Coaches Put Under The Microscope
THE CASTLEMAINE Football Club will introduce mandatory
police checks on all junior coaches.
The decision follows a former local sporting coach being
found guilty of molested 23 young boys.
Robert James O'Neill, 60, was last week sentenced to 15
years and two months jail for offences which he committed
as a football and basketball trainer in Castlemaine,
between 1972 and 1996.
Yesterday, Castlemaine Football Club, one of a number of
clubs O'Neill was previously involved with, announced it
would introduce compulsory police checks on all prospective
junior coaches and assistants.
The club has also implemented strategies to inform players
of its child protection policy and reporting procedures.
Vice-president Maurie Crooke said the police checks would
be introduced in 2005 for those undertaking a direct coaching
role in both the football and netball club.
Mr Crooke said while none of the present committee were
involved in the club at the time of O'Neill's presence,
there was an obligation to help ensure the protection of
"We can't be responsible for his actions, but now we are
there we will do all we can to ensure young people are in a
safe, healthy and secure environment." There will be none of
this business about growing up with it (sexual abuse) and
coming out about it many years later - there's has got to be
an avenue for young people to report it." The proactive
measure has been welcomed by sporting authorities as well
as the region's Centre Against Sexual Assault.
CASA specialist children's counsellor for the Loddon
Campaspe region Andie Holland said the move was an important
step in helping keep children safe from sexual abuse.
"They are setting a precedent which I think every sports
group should follow," she said.
"People who are planning to offend against children set
themselves up in trusted positions - such as the sports
coach, where they have access to children.
"This is a fantastic preventative measure which would
hopefully make people think twice." Sports Focus Loddon
Campaspe programs manager Shelley Mulqueen said she
expected police checks within junior sporting clubs would
become a growing practice.
"The cost is an issue for clubs, but in terms of risk
management, it is the only way forward," she said.
"Sporting clubs are the hub of communities in small towns
and we would like them to be considered safe places." A
state government spokesman said while Netball Victoria
had police checks in place, the move by Castlemaine Football
Club could be a first in terms of football clubs.