Wayne leads rising Saints

Wayne Delaland with his family. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Nick Creely

Like many of the wonderful volunteers in our sporting rich region, Wayne Delaland has an unbridled passion and love for his community.

The Narre South Saints president leads with aplomb, having steered the club through the process of its rebranding and entry into the Southern Football League.

He said he was grateful – and blessed – to be able to be a cog in the machine of one of the south-east’s rising football and netball clubs, and believes that without the constant dedication of those around him, the game simply would stand still.

“It’s super important to have volunteers – it is cliche, but without volunteers dedicating their time, there simply wouldn’t be clubs that exist and games don’t go ahead,” he said.

“We’re lucky to have an appreciative playing group that love to give back – we have a lot of people that donate a lot of time to help build the club the way we want it to be.

“In 2020, it disappeared and we weren’t sure whether we’d have volunteers come back, but with the year off everyone’s got enthusiasm which has been good for us.”

Delaland joined the Saints – formally known as St Francis Xavier OC prior to 2020 – in 2011, serving on the committee and volunteering his time for the last eight years, before taking on the presidency in November 2017.

He’s seen the rapid growth of the club, particularly over the last few years, and remains excited about what the Saints are capable of in the local region.

“I had a few mates that lived out Casey way, I was out in the City of Knox way, so it was a bit of a change for me, and everyone at the club was good so naturally you want to help out your club and then it grew into more senior roles there,” he said of joining the club.

“I’m proud of the role myself and the rest of the committee play in steering the club to being one where everyone feels welcome, respected.

“We work hard on and off the field to build ourselves into a bit of a destination club, and that’s shown over the last 12 to 24 months where we went from struggling to fill seniors and reserves in 2017, to having seniors, reserves, thirds and first ever under 19s, and two netball teams.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure our culture is at the forefront of what we do – we want people to feel welcome, and attract good people, and the results will look after themselves.

“Once people buy into what we want to achieve on and off the field, it’s a blessing.”

One of Delaland’s biggest undertakings over the course of the last two years was the process of rebranding the club to the Narre South Saints, to going through the process of leaving the VAFA and joining the Southern Football Club.

“It would have been early 2018, early in my tenure, we looked at where we wanted the club to be in three to five years in our strategic plan,” he said.

“We identified based on being a school-based comp in the amateurs, that it wasn’t quite a fit with strong leagues and clubs around us – we needed to find a junior feeder club, so we had discussions with sharing the venue with the Narre South Lions in early 2018, and moved in mid-2018 with the blessing of the school.

“It sort of got to the end of 2018, six months in sharing the facility that we looked at a rebrand as the Narre South Saints, and honouring the St Francis name by being called the Saints, as well as mixing with our new demographic.

“We now had a junior club who had a senior pathway, so for us it was about looking for a new league, and we held meetings with Southern in August 2019 and for us it just meant greater exposure to the local area, so we can grow our club to have a bigger brand and an attractive place to play football.”

He said that all of the hard work that volunteers, which includes himself, and the coaches put in each and every week has paid dividends now and hopefully into the future.

“I’m proud of what the committee and coaches have done to help expand the football program, but also the possibility of netball teams which we didn’t have in VAFA,” he said.

“80 per cent of the club is essentially brand new, and everyone feels respected.”