MELBOURNE has appointed former player Matthew Whelan to the position of Indigenous Project Officer.
A fan favourite among the Melbourne faithful, due to his attack on the ball and team play, Whelan will join the club in March, after concluding his duties with AFL Sportsready, where he has worked for a combined six years in mentoring/education and work placements. He previously worked for Essendon in a welfare/community role.
General manager of football operations Josh Mahoney said the club was delighted to have Whelan return.
“We have been looking at making an appointment in our player welfare area for a few years with a focus on mentoring our indigenous players,” he told melbournefc.com.au.
“A number of factors have come together this year, which has led to the appointment of Matt in this role. Firstly, we needed an extra resource in player welfare to assist our players in their off-field education and training, and secondly we wanted a dedicated resource for our Indigenous players.
“Add this to our newly drafted Melbourne Football Club RAP, Next Generation Academy focus on Indigenous/Multicultural talent in the south-east of Victoria and Alice Springs, and our established relationship with the Northern Territory, and the role of Indigenous Project Officer was created.
“We look forward to Matt starting and watching a number of our programs grow and have real impact on our players/staff and the communities. His previous relationship with the club, his background and his skill set made Matt the perfect person for the role.”
Whelan said he was rapt to come back to Melbourne.
“Josh Mahoney gave me a call the other week and it went from there. The role really fitted in with what I wanted to do next in my career,” he told melbournefc.com.au.
“It’s great to come back to Melbourne, but it’ll feel a little different because the club was at the Junction Oval when I was there.
“There will still be a few familiar faces I know like Jack Watts, Neville Jetta, Nathan Jones, Col Garland and Jake Spencer and I also worked with Matty Egan at Essendon.
“It’s been great to see Nev come on in leaps and bounds and I remember playing on Jeffy [Garlett] who was a tough opponent. I know Jay Kennedy-Harris a bit through some programs and I’m looking forward to working with Dion Johnstone.”
A life member of Melbourne, Whelan played 150 games for the club from 2000-09, mostly as an attacking defender.
His role at Melbourne will involve player education and training, and player mentoring.
He will also manage the club’s Reconciliation Action Plan, in conjunction with the current working group, focus on the Next Generation Academy, with an emphasis on Alice Springs and the club’s Indigenous/Multicultural pathways, plus build relationships in the Northern Territory.
Originally from Darwin/Woodville West Torrens, Whelan was drafted by Melbourne at No.50 in the 1999 AFL Draft.
A playing rugby union, rugby league and cricket, Whelan didn’t play football until he was 13 years old. It was when he moved from Darwin to Adelaide that his football came to notice.
In round four 2000, Whelan made his AFL debut against St Kilda. He soon received a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination in round 15 that year, after his performance against Hawthorn.
Whelan, suffered several injuries throughout his career, and missed Melbourne’s 2000 Grand Final, due to a neck injury suffered in round 19.
He played his first final for Melbourne in the 2004 elimination final loss to Essendon.
His last game for Melbourne was also against the Saints in round 22, 2009.
He has played the most games in the No.45 guernsey for Melbourne.