10 February 2011
Review Michael Forwood
Kym Russell is a very superior person having played football for Collingwood - AFL Premiers in 2010, and 2011 (one would hope). My team! Also he’s qualified and experienced in economics, accountancy and business administration especially in the sports and leisure sector. He comes across immediately as someone who loves sports and the outdoors – and as a practical, hands-on sort of person.
In January 2009 Kym was appointed CEO of the West Adelaide Football Club which was facing an operating deficit of $500K, subsequently growing to nearer $700K. Since taking the reins he has been instrumental in completely turning this around. This is no mean achievement. ‘Westies’ aka ‘The Bloods’ aka the ‘Irish Bottletops’ belongs in a tough part of town, has never been a wealthy club and is not blessed with wealthy supporters. With the AFL soaking up the big sponsorship dollars, and modest attendances at SANFL matches, where is the money going to come from? And with regard to success on the field it’s been a long time between drinks with the last three senior premierships being in 1947, 1961 and 1983.
I identified strongly with Kym’s message, and listened carefully, as four years ago I became CEO of a small children’s charity which was also struggling financially, seriously struggling, and I know what it’s like to be at the helm of an organisation in these circumstances.
Kym’s talk was entitled Our History is our Future and it involved the telling of a story of connecting the present and the future with the past. As a six year old Kym’s life ambition was to play league football. When he was 18 the dream was realised when he was picked to play for Sturt and he later played for Norwood and Collingwood.
During these years, he told us, he had no interest in the footy stories of the old codgers in the club rooms and in the grandstand. But on becoming CEO at West Adelaide he quickly picked up that the old Westonians had raised over $1 million for the Club over the years and he realised the potential of acknowledging and tapping into the pride, passion, tradition and commitment of past players. To do this thoroughly takes time and effort – and a lot of research like tracking down every former senior player through Club records, archived newspapers in the State Library and so on - endless hours of slow painstaking work - and then numbering them from 1 to 1300 to publicise and personalise the result. The aim is for every living player to have a personalised key ring with his number on it. As he tells the story you can feel how initiatives such as this build the passion, kindle interest in the Club, and generate a desire to be part of the process of ensuring that it survives and has a future.
Having set the scene we were entertained with numerous interesting anecdotes including key moments in the Club’s history, the ‘donation’ of memorabilia including Johnny Bernhardt’s father’s goal-kicking boots and the story of how the West End Brewery chimney – that had always been red and black until 1954 – came to display the colours of the SAFL premiership team after that date (starting with a decade of predominantly black and white paint thanks to the dominance of the Port Adelaide magpies).
The next step is to launch the West Adelaide Football Club Foundation which will occur in three weeks’ time on 3 March 2011. None of us has any doubt that Kym and his growing band of supporters will make a success of this as well.
In question time, and in the vote of thanks, our common roots in the Western suburbs of Adelaide was noted as was our own Adelaide Rotary West commitment to re-generation and growth. Kym’s address clearly struck a chord and will be a great encouragement to us all.