James Vakrinos and the Board of Directors of the Port Melbourne Sharks took over three years ago and set their sights on bringing back the historic ‘Port Melbourne SC’ mentality of the great team.
The 43-year-old president of the Sharks and owner of real estate agency Home AU, grew up in Prahran and had his first football experience at Malvern City.
He continued on with South Melbourne Hellas in the end of the 1980s and had the then captain of the NSL team Ange Postecoglou as his coach, with whom he won the Victoria championship in the U14s.
Mr Vakrinos first found himself at Port Melbourne SC during the mid-90s and playing in the youth team, however he also had a deeper connection with the club through his wife Angie, daughter of founding member and ex-president Manolis Vathis.
The team has come a long way since then, as the men’s team from the first season of its term in 2018, secured (after seventeen years) a place in the NPL playoffs.
The Sharks became known throughout the country overnight after qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Victorian zone and made it into the final phase of the Australian Cup (FFA Cup) for the first time in the club’s history.
In 2019 the club welcomed two women’s teams, which in its maiden season won the championship and promotion to SL3.
Mr Vakrinos has seen some great progress at the club during his term as president but 2021 will be his final year in the position before handing the association over to the next Board of Directors with strong financial bases.
Mr Vakrinos had a chat with Neos Kosmos about his ongoing involvement with the Port Melbourne Sharks.
How did the pandemic affect Port Melbourne and what will be the impact on football in general?
It was and continues to be a very difficult time for everyone. Our children have been deprived of a sport in which they love, however I am sure with their passion for the game, they will bounce back quickly once the restrictions are lifted.
I truly believed this was our year. After all, the long-term goal set three years ago with Adam our coach was to win the championship. In the five games we did play we did not concede defeat, despite the serious absences of some key players.
Now we are planning the new season and, of course, we have to adapt to the ‘new normal’.
There will be consequences as we will encounter greater difficulty in finding money from sponsors but this will be the case for most clubs. I have the feeling that with good management we will succeed.
What has changed at the ‘Port’?
We approached new sponsors, however our biggest investment was in our coaching staff. Adam Piddick has proven to be the right choice for “Port Melbourne SC”.
Most people may not be aware that in addition to coaching the men’s team, Adam has taken on the role of ‘Head of Football’ at Port Melbourne as a full-time profession.
Many people see our performance progress in the men’s team, but the most important progress for us has come from the program run under his guidance in the Junior NPL League.
This year saw three of our four NPL Junior boys’ teams place in the top three of the qualifying rounds before the lockdown.
But what excites me even more is the style of football our teams played and the desire of parents to include their children at Port Melbourne.
As a Board of Directors, we have also given great importance to “Mini Roos”, young children from the age of 11 and under. This category has been taken over since October 2019 by the well-known Victory goalkeeping coach Steve Mautone.
Here I want to announce something that makes us all proud at the Port Melbourne SC. When we are free from Lockdown, our club will provide free training every Saturday for the all children under the age of 11 (girls and boys) who are residents of the municipality of Port Phillip.
These training sessions will help children return to the game faster, while at the same time giving parents who are under financial duress the opportunity to not to deprive their children of the training.
In the coming years should we expect new blood in the men’s team from the young teams of the club?
Yes, after all with the exception of recent years, it’s a great tradition for “Port Melbourne SC” to see our junior players progress to our senior team and beyond. This has and always will be our goal.
Since you mentioned the old national championship, we did not see any interest from the Sharks to join the National Second Division?
Yes, but that does not mean that we are not interested in the new national championship. As President of Port Melbourne, I wanted decisions to be grounded. At the moment I do not think we are ready for such a big leap. Honestly, I really want to succeed and one day see our team play in a national championship, but it is not an easy feat for the time being.
*Translated by Marianna Alepidis