubs see that Bankstown United is providing a pathway for our local and talented players. They now know that the club is run with integrity and passion, and is there to support Bankstown juniors.
Another challenge in the early years was access to resources and facilities, but we now have access to the newly renovated Jensen Park for training, and we also continue to play our home games from the venue as we have from day one.”
FNSW – What is the football vision at Bankstown United FC?
SB – “The vision at Bankstown United FC is to provide a representative pathway for the local Bankstown juniors that come from our local grassroots clubs.”
FNSW – You won the Premiership in the State League in 2018, as well as the Club Championship in dramatic circumstances – tell us a little about how that panned out, and what did that achievement mean to the club?
SB – “Simply stated, it was the biggest moment in the club’s short history. The way that season played out was incredible, winning promotion on the final day of the competition proper was almost like watching a movie unfold, it was just unbelievable. Central Coast United were 42 points ahead on the Club Championship ladder with 6 rounds of competition still to play. We kept believing and eventually clinched both the Premiership and the Club Championship in final 5 minutes of the last game of the season – it was overwhelming to say the least!
In the previous season in 2017 we just missed promotion, so it became a clear goal for the club to play NPL3 Football in 2019 – so it was a surreal and amazing feeling for the entire club to actually achieve it.
FNSW – Bankstown United are focused on growth and success across all age groups – how do you implement such a strategy and manage the expectations across an entire club?
SB – “In my opinion you are only as good as your juniors that are coming through the club, and that is why I like the current Club Championship structure as you need to have strength as a whole club to be successful, not just in your First Grade results.
We ensure that all three grades train at the same venue and at the same time.
One night a week we have all three grades warm up together, to ensure a strong club culture and unity throughout the whole senior squad. It also gives the youngest members of the squad the opportunity to see how professional they need to be if they want to be a First Grade footballer. All coaches are on the same page in regards to player expectations and communicate effectively as a unit to maintain professionalism and high standards at all times, helping to build and maintain a club culture that provides us strong foundation to grow from.”
FNSW – You are more than holding your own in your first season in the NSW NPL3 – and sit currently in 6th position, which would qualify your club for a Finals spot – who have been some of the key players for you on the park?
SB – “I believe the reason we currently sit in the league position we are in is due to the hard work and commitment of the whole squad, not any one individual nor any key players. It comes back to the culture of the club, where no individual is bigger than the team or the club – we win and lose as a team. We have been training since early January as a unit, where we set key goals and achievements that we wanted to work towards as a squad, and we haven’t achieved them yet! We set high standards as a group and we still have 6 games to go, so hopefully we are still in Finals contention at the end of the season, but even more importantly than that, we want to make sure the club has maintained NPL3 status.”
FNSW – What the club has achieved since its inception is fantastic….but it is now in the past – what are some of the key areas you will need to focus on to continue to develop and grow?
SB – “As a club we do not shy away from the fact that one day we would like to be playing in the NPL2 NSW Men’s competition. However, we do understand the enormity of that goal, and will continue to work towards achieving that in the next 2-3 years. We want to play in the highest possible league in order to provide the best opportunity for our local kids to play senior football. That all being said, we need to make sure we continue to focus on the development of our SAP and Youth League programs as well, with the new structures being implemented in 2020 an opportunity to gain NPL1 Youth League status in the future. We need to continue to invest in quality coaches, especially in our Youth League, and ensure we maintain the club’s vision of providing a representative pathway for local Bankstown juniors.”
FNSW – Who are some of the people within the club that have contributed to the club’s overall success, and what is it exactly that they do / have done?
SB – “There are so many people who play a vital role in the club’s success, so I will apologise to any one of those who I don’t mention here.
I have already highlighted the role that George Pizanis and Petar Finka played in the beginning when the club was formed.
Additionally, one of the biggest influences that has made Bankstown United FC what it is today is Dimitri Hursalas. Dimitri is on the board of the Bankstown District Association Football Association, and is also the head of the Bankstown United FC committee. He works tirelessly to improve football in the Bankstown District, and we simply wouldn’t be where we are today without him.
Darren Geany (Bankstown Sports Strikers) and Michael Shrimpton (Birrong) have been involved from the outset as well, initially as coaches, but now they find themselves on the committee and supporting all aspects of the club. Darren is the current Youth Technical Director as well.
In 2019 we welcomed another local boy in Luke McGuire to the club as the Head of Football. Luke is overseeing all programs and his experience has been vital in the club’s success this season.
All these guys bleed green and gold and that is why the club continues to surprise and rise above expectations.”
In only their fourth season of existence, Bankstown United have already achieved so much, and their performances on and off the field from everyone associated in the club mean they have well and truly established themselves in the football community. In terms of the current NPL 3 NSW Men’s competition, their 6th place on the ladder is testament to the effort that is being applied on and off the park……..you can safely determine that Bankstown United have arrived, and are no longer punching above their weight.