Tendai Mzungu is set to return to Fremantle in a new role as inaugural coach of the club’s Next Generation Academy.
The 31-year-old, who played 102 games for Fremantle before joining Greater Western Sydney for the 2017 season, will also be Freo’s team runner in 2018.
Through its Indigenous development region in the Kimberley and five metropolitan zones, the club is continuing to lay the foundations to grow the game for boys and girls of all skill levels, making communities stronger and giving talented players every chance to make their AFL dream a reality.
The academy, which is targeting Indigenous and multicultural talent, has already identified 10 players via the NGA program.
The 10 NGA inductees have also been approved by the AFL as potential future draft concessions.
Mzungu will play a key role in the development of these talented footballers and future inductees, with players receiving individual education and training relating to skill acquisition, diet, welfare and strength and conditioning.
During his tenure as NGA coach, Mzungu will also work closely with the players, with the possibility of them becoming academy selections in the future once eligible for the draft.
Mzungu, who has a BA in Sports Science and is completing a Diploma of Education, said he was looking forward to utilising his education background in the role.
“I’m doing a teaching degree at the moment that I’ll finish early next year,” Mzungu said.
“Teaching and coaching go hand in hand, so it all fits in with what I want to do and what I’m passionate about. Hopefully, I can import some skills and knowledge that I’ve acquired along the journey to be better for the role.”
A return to Fremantle made perfect sense for Mzungu, with his and fiancée Jessica Duncan’s families both based in Perth.
“I’m really excited to have this opportunity. I have some fond memories from my playing days at Fremantle and I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter in the working world,” Mzungu said.
“I’m sure a lot has changed even in a year. There are some great people at Fremantle and I’m excited to reacquaint myself with the place and see the brand new facility.
“It’s an exciting time for both my partner and I.”
Mzungu said he envisaged Fremantle’s Next Generation Academy producing AFL-calibre talent in the near future.
“It’s just started now but I know there are plenty of talented kids that the club has their eye on,” Mzungu said.
“My understanding is the role is only going to grow, so it’s great to be on board from the start.
“I’ve loved playing AFL football for the past seven years. I’m excited to get a new challenge and I’m really passionate about influencing the youth, so the role really fits that criteria.
“I’ll enjoy working with talented kids and giving them advice and guidance and support to hopefully, play AFL one day, much like I did.”
General manager of football operations Chris Bond said the club was delighted to have Mzungu back in the fold at Fremantle.
“Tendai has always been held in the highest regard by everyone at the club, not only for his resilience and endeavour as a player but as a quality person with great values and standards that he helped drive within the playing group,” Bond said.
“He is also elite when it comes to the levels of preparation and professionalism required to become an AFL player.
“We believe these qualities and more, including his enthusiasm for the role and teaching qualifications, made Tendai the standout candidate to be appointed as our NGA coach.”
Mzungu won Perth's best and fairest in the WAFL in 2010 before being drafted to Fremantle in a pre-draft trade with the Gold Coast Suns later that year.
The utility, who made his debut in round 9, 2011, went on to win the Beacon Award that season as the club’s best first year player and followed it up with the Best Clubman Award in 2012.
Mzungu played every game in the following two seasons, and had a key role in helping Fremantle reach the 2013 AFL Grand Final.
Known for his fitness and versatility throughout his 100-plus games for Fremantle, Mzungu was universally respected by his teammates and highly regarded for his contribution to the club both on and off the field.