By Stuart Kavanagh
Tom Kennedy plays a unique double act here in Broken Hill. Not only does he serve as the town’s Mayor, but he is heavily involved in the Broken Hill Soccer Association (BHSA).
He has taken up various roles on the BHSA board, including president, vice president, head of the judiciary, and is currently business manager in charge of grants.
“I’ve been on the board of soccer (BHSA) for over 10 years,” he tells me as we grab a coffee and chat at Alfresco’s on Argent Street.
Although he plays a lead role in our local council that’s not the purpose of our chat on this occasion.
I wanted his take on the current state of the round ball code in Broken Hill, not only as a committee member, but as a player too.
Mayor Kennedy has played for West Soccer Club for about 15 years.
“We haven’t won a Grand Final since 2010,” he says. “We did win a few knockout cups a few years ago though.”
When I pressed him on what his position was within the West B grade side, he told me he is a bit of a utility player.
“I am one of those players you can play just about anywhere,” he said grinning broadly. “I can play up forward, but I prefer midfield. I am not too great at sticking it in the back of the net, but I am good at getting in position.”
He told me he often pulls double duty for the As and the Bs.
“I often do the whole 90 minutes twice. 180 minutes is tough when you get to my age,” he chuckled.
He switched hats to committee member as soon as I asked him what he thought of the BHSA re-affiliating itself with a recognised governing body.
In no uncertain terms, he told me he thought it was a bad idea.
“All affiliation will mean is an extra $100 in fees.
No matter what benefits affiliation will bring, it [the extra fees] will lower participation, not increase it.
“The BHSA moved away from being affiliated with the FFSA (Football Federation South Australia) whilst I was V/P,” he said.
“When I was president, I continued to support that decision.
There’s no advantage to senior football having any affiliation with FFSA.
“One of the big problems with senior soccer in Broken Hill is a lot of players are older.
That means you don’t really need any pathways or anything like that.”
BHSA President Anita Hoysted strongly disagrees with that stance.
Although she concedes that there will be a rise in fees, any dollar figure “still needs to be investigated,” she told me.
“There are ways to subsidise any fee rise that need to be investigated also.
The benefits are numerous and can help various areas of the game. Training, refereeing, competitions etc.”
When it comes to the junior game, however, Mayor Kennedy is a big advocate for FFSA affiliation.
“As president I got the BHJSA (Broken Hill Junior Soccer Association), back involved [with FFSA], but I kept the seniors out of it,” he says.
“It gives them [the juniors] the opportunity to participate in country carnivals and state championships, as well as being able to take advantage of pathways that FFSA provides.”
Given the state that COVID left the game in, these opportunities are fundamental in rebuilding soccer in Broken Hill.
“It’s a rebuilding year,” Kennedy says. “In terms of participation, we were outperforming AFL in terms of participant numbers [prior to COVID].
“You have a year with no games, juniors start to move away from the game.”
With just three games left of the regular season, get down to O’Neill Sporting Complex to catch the Mayor as he turns out for West Panthers B Grade side (and sometimes the As) as they attempt to win their first Grand Final in over 10 years.