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Dean Rioli: How One Coach is Making a Difference

The memories of profound MCG silence on Anzac Day remain with Essendon and Collingwood footballers, evoking feelings of eerie serenity that take them back to their childhoods.

For Essendon's Dean Rioli, the silence transports him to Garden Point's beach where he closes his eyes, looking out, and the world stops. In his retirement, Rioli has become a remarkable coach, always on the lookout for the next challenge. He coaches female footballers at Moonee Valley Football Club and loves it. His understated coaching style is his strength, always listening and putting players first. Rioli believes women want to be challenged and setting standards of player ownership is crucial for team success. Coaching women has helped him communicate his message more clearly, something he highly recommends to other coaches.

At Moonee Valley, Dean's message is making a difference. In round one, the team beat Westmeadows for the first time, and the reserves shrugged off last year's 80-points average losing margin with a 92 point victory. Jess Nannup, a mother-of-four, is inspiring change at Moonee Valley. Nannup was the best and fairest at Fitzroy Stars in 2022 and the partner of Richmond utility Marlion Pickett.

Rioli's experience as a footballer has had a great influence on his coaching philosophy. He learned from Kevin Sheedy and holds whiteboards in the Essendon suburban league for Keilor Park, Aberfeldie, and amateur Therry Penola. He is always on the lookout for the next challenge, seeking to help and develop people. For Rioli, the best way to do this is to find the team at the bottom of the ladder and see where he can provide his assistance.

Moonee Valley Football Club's president, Jason Hellwig, has been friends with Rioli's family for years. Hellwig believes that Rioli is a kind, smart, and wise man who carries the weight of different cultural worlds with dignity. Rioli's coaching philosophy of putting players first, listening, and challenging them is already making a difference in the women's program at Moonee Valley. Amelia Radford, one of Rioli's earliest charges, was drafted to Essendon in the AFLW, and she believes that without Rioli, she wouldn't be there now.

Twenty-four years after kicking 29 goals in his debut season for the Bombers and 20 years after slotting three in his best Anzac Day performance, Rioli is the newest board member of a bouncing-back Essendon Football Club; he is also an active board member of Tiwi Islands Football Club.

But it is his excitement for coaching the women's game that has him watching four or five games from the sidelines each weekend.

"I'll still go and watch the Bombers when I can, but it's a different passion now," he says.

"I love grassroots footy. I've done it for years where I've got kids from the Tiwi Islands down and played at Keilor Park, Aberfeldie, Therry Penola, getting Territorians down and helping them with the pathways, but now it's about women."

"How do we now get females pushed up into VFL and then AFL?"

Read the full article here.

Courtesy ABC News

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