Ex-VFL player finds comfort in coaching at Willetton Junior Football Club

John Greenwood (far right) talking to his Willetton Junior Football Club's Under 12's side.
John Greenwood (far right) talking to his Willetton Junior Football Club's Under 12's side.

IF you head down to Willetton Junior Football Club every Tuesday and Thursday during football season, you may spy an elderly man putting an Under 12’s team through their paces.

That man is 74-year-old John Greenwood, a former Victorian Football League player turned junior football coach.

What Greenwood’s players may not know about their coach is he has rubbed shoulders with two of the greatest players to ever take the field.

He spent time with Footscray and South Melbourne in the mid 1960s, where he was coached by Ted Whitten and played alongside three-time Brownlow Medallist Bob Skilton.

Now, he is passing on his knowledge to the next generation, with a focus on player enjoyment.

His daughter Janine serves as team manager and said her father made sure every player got a fair run, regardless of their skill level.

“We’ve got kids of all abilities and we’ve got kids who are stronger than some of the others, but dad doesn’t treat them any different, it all just works together and the kids work together,” she said.

Greenwood’s wife Connie said he cared about the kid’s enjoyment of the game more than anything.

“At the start of the year, they had more kids than enough, but John wouldn’t let two of them go because he’d hate to see the kids turned away, so he’s played all year with a full bench,” she said.

Greenwood said his message is simple: get the ball, share it around and most importantly, play with a smile.

“The most important thing is the kids have a bit of fun, they’ve got to enjoy it,” he said.

“If you play as a team, generally you’re going to win. If you get out there and help one another, do the small things, it’s pretty straight forward.”

“In the competition, you have to try and make it so each kids gets equal ground time and swap positions so they get a total feel of the way football is played.”

Under Greenwood’s guidance, the team have qualified for the finals and two of their players made the Under 12’s state team, including his grandson Jaxan.

While the coach is firmly focused on making sure the team enjoys their football, he did admit it would mean a lot to see one of his young players play professionally.

“When I coached in Victoria, two of the kids went on and played league footy and you can’t get a better reward than that,” he said.

“And hopefully down the track, we may have a kid or two go on and play AFL footy in the future.”

Greenwood has been nominated for the Department of Sport and Recreation’s True Sport campaign, which seeks to highlights clubs and individuals giving back to the community via grassroots sports.