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By Will Hunter
The Southern Football Netball League has under gone significant change in the last decade that has seen it emerge from difficult times to enjoy phenomenal growth.
And one of the driving forces behind the League’s remarkable transformation has been former Chairman Mark Seymour, a man with a great passion for community sport and an immense love for the SFNL.
A junior footballer with McKinnon in the Federal league, Seymour decided that sports administration was his calling following a less than auspicious senior football career that lasted all of one game with Bentleigh, then in the Eastern Suburbs Churches competition, in 1980.
His decision to hanging up the boots turned out to be a wise one. The following year Seymour sat on Bentleigh’s committee before he was later roped into becoming club Secretary in 1982 by fellow SFNL Hall of Fame inductee Garry Matlock at the club’s AGM.
Although initially reluctant to take on the role, Seymour nevertheless held the position for two seasons, even after he was transferred to Morwell for work at the end of 1982.
He later assisted in the development of a strategic plan for the Bentleigh Football Netball Club, which has been critical to the club’s recent success.
Seymour has also had a big impact on football in Gippsland, and in particular the Morwell East and Traralgon Football Clubs. He had enjoyed reasonably successful stints as coach at Under 18 and Under 19 level with both teams before returning to Traralgon as CEO in 1995 to drive the club’s ascension to the VFL competition.
Away from football, Seymour took on a role as marketing manager of the Melbourne Tigers in the National Basketball League for two years and sat on the Board of community broadcaster 88.3 Southern FM for nearly five years, serving one term as President.
He also had a keen interest in broadcasting, hosting a weekly Sunday sports program, ‘Sportzfan Radio’, on 88.3 Southern FM. The show ran for six years, underlining its popularity.
And it was at Southern FM where Seymour was persuaded to join the SFNL Board by Stephen Barnes, whom he had known since his junior football days with McKinnon.
After initially resisting Barnes’ repeated overtures due to time constraints, Seymour finally relented – a decision he has never regretted.
“I am truly thankful that, then Board member, Stephen Barnes was so persistent in getting me onto the Board,” Seymour said.
“I have done many things and had many accomplishments in my life both in employment and in sport, but my time at the SFNL is by far the single most pleasing and satisfying thing I have done.”
Seymour joined the League Board in December 2008, and succeeded David Andrew as Chairman the following year.
The League was going through a difficult period when Seymour came on board, but his vision and expertise has been instrumental in building the SFNL brand over the last few years.
Undoubtedly Seymour’s biggest legacy has been overseeing the introduction of a netball competition in 2012, and the inclusion of ‘Netball’ into the old Southern Football League moniker to become the SFNL. This is undoubtedly the most significant change the league has undergone in its existence.
Seymour says this has been instrumental in building “critical mass” at football clubs, which ensures the club’s financial viability through an increase in its number of members, while also offering another demographic the opportunity to participate in organised sport.
In addition, Seymour has helped facilitate the growth of the football competition through the SFNL’s acquisition of clubs from other leagues.
Specifically, Seymour was the driving force behind his former team’s return to the Southern league after a stint in the VAFA, as well as the transfer of Keysborough from the Casey Kardinia competition.
Further, four new start-up clubs have entered the SFNL under Seymour’s Chairmanship – Endeavour Hills, Hallam, Carrum Patterson Lakes and Lyndhurst.
This is a fact that Seymour is particularly proud of.
“I don’t know any other league in Australia that’s had that many new clubs start up,” Seymour said.
“I think it’s a terrific thing for the league.”
A lawyer by profession, Seymour stood down as Chairman at last December’s AGM and vacated his position on the Board earlier this year to concentrate on his business, Seymour Law.
However, the legacy he has left behind is enormous and the league would not be where it is today without his significant contribution.