Essendon facilities manager Mark Lanham has been rewarded for his selfless and tireless contribution to the club’s VFL and VFLW teams, named the Ann Rulton Volunteer of the Year (VFLW).
Lanham, who has served at the Bombers for over 10 years, earned the honour at tonight’s 2021 VFL and VFLW Awards, with the award celebrating the best volunteer across both leagues.
The much-loved Lanham was recognised for his work with the Bombers’ VFLW program in particular.
Having volunteered in a property role with the VFLW Bombers since their inception in 2018, Lanham has played a pivotal part behind the scenes in the team’s rise to a maiden finals berth this season.
He said he was honoured to work with colleagues he adores.
“I’m overwhelmed [to win the award]. It’s a real honour,” Lanham said.
“I’m so passionate about this VFLW program. I love working for the girls and being there every week. It’s just a pleasure to be around them and the staff are fantastic as well.
“[I’ve enjoyed] helping the VFL boys as well throughout the year, packing the van and getting stuff ready for [head of VFL and community Bernard Shepheard] ‘Shep’ in what was a pretty tough year for them with everything that went on. Even for us in the VFLW with the stop-start season, it was pretty hard.
“It’s about the people. The people here are just amazing and really good to me. The club have been fantastic to me. They’ve looked after me. I love what I do. Sometimes it’s hard coming in when there’s flooding going on [at the NEC Hangar] years ago and the CEO rings me at six o’clock on a Saturday morning.
“I only play a small part in the VFLW. We’re a great team, we work so well together, there are no egos, and everyone does what they’ve got to do. That’s what I love about it, and that’s what makes you keep coming back every day to work; to see these great people.”
VFLW operations manager Charlotte Miller, who nominated Lanham for the award on behalf of the club, said Lanham was a heart-and-soul figure within the team.
“He’s such a pivotal part of our game day, and he’s there every week without fail,” Miller said.
“He packs the truck, brings it to the ground, sets up, waits until after the game and packs up. It’s a long day for property staff, longer than anyone else involved in the team.
“He takes such pride in his work and always goes above and beyond to make sure everything is good as it can be for the girls, even though sometimes we’re not in great changerooms or we’re in places that are difficult.
“He’s such an amazing team person to have within the VFLW group. The players just love him because he’s always there when they need him. He’s a great supporter of the team and really passionate about them playing football. He loves seeing them do well and is really supportive when they’re struggling. He’s someone who has meshed into the team. Everyone knows who is, what he does, and love having him around.”
Lanham was one of three within Essendon’s VFLW program recognised for their year, with captain Georgia Nanscawen winning the league best and fairest and named captain of the rebel VFLW Team of the Year, and young star Alana Barba also selected in the team of the year.