Williams leaves Werribee for AFL return

Mark Williams. Picture Luke Hemer

Tara Murray

Werribee coach Mark Williams is returning to the AFL system after accepting a role with Melbourne.

The 2004 AFL premiership coach, who has been at Werribee the past two seasons, will become Melbourne’s head of football development.

Williams said that he had loved his time at Werribee. Williams led Werribee to the semi finals in 2019 and had put in place a strong list for the 2020 season, which was later cancelled due to COVID-19.

“The club is strong, well run and as we have all seen in the last year, resilient,” he said.

“I thank the club and the community for making me feel like I could have stayed here for 20 years, not two.”

He told the AFL website that he is charged with trying to improve everyone at Melbourne, saying not only do they want to be good, they want to be great.

Werribee president Martin Carter said there were mixed emotions about Williams stepping away from the club.

“Choco is unique in his way of thinking about football and the way he goes about engaging everyone to be part of that,” Carter said in a statement.

“His impact at our club will resonate for a long time with coaches, players, staff, sponsors and supporters.

“It is no surprise to see him back in the AFL system. We wish him well and thank him for everything he did in two very different years with us.

“He planted the seeds of success both on and off field that his successor will be able to build on.”

Werribee chief executive Mark Penaluna said the search for a new coach already begins.

“It is a prime job in the football world and one that offers outstanding opportunities to run your own team in an elite competition in the best facility outside the AFL, working in a club with an exceptional culture and strong community roots.

“Choco got a big surprise when he came here and he has helped drive us to the next level of professionalism and expectation.”

Werribee, which has started pre-season training, has announced a number of re-signings for the 2020 season, with the club competing in an expanded eastern seaboard state league competition.

Long standing skipper Michael Sodomaco leads that list having signed on for an 11th year, while three-time club best and fairest winner Matt Hanson, 2019 VFL team of the year player Nick Coughlan, wingman Bior Malual and Kye Declase and former AFL ruckman Matthew Lobbe have also re-signed.