MARCONI coach Jean-Paul de Marigny is no stranger to football in Griffith.
The former Socceroos defender was a regular when the Stallions would make annual trips to take on Hanwood FC.
Now that the relationship between the two clubs has been rekindled, de Marigny will once again become a familiar face to locals.
The Mauritius-born manager is nowadays considered one of the foremost authorities on youth development in Australia.
He was the coach of the under-17 national team in 2007, worked as an assistant at the Newcastle Jets in the early days of the A-League and was also the head of the NSW Institute of Sport football program.
After Marconi’s 1-1 draw with Hanwood FC on Australia Day, de Marigny spoke with The Area News about the direction of the round ball game in Griffith, and how best to turn the city’s strong junior base into elite footballers.
AN: JP, you’ve been to Griffith quite a few times, you held a coaching clinic here before the game. How do you see the strength of football in this city and in particular, the skill level of the juniors?
JPdM: The people are very passionate about football here. The kids are all very talented and skillful and there are some very strong clubs here as well, of course. With the Italian influence here Griffith will always be a stronghold for football and that’s a fantastic thing. I feel we should put more time and effort into areas like Griffith and Wagga, because a lot of great sportsmen have come from there. I know Football NSW comes out here but clubs like Marconi need to do more and spend more time here with the young players. Every club is willing to do it, it’s just about having people available to do it.
AN: What separates the kids from here with the kids you see in Sydney?
JPdM: The main difference is the mentality towards it. In Sydney, everything is available. We can go and watch A-League football live, there are better coaches available and all the different programs. A good example is Rhyan Grant, the Sydney FC player. He’s from the country, a town that’s got about 110 population. We brought him from there and into our program and the rest is history. Now he’s putting away crosses from Alessandro Del Piero. Basically everything is at their fingertips in Sydney.
AN: So really, the only obstacle is distance?
JPdM: It’s always been the case and it probably always will be. That is the main obstacle that makes everything else harder – coaching, opportunity, facilities. Unfortunately the young players will have to leave home and test themselves, like what Joey Schirripa’s done, for example. Joey had to go to school at King’s before he was part of NSWIS. But there’s more than one Joey Schirripa here.
I know when I was at NSWIS I spent a lot of time in the country. When I was in Wagga I identified a young girl, her name was Sally Shipard. When the time was right, we invited her to NSWIS. In the school holidays she would come over and her whole family sacrificed everything for her. She moved to Campbelltown, and now she plays for the national team and has a terrific career. The players have to sacrifice a lot. So there’s no doubt that country areas can equip the kids with the skills they need to play good football, but to take the next step they have to leave.
AN: Do you think it’s possible for this city to start producing Socceroos in the future? And what’s your advice to the local clubs and associations to help them get there?
JPdM: It’s definitely possible, without a doubt. It’s all about quality coaching. If you’ve got a quality player here, they first of all have to be playing regularly in a senior competition. Then they have to be involved with coaches of the same quality, if not better, for them to improve. That is where the clubs and associations have to invest, but it’s got to be done often for it to make a difference. If you had one person in the area, if they concentrate on Griffith only, he can produce a few players for sure. There’s the talent here, that’s one thing. But number two is the development of that talent has to be there. Unfortunately that player will need to move, probably to Sydney. It’s exactly the same as with a talented player in Sydney – if they want to develop further, then they need to move overseas. It’s the same thing, but just on a smaller scale.