The Western Sydney Wanderers brand is all about realising home grown talent but it is not always limited to on-field prowess.While the playing group have been scaling heights and winning admirers over the past two seasons, a group of devoted fans have taken a leaf out of the Asian Champions’ book.
Earlier this year the Around the Bloc podcast won their second consecutive Football Podcast of the Year (amateur) award at the annual Football Fans Down Under (FFDU) Awards.
The group of fans that began and joined the production’s journey so far have captivated audiences with their combination of passion and light-heartedness – traits reflective of the Western Sydney culture.
Michael Turner, Stephen Panuccio (Erebus), Brendan Kennedy (JAR), Josh Shepherd (Speccy), Ivan Amaro (Pistola) and newest addition Nick Koloski (Nova) make up the formidable line-up delivering mid-week entertainment to craving Wanderers fans.
It is a project whose intimate beginnings reflect those of the Wanderers franchise itself; delivering a channel where locals can express their football passion.
As founding member Michael Turner explains, it all began where most great ideas spark to life – the local pub.
“A lot of us would sit in the pub, talking hours upon hours about tactics and debating football,” says Turner.
“One time we had a recorder and we just started recording ourselves talking.
“The initial idea was being able to show our views to others and get them to share theirs, collaborating the ideas and thoughts of the fans.
“It was about being a voice for the Western Sydney people.”
And how the public has responded.
With weekly views tripling since their first year and guests such as Fox Sports’ own Adam Peacock and Mark Bosnich, the profile of the podcast is growing alongside that of the club.
Turner explains why they have been able to establish a real connection with the Wanderers fan base.
“The podcast team go to the games together, meet up together and we’ve known each other since the team started,” says Turner.
“There’s a lot of cohesion and chemistry.
“We are recording but a lot of the time it’s just sitting around talking, having a bit of banter - it’s not rehearsed.
“That was the goal from the beginning and that’s how it’s continuing to breed success.”
Beating off competition from Wellington Phoenix’s own supporter group podcast, ‘In the Zone’, as well as The A-League Show podcast, Around the Bloc’s second consecutive FFDU award is a success story built by the support of its community.
According to fellow podcaster Stephen Panuccio, Western Sydney’s longing for a football team was always going to culminate in a loyal following – as long as the right principles were in place.
“It was already the heartland of Australian football, all we needed was a team,” says Panuccio.
“Football Federation Australia was smart to engage in fan forums and actually ask the people what they wanted. They listened and acted from the feedback.
“Now whenever anything Wanderers-related happens, the fans just jump on it and support it and that’s what they’ve
done with us.
“We’ve tried to be inclusive to all fans and engage the audience all the time, talking as the voice of the fans of Western Sydney Wanderers.”
With a mixed bag of ethnic backgrounds, overseas football allegiances and a common love for fine cuisine, it is no surprise the Around the Bloc team have been able to relate with their fellow Red & Black army.
“When I talk to new listeners, I tell them to just pretend they’re at the pub pre or post-game and enjoy it,” says Panuccio.
“Because that’s what it is, we’re just sitting around a table and it’s not too formal.
“We don’t want to sugar coat anything. We want to be unbiased, tell things as they are and not shy away from controversial topics.”
Safe to say, Around the Bloc represents the passion of its followers, straight from Brendan Kennedy’s carefully scripted award acceptance speech – “this thing we do for a lot of love and no money and will continue to do for many A-League seasons to come.”
Follow them on Twitter (@ATBWSW) or search for them on Facebook