For the love of football, community, and Docklands

For the love of football, community, and Docklands

By David Schout

A Brazilian who has called Docklands home since 2007, Rafael Jabuonski, has taken up a key role in the newly-formed Docklands Sports Club (DSC) which he believes could be a game-changer for the local community.

In 2019, a call went out for local families to attend a junior soccer clinic at Ron Barassi Snr Park.

After a successful day, the City of Melbourne were eager to gather parents as volunteers to form a new sports club for the local area.

One of those was Rafael Jabuonski (full name Rafael Eurides Jabuonski Junior), who was keen to get his young son involved.

In short time, a core group of volunteers assigned roles and later that year the Docklands Sports Club launched.

For Rafael, or “Raf” to most, it was an easy decision to join, and he soon became the club’s vice president.

“I’m Brazilian, I love football, it’s the best sport in the world,” he said. “And I really like Docklands, basically, so for me when the opportunity came to do something for Docklands and marrying that together with my passion for the sport, it was a no-brainer.”

He said that while 2020 was “a bit of write-off” due to COVID-19, the club had witnessed strong numbers upon resuming activities late last year.

Currently, DSC provides junior soccer and cricket clinics and has ambitious growth plans at their NewQuay base.

“We always had a mentality and a strategy that we wanted to have a strong core of kids that will come back, so we’re doing everything we can to preserve that, because we think that will build community. And it’s proven to be the case. With the enrolments for the term coming up, the numbers are looking good.”

Rafael’s journey to Docklands in 2007 was a direct one.

Back then, his employer in Brazil was looking for volunteers who wanted to move abroad as part of a large technology project.

He put his hand up, and upon arriving in Melbourne decided to rent a room in the (then) recently-finished Conder building.

“I grew up in the city. I’ve never been a country person, I don’t have a dream of a house and a dog, so living here I see Docklands and think ‘this is what I’m used to’. Apartment living was what I was used to. I find the location great, the view beautiful. So, everything looked perfect to me at that time.”

Soon after, he bought his own apartment and remained in NewQuay where he lives with his young family.

“When I came here there were five buildings on this side, and not so many on the other side,” he said.

Having spent more than 13 years in the local area, he is well placed to ascertain both the area’s strengths and where it could improve.

“In a way it’s still hard to define Docklands for people that live in Melbourne. I think you either love it or hate it. And what I see is lots of attempts to improve it; some things work and some things don’t … I think it’s trying to find its place,” he said.

“I see Docklands is trying to find its identity, and trying to become something that’s more permanent, rather than a place that’s just specific or transactional. I’ve always observed that during the footy season, on game days then you have some people here. But they came for the game and then they leave, they don’t stay. Having the mall here and other things to do and reasons to be here, it becomes a little more of a destination.”

Rafael now works for Coles as a quality strategy manager, which he “loves”.

He said the supermarket giant’s role as an essential service through the worst of the pandemic was a fulfilling one professionally, knowing his work made a difference for people worried about stock levels and supply chains.

With a new term of sport (beginning on Sunday, February 7) on the horizon at DSC — and the new primary school offering opportunities for new members — he was looking forward to growing the club as a central part of the community.

“People felt there was no ‘local’ or place to go and hang out with friends or neighbours and I think now having the sports club, there’s nothing more community or local-oriented than that.”•

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