Pitch perfect: Olympic Park scoring goals for West Heidelberg

Facility upgrades are helping Heidelberg United Football Club reach new heights.

'Football is life.'

You might recognise the popular catch phrase from the hit TV show Ted Lasso.

For the hundreds of members of Heidelberg United Football Club (FC), the sentiment certainly rings true.

Just ask Helen Tyrikos, General Manager and life-long supporter of Heidelberg United FC.

'I've been around the club since I was 3,' said Helen.

'Dad is a supporter from way back, my aunt played on the inaugural women's team back in 1978, and my husband also played for the club,' she added.

Founded by Greek immigrants in 1958, what was a social group has grown into a respected National Premier League Club.

Operating out of the hallowed grounds of Olympic Park, the Warriors offer elite pathways for both men and women.

But, as rich as their history might be, it's the future that has the club most excited.

Thanks to extensive upgrades of Olympic Park, backed by $8.1 million from the Victorian Government, the Warriors are looking forward to growing their brand and welcoming more people to the world’s most popular sport.

A home fit for champions

Olympic Park Football ClubDelivered in 4 stages, the ongoing works at Olympic Park have already transformed the home of the Warriors.

A redevelopment of the main pitch installed drainage that supports year-round play and installed 500 lux lighting towers.

'The new drainage means we no longer have to cancel training due to wet weather, and can use the grounds year-round,' said Helen.

'Meanwhile, the lighting meets broadcasting standards which means we can host games that feature on Channel 10.'

'This is huge for the club, and builds a real sense of pride,' she added.

It's not just the senior athletes who have benefited.

Junior players now have access to a synthetic junior pitch and warm up area, complete with fencing and lighting.

'Before these upgrades, we were turning a lot of kids away, which was heartbreaking,' said Helen.

'Now, we can get more kids into elite pathways and make sure we are fostering the next generation of champions.'

Back to basics

But it’s not just elite athletes who will benefit.

Male football player kicking a ball

The final stages of the redevelopment will also deliver 2 new football pitches and a reconstruction of the existing cricket pitch.

Also on the docket are a new sporting pavilion, cricket practice nets, and an acrylic basketball and futsal area.

When complete, these upgrades will cement Olympic Park as the home for all things sport and recreation in West Heidelberg.

Most notably, for Helen and the Warriors, the new facilities will also provide a welcome opportunity to expand across all levels of football.

'We will have the space to cater to players of all skill levels, which will be fantastic,' said Helen.

'Heidelberg United FC started as a community organisation so it’s fitting that we use the Olympic Park redevelopment to embrace that role once again,' she added.

A more equal footing

The works at Olympic Park have also gone a long way towards putting the women's teams on equal footing with the men.

Importantly, the first stage of the redevelopment created 4 female-friendly change rooms in the Heidelberg United pavilion, as a first step towards achieving gender-equality at the grounds.

'The ability to offer change rooms that are welcoming to women and girls has made all the difference,' said Helen.

Female football player kicking a ball

'These are the sort of things the senior women consider when they are signing their contracts.'

'And, for the junior girls, it sends an important message that they matter as much as the boys,' she added.

This commitment to equality also extends to the main pitch, with the Warriors ensuring time is evenly distributed between male and female teams.

It's an approach that has clearly paid off.

The Warriors are mainstays in the Women's National Premier League, and former players Cortnee Vine and Kyra Cooney-Cross are in the Matildas squad for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

'Having facilities fit for women and girls has created a greater sense of professionalism for the Warriors, which is reflected on the pitch,' said Helen.

The upgrades have also put the club on the international stage.

FIFA selected Olympic Park as the training ground for the Canadian team during the World Cup, to the Warriors' delight.

'This created something tangible for our women and girls,' said Helen.

'They will be training on the same grounds as their role models. It will always remind them that those elite levels are attainable.'

With passion, skill and world-class facilities backing them up, it looks like Heidelberg United FC are ready to convert the whole community into Warriors.

Located on the lands of the Wurundjeri People, the Olympic Park redevelopment is being delivered in partnership with Banyule City Council. It has received funding from the Victorian Government’s Community Sport Infrastructure Fund – Female Friendly Facilities stream, Local Sports Grants and Community Sport Infrastructure Stimulus Program.

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