The Tasmanian Women’s Super League 2020 season may have come and gone, but we already have our first piece of off-season business. English-born former Football Tasmania Southern Development Officer Matt Kilsby has signed with champions Olympia FC Warriors as their new coach and technical director.
Football Nation Radio had the chance to have a chat with Matt on his journey to New Zealand, his experience working with the NZ women’s national team, and what brought him to football in Tasmania.
“I started off as many young coaches did – by being asked,” Kilsby said. “But not stepping back fast enough and being given the role.
“I found out early in life I was not going to make it as a footballer. When I moved from England to New Zealand, I ended up supporting my local football club Hillcrest United.”
Kilsby took his first coaching steps at the age of 16, undergoing a Small Whites course which focuses on promoting early engagement of players rather than specialising at such a young age.
“Over the years I’ve spent time coaching at high schools, which soon moved to Federation representations, to U18s and reserve men’s football. Also leading multiple women’s teams.
“Since then I’ve never looked back on the path I’ve taken.”
After his Small Whites course was complete, Kilsby moved into a part-time role with WaiBOP Football. Unlike Australia’s FFA, NZ Football have 7 different federations.
“I applied for a full-time Football Development Officer role with Central Football as they expanded their staff.
“That Central Football team at the time had one of the best development teams around in my opinion.
“I took a full-time role up in Whanganui for 18 months before being transferred to Taranaki which was still within Central Football and I spent around 8 years there.
“NZ’s highest Women’s tier National Women’s League (now ISPS Handa Womens Premiership) was supported by Federations. Central Football with their team have always had a younger side in the league.”
Kilsby says that it wasn’t easy to coach with Central Football as time with players in groups was limited.
“The players within Central Football came from 5 different regions which were all across the state.
“Some players were around 9 hours away from myself!
“After preseason which was maybe 2-3 weekend camps, I would not see the full group together until we’d turn up for a home game or landed at the airport for an away game. It was a huge challenge but one I enjoyed.”
Kilsby, now with some experience behind him, was called by NZ Football to help assist the national team preparations for the 2018 FIFA U-17s World Cup Uruguay.
“While undertaking my B-Licence I was asked to coach on the South Island NTC. I did that across 3-4 years where I attended around 8 camps.
“With the U17’s I was very lucky to attend a camp as I had been working alongside Head Coach Leon Birnie within Central Football and I was asked if I wanted to come up to his next U17s camp in Auckland.
“I was very much in the right place at the right time but I enjoyed my time learning on the camp.”
NZ went all the way to the semi-finals falling to eventual champions Spain in a 2-0 loss at Estadio Charrúa, Montevideo. NZ won their 3rd place playoff over Canada 2-1, thus sealing a historic 3rd place finish.
After the World Cup, Central Football began to go through a restructure and Matt was unsure where his role would be.
“I didn’t feel the new direction was the way I wanted to move.
“I felt if I moved to another federation, I would be doing the same kind of work – I use the saying ‘moving from the baked beans factory to the spaghetti factory’ – very much the same work.”
With his future with NZ still up in the air, Matt began to look at possible jobs across the ditch in Australia.
“I had some friends who lived in Australia and they always said it was a great place to live.
“Australia has been very different to NZ football due to the size of the game and the strength of the clubs.”
Matt eventually resigned his position with Central Football in May 2019 to begin the transition to a new opportunity with Football Tasmania.
“My main role was around the Talent Support Program (TSP) in the South. Over time I also picked up managing the development of club SAP programme. Making sure that we had a common level of standards within each programme.
“Once I got my feet under the desk, I looked into the gaps we had in our community space and started to develop the women’s program and the Club Connect Series in the South and North West.
“I have a belief that players will join the game without too much work, but very often more leave the game. I wanted to look at developing this space so we had less leaving the game and more flowing up the pathways.
“I was disappointed I wasn’t able to really get a better understanding on this space to make a change.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic fallout hitting football administrations staff nationwide, FT were not exempt and had to make changes with operations.
“Very much like Central Football, Football Tasmania were talking about a restructure but this time I was offered to apply for a part time role.
“With that understanding staying at FT in a part time role felt like a step backwards for me due to my time in the game over the years. I felt I was worth more than a part time role.
“The Olympia role was vacant and when spoken to by the club it was the right time to move into ‘clubland’ which has always been an aim of mine at some stage.”
It’s no secret Olympia’s WSL side have a big season ahead and Matt believes he has the right talent in his sights to move forward.
“Olympia have had a core group of players for a number of years. The players which have left will be missed for sure and I wish all the players the very best in their next adventures.
“I’ve been in talks with a lot of past players & also current players to understand how we can build on past seasons and also understand why players may have not continued with their football at Olympia.
“I’ve used this knowledge within the club to build a wider player platform.”
Now Coach and Technical Director, Matt doesn’t see this to be a juggling act and more of a key link to develop Olympia.
“When it comes to male and female football it’s now even closer than ever.
“The club has put a lot of trust in myself and I aim to give as much to the club as possible.
“Our senior appointments for back-staff will be announced before December’s end and we as a club are ready to build for 2021.”
Matt concluded our chat sharing he has three key aims going forward.
- “I want to work with all coaches on the ‘Olympia Way Of Playing’, then develop that down through the club.
- “To have a well set up male and female pathway, which puts the players’ needs at the forefront of the clubs thinking.
- “Develop the coaching standards which meet the FFA / FT requirements.”