Major Club Announcement
Major Club Announcement
AJAX Football Club President Ronnie Lewis unveiled to all in attendance on Thursday at the Best and Fairest evening, the landmark signing of AFL Premiership Coach Mark ‘Choco’ Williams as the club’s head coach for at least the next two seasons.
“It’s probably one of the biggest things that has happened in the world of AJAX footy but potentially even Maccabi, just to have a guy of his profile,” Lewis told AJAX Media.
The 58-year old will also fill a new role as Maccabi Victoria’s Director of Coaching and Development. Further to his commitment as AJAX’s Senior head coach, Williams will play a significant role in the development of AJAX junior teams and coaches.
“I’m really enthusiastic about getting back into coaching and being involved in the community as well with Maccabi,” Williams told AJAX Media.
“I’m here to learn. My son played against AJAX juniors a few years ago and I was so impressed that the community wanted to be involved in an Australian tradition and I thought what a great thing to join in that way,” Williams said.
Whether in a playing or coaching capacity, Williams has contributed greatly to Australian Rules Football for 40 years.
He coached Port Adelaide Power in the AFL between 1999 and 2010, finishing his senior coaching career at AFL level on 274 games (25th of all time) at a 55% winning rate.
He took the Power to 17 finals (eight of them wins) two grand finals and the club’s inaugural Premiership against the Brisbane Lions in 2004.
In the same year he was named the coach of the All-Australian team.
He played 201 games and kicked 236 goals for Collingwood and the Brisbane Bears between 1981 and 1990.
The son of South Australian Football icon Fos Williams, Mark began his career in the SANFL, playing 179 games, kicking 141 goals and winning four Premierships across the 70s, 80s and 90s.
“After 30 plus years in AFL footy he’s very keen to explore opportunities in sport outside of AFL and I guess that’s one of the things that attracted ‘Choco’ to the role, is his ability to influence and develop coaches across the sporting community,” Lewis said.
After resigning from his senior position at Port Adelaide midway through 2010, Williams signed on with competition new-comers Greater Western Sydney for three years as an assistant coach to Kevin Sheedy.
In search of a new challenge, Williams left his post at the Giants to take on the role as Richmond’s Development Coach under Damien Hardwick.
After four seasons at Tigerland, Williams was let go.
“We got a heads up that once he departed Richmond that he may be open to opportunities outside the AFL, so through Andrew Shenker we made a direct approach to him and he was actually very interested in chatting to us.
“It was a Monday night two and a half weeks ago he came to our rooms and was incredibly impressed with our facilities. I think he was expecting a tin shed in the middle of a paddock.
“We’ve got ice baths, a coach’s room, a fully laid out gym, social rooms that have recently been renovated, all which blew him away.
“The photos on the wall gave him a sense of community and inclusion of the Jackettes and he left the club actually quite surprised and taken aback that it was as impressive as it was,” Lewis said.
Although he has been immersed in elite level football for so long, there is belief that he has the diversity of character and the required skills to adapt to being the coach of an amateur club in Premier B of the VAFA.
“Being a teacher he can see that he can develop these young men,” Lewis said.
“His appointment means we improve the professionalism of the club. We want to be an A-Grade club, whether that means we play in A-Grade or become an A-Grade club playing in B-Grade. Time will tell but we are very confident he’ll bring out the best of all our players.”
With pre-season fast approaching, Williams will have a short amount of time to acclimatise before the real work begins.
“I’ll sniff out the environment first and see what’s required but I want the players to enjoy it. Anyone out there that thinks they might be able to play then certainly get down to training, especially if you’re over 6ft4 that’d be fantastic,” Williams said.
“I would like to think that each of the players this time next year are feeling like they’ve had a great year of improvement and how far that takes us we’ll wait and see.”
Williams’ football journey is made more unique by the religious affiliation that AJAX stands so passionately for.
“He mentioned in his speech (at the Best & Fairest) that he spent many drives on the way to Punt Road on Hotham street and saw a number of the Jewish men with their black hats and payot and for him it’s fascination, it’s a real genuine interest, so I think that’s what has made the move to a Jewish community club not too difficult for him,” Lewis said.
Williams’ signing sent social media into a frenzy with a combined 123 retweets and likes on Twitter, over 500 likes and 60 comments on Facebook while shortly after the news was broken, @ajaxfooty was trending on Twitter.
There is genuine belief that Williams’ involvement with the Jackas will attract quality Jewish players from other clubs along with the inevitable spike in community interest and support.
“We’ve identified three or four high quality players in Melbourne and one in Perth already, and it is our absolute intentions to send ‘Choco’ in a car or on a plane to meet these people, whether they come to AJAX or are interested, I can tell you now having him there will certainly change their view of our club,” Lewis said.
“Some very basic elements both in terms of training and on game-day will make him probably unmatched in the VAFA. He’s an incredible coach and a very good person at the same time.”
“I’m thrilled to think that people are interested in what I’m doing and certainly if that gives greater attention to AJAX and their sponsors then that’s a great role it plays and a good bonus as well,” Williams said.
The recruitment sub-committee contained prominent AJAX people, Andrew Shenker, Rick Marks, Robbie Kaye and Craig Joel.
Others involved in the process were the Maccabi Victoria Board, in particular Ash Krongold, a Director of the Maccabi Victoria Foundation.
This sporting coup was made possible by the Henry Jolson Pathways Program. It is the first major initiative since the program’s inception in 2015.