Benny Roche is used to overcoming challenges.
And this season he will look to overcome some new ones during his first season as club president at Byron Bay FC.
The Pararoos captain joined the club in 2020 having moved to Lennox Head about a decade ago. Roche played with a couple of local clubs before a group of friends convinced him to join Byron Bay FC.
Roche spent a lot of time at the club not only playing but volunteering in an unofficial capacity. It was from there that he was asked to lead from the front.
“Byron Bay ticked all the boxes in terms of having that community feel, that inclusive feel as a club where there are opportunities for everyone. It’s a diverse sort of club which is nice,” Roche said.
“In terms of the president role, I was slowing down the travel with my work with Football Australia and saw it as a good opportunity to try my hand at something new.
“If I can have a small impact going forward then I’ll be really happy.”
Roche’s children, nine-year-old Quinn and five-year-old Lennon also play at the club. That saw him initially volunteer his time helping with match day set up and pack down for MiniRoos and junior football.
After helping the club with fundraising activities to get their plans for a new clubhouse off the ground, the committee approached Roche to become president.
Roche said clubs were always on the lookout for more volunteers, whether that be in an official or unofficial capacity.
“I find it really rewarding. Seeing people enjoy the game and have access to the game, if I can do the little things behind the scenes to help people do that then that is really rewarding for me,” Roche said.
“I think it’s really important to have that sense of community. We’re a unique town with quite a broad range of people. We have an opportunity to create a place for people to come together.
“For those that maybe haven’t been involved in a community club before they sometimes don’t realise what goes on behind the scenes. People on committees and volunteers put so much time, effort and love into clubs. Clubs just wouldn’t run without them.
“It’s a thankless job for a lot of them. It’s important to understand and celebrate the impact they have. Clubs will always be grateful for people who come forward and put their hand up to help out.”
It promises to be an exciting year for Byron Bay FC on and off the pitch, with the club hoping to raise $350,000 to go towards building a new clubhouse.
The club hope to have the facility open in time for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, with the venue to become a hub for the football community to get together and watch matches.
“We’ve got some pretty ambitious goals on and off the field,” Roche said.
“We’re looking to hit our fundraising target for the clubhouse to go with grants we’ve already acquired so we can start the build on that. Right now we’ve upgraded our changerooms so they are female friendly which is great but we don’t have a community space that we can utilise to host functions or events and bring the football community together. It’ll be great to have something we can share with the rest of the community as well.
“And obviously we want to be a success on the field too. Obviously winning is important but more importantly we want to create an environment that players return to.”
As well as his playing and president duties with Byron Bay FC, Roche will head to Barcelona in April to lead the Pararoos at the IFCPF World Cup.
Born with Cerebral Palsy, Roche made his Pararoos debut against Japan in 2005 and has since gone on to earn 54 caps, scoring 30 goals.
And the 33-year-old captain said it was hopefully full steam ahead to Spain pending the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hopefully we will go into camp toward the end of February. It’ll be the first time seeing the squad since July last year,” Roche said.
“We’re back into training now. I’ll see how long I can kick on for. We’ve been waiting to get back into it for a while.
“The World Cup is the top 16 ranked teams and we are 10th. So we really want to push to finish in the top eight against some more professional outfits who are really well funded.
“But we’ve got a good group and we’re really excited.”
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