The Football Sack: notable moments in graduate history

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There’s no better way to celebrate The Football Sack’s 10th birthday than by going back to revisit some of the firsts that were achieved by our graduates along the way.

The Football Sack is turning ten on Friday 8 May 2020, and we’re publishing a series of articles to celebrate.

Passionate, inspired and ready to take on any challenge The Football Sack’s Internship Program has so far fostered 72 young and bright individuals who were looking to make their start in the football industry.

For most interns the internship program was their first introduction into the world of sport media and their first step into a media community.

There have been some changes throughout the years but developing potential in a supportive and positive community during the program has never faltered.

Our first Media Manager

Like most interns, Tyson Scott was just a university student in Newcastle when he saw the advertisement to join the internship program in 2011.

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“I saw the ad on the University of Newcastle website,” he said.

“It was really unknown I sort of had no idea who they were or what they did, but after doing some research and speaking to Christian and Matt it was clear they had big plans.”

 

During his time at The Football Sack, Scott was paired with the Central Coast Mariners and was certain that the program was the right place to get experience writing about the game

“From day one going to the first game at Central Coast Stadium I was really surprised with the professionalism and the access and the experience I gained,” he said.

“The access to a full A-League season, to sit in a media box to work alongside journalists you’ve been following for years.

“To have the opportunity to attend press conferences and ask questions… I couldn’t have asked for a better experience and first taste into working in sport.”

After graduating from the internship program, Scott went on to become a media assistant for the Central Coast Mariners in 2012. Three years later he became the first The Football Sack graduate to become a media manager at an A-League Club.

Scott is currently completing a FIFA master’s in management, a program created to promote management education within the sports world.

Looking back at his time with TFS, even nine-years later, the relationships and the bonds he formed during his time in the program have helped him in his career.

“It was the perfect way to start my career and definitely set the foundations to start networks that have stuck with me for my career up until now,” he said

“They’re connections I’ll use for the rest of my career.

“When you get to a particular point in your career you look back at your time at The Football Sack and you realise those people within that The Football Sack community are going to be an important part of your personal and professional network for life.”

Our first female graduate

Heading north, Melanie Dinjaski covered the Queensland State League and Brisbane Roar in 2011, soon becoming the first woman to graduate from The Football Sack.

“I didn’t realise I was the first female grad until this moment to be honest! But I’m very proud about that fact. When I got into sports journalism I knew there was an underrepresentation of women in the industry but I’ve never been intimidated by that and since I graduated from university, there’s been more and more women involved which is great,” said Dinjaski.

“The fact that TFS never made it a big deal about me being female or treated me any different was also appreciated, and I always felt I was just as respected as the guys involved in the organisation. I always felt like just one of the guys!”

Dinjaski was quickly snapped-up by Yahoo7 after finishing her placement with The Football Sack, eventually finding her way to Nine’s Wide World of Sports via Fox Sports.

“It was a great way to build some practical work experience while I was still at university and to get a feel for what being a sports journalist would be like attending and covering games. I have no doubt that the experience I gained at TFS helped boost my CV compared to other newly graduated journalism students and made me more employable out of university. In addition to all this, most importantly, I’ve made good friends for life!!

“For an organisation that was born out of love, passion for sport and supporting other students and providing fresh content for sports lovers, it’s incredible what Christian, Jack and Matt and the rest of the original founders have achieved in the last 10 years. I’m very proud to be a small part of its history and to have witnessed how far they’ve come, continuing to provide opportunities for young people to get into media in 2020 and beyond!

Our first Television graduate

The sentiments Scott formed throughout his time during the program are echoed by Paddy Kilmurray.

Kilmurray had to grapple with the transition from being a young person with no responsibilities to dealing with deadlines.

“I really had to wrestle with being a young person who hadn’t been employed full time, even though the internship wasn’t that, there were those sorts of expectations,” he said.

“I learnt how to deal with deadlines and knowing that if I didn’t do what I needed I would be letting someone down. It taught me great values and gave me a great perspective on the game.

“The internship gave me a great start to acquiring the knowledge you can’t get in a classroom.”

After his time with The Football Sack, Kilmurray soon put the pen down to become a familiar face on television, becoming the sports anchor for Nine News on the Gold Coast.

Despite his time in television his time writing with The Football Sack gave Kilmurray the necessary skills needed for news reporters.

“I think print gives you a grounding that some other journalists don’t get,” he said.

“You get this grounding on how to better structure a sentence and have an active voice. Most things on TV besides live crosses are scripts, and so having that print experience, it makes things readable.”

Our first Radio Graduate

The jump from print and digital journalism to other mediums within football journalism happens more than you might think.

James Clark was paired Brisbane Roar during his time at The Football Sack for the 2014/15 A-League season. Not only was Clark the first The Football Sack graduate to make the jump from print to radio, he was also the organisation’s first mature-age graduate: having decided to change careers.

Despite the initial difficulty of making the move over to radio, the decision is one Clark is happy he made.

“It was pretty difficult as I was still working in my day job like many The Football Sack graduates,” he said.

“I volunteered to do some casual producing work with the aim of learning more and getting a taste of on-air and then got a gig as well as previewing and reviewing the A-League and EPL I worked Breakfast Radio AND a day job for over a year until I was offered the producer role full time at RadioTAB.”

He is currently producing the RadioTAB Breakfast Sports and Racing Show that is broadcast to about 90 stations around the country.

The Football Sack fostered a sense of community and friendship for Clark. The memories and friendships he formed have lasted until today.

“The industry, particularly football, is very encouraging and welcoming no matter how big the personalities are,” he said.

“The awards night in Sydney was a blast at the table with all The Football Sack crew and also recording a World Cup Podcast at Arrivederci Pizzeria. Christian is still mopping up the jug of beer off the table.”

Our first graduate

Everything has to start somewhere, and the first of many graduates for The Football Sack was Nick Houghton. Though his introduction to the program was far from orthodox.

“Joining The Football Sack was a handshake deal done in the Suncorp Stadium press box while eating free party pies at the 2011 A-League Grand Final,” said Houghton.

“I was doing an internship through university with the Brisbane Roar and I happened to come across Christian Layland who was at a lot of W-League games. After a while, myself and Michelle Tobin (who was one of Roar’s media assistants) were wondering who the hell this guy was and what he was doing.

“So I went and had a chat with him and it sort of went from there. I needed extra hours to complete my internship at uni and Christian said ‘Sure, come write for us during the Brisbane Premier League.’”

Houghton didn’t have to wait long until he was picked-up for full time work, getting his first paid gig at the Coffs Coast Advocate before eventually moving to Sydney and finding his way to SBS The World Game.

“The Football Sack has had a massive impact on my career: every job I’ve had has been in some way because of The Football Sack but it’s also been the people. I’ve made some of my closest friends through The Football Sack, either directly or indirectly.

“Even moving down to Sydney from Brisbane, if it wasn’t for The Football Sack it would have been incredibly difficult. They helped provide me with my support network early on, they were the only people that I knew when I first moved down here and I’ve gone on to create some brilliant friendships.

Our first returning graduate

Luke Robbs joined The Football Sack in 2014 to cover the Newcastle Jets. Little did he know that after cutting his teeth with a regional newspaper, he would return two years later to take the role as editor and guide new crops of interns through the same path he took.

“I was very proud to be the first TFS graduate to take on the position of editor. I owed so much of what I had to the The Football Sack program that it seemed only right to give some back,” said Robbs.

“More importantly I knew how much of a difference it would make to the writers in terms of progressing their writing and their career. It was really rewarding watching the writers go from writing rudimentary play-by-plays to concise punchy articles which look not just at the match they covered by what it meant for the overall picture.

“What I didn’t expect was how much joy and pride I would get out of it when I got the call from our writers to say that The Football Sack had helped them score their dream gig.”

Robbs’ trailblazing path started a tradition that has no yet to be broke. Every editor since Robbs has also been The Football Sack alumni.

“I can understate how important TFS is to developing writers. I can categorically say everything I got to do in journalism can be boiled back down to getting a The Football Sack internship and what I learned from being in the program.

“It has even further reaching benefits than just getting people jobs, the skills learned with The Football Sack mean that not only is the writing improving for the individual but every graduate that comes out of the program helps lift the standard of the writing industry itself.”

Our first New Zealand graduate

Just like A-League expansion, The Football Sack was bound to grow and Kirsty Lawrence was the first graduate from New Zealand, covering Wellington Phoenix in 2013 before being picked-up by Fairfax at the end of her internship (she now works for media agency, Stuff).

“Being the first The Football Sack graduate from New Zealand was a really cool experience. It was tough being first because there was no example to follow, but equally it meant I got to set the tone for how I approached the season and how I covered the New Zealand team. It also gave me something that made me stand out when applying for jobs.

“When I look back on my experience in the TFS program I feel really grateful I got the opportunity to be involved. It taught me so much about sticking to deadlines, conducting player interviews and player profiles and covering matches in a quick and timely fashion. It was also my first experience of attending a press conference, which was great exposure early in my career.

“Doing this program exposed me to a manner of covering sport that a lot of reporters never experience, unless they are dedicated sports reporters, and makes me a more versatile general news reporter. It equipped me with invaluable skills that made heading into my first general reporter job much easier and meant I got to take up opportunities I might not have been offered otherwise. This included covering the Football Ferns game when they came to Taupō instead of our sports department sending a designated sports reporter.

To the future

Throughout the years The Football Sack has been proud to have graduates that have taken any opportunities they can find and make the most of them.

Here is to another ten years of welcoming The Football Sack interns.

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