Ricky Olarenshaw - Footy In Bali

Just found this article on foxsports.com.au

Ricky Olarenshaw is now living in Bali and coaching the local team.

It’s a nice little read (imo)


On a slab of grass 20 minutes north of Seminyak, an assortment of footy-loving misfits train.

It’s hot and though there is not a cloud in the sky, it’s slippery as if it’s been raining. The Indonesian humidity is suffocating. The field is slightly larger than a soccer pitch. The posts at each end are made of bamboo.

Some of the men and women who are training are recovering ice addicts, others are from Canada, Finland, Ireland or the USA and some are locals who can’t speak English, let alone understand football jargon. They are lucky if they are wearing boots that fit.

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Round 1

It matters little. They all love football.

The Bali Geckos don’t play many games – maybe 10 per year – and they normally don’t train in December, which is the peak of Indonesia’s wet season.

But just before Christmas in 2018, head coach and 1993 premiership Bomber Ricky Olarenshaw received a text from Richmond superstar Dustin Martin, who was about to fly in from Melbourne.

Dusty was keen to strap on the boots for a session with the Geckos, a self-sufficient football club for men and women of all abilities, ages and backgrounds.

Christian Petracca and Dustin Martin were popular guests.Source: Supplied

Olarenshaw, who relocated to Bali in 2013 and has since married a local and opened three F45 studios, sent out a group message he knew would receive traction: ‘Dusty is in town, boys. We need to train.’

Carlton veteran Kade Simpson and Melbourne gun Christian Petracca also joined, leading to an influx of locals and expats converging on Finns Rec Club.

“The boys came from everywhere to kick with Dusty,” Olarenshaw tells foxfooty.com.au with obvious pride.

The 47-year-old has been coaching since 2015. He has introduced new Sherrins, whiteboards (with magnets) and even a game plan. He also plays, though his ageing calves forced him to buy new Hockey-like boots recently. They are called Grass Cats and were very popular among league footballers in the 1990s for pre-season training, when Olarenshaw was one of the competition’s brightest young pin-up boys.

Young Bulldog Aaron Naughton was a surprise guest.Source: Supplied

More recently, emerging Bulldog Aaron Naughton came for a kick and the Bali Geckos received a thankyou letter from the Western Bulldogs for keeping one of their star player’s in shape.

For 78 of his 83 AFL games for the Dons, Roos and Magpies, Olarenshaw wore No. 47. The left-footer always said he’d retire when he reaches his favourite number in age. But now he’s there, he’d like to get to 50.

“I just love being out there and you don’t lose that competitive spirit,” he says.

Ricky Olarenshaw has been Geckos coach for the past few years.Source: Supplied


During a 10-per-side scratch match at the end of training in early February, Olarenshaw tells his troops to avoid “shallow entries.” In all likelihood, half of them understand what he’s saying. The other half do not but nod their heads regardless.

“When I was appointed coach in 2015 I started to try and coach the club a semi-professional way,” Olarenshaw continues.

“A lot of it was about recruiting and participation. We needed guys who lived there and hadn’t played to get involved.

The Bali Geckos – where ‘every day is awesome’.Source: Supplied

“The club now has huge participation with the men and the women’s team was launched last year. They are called the ‘Pink Geckos’.

“We try to get a game every month, which is challenging because we have to travel to play. That requires funds. We also try to get clubs to come to us. We can’t really play more than 10 per side here.”


The captain of the Geckos is Perth-born local Jack Ahearn, who played junior representative cricket with Sydney Sixers opener Josh Phillipe and was a talented footballer in the winter. He’s a rangy midfielder with a razor-sharp turn of speed and just as dangerous aerially as he is at ground level.

But at the age of “about 14,” according to Olarenshaw, Ahearn got addicted to the drug ice. He was hooked for three years, his life spiralling out of control.

“Jack got put into rehab in Bali when he was 17 and he’s about 21 now,” says Olarenshaw, who is his unofficial mentor.

“He missed his whole junior career of footy and cricket. Now he works in the rehab centre in Bali and is our captain and reigning best and fairest. He came from almost prison, almost death, to turn around his entire life and footy has been a big part of that.”

Ahearn joined the Geckos as a lean teenager and is now the club’s most talented prospect. So talented that Bond University is flying him out for a fortnight at a time during the Australian winter to play for them. Olarenshaw is aiming to join him, but play in the reserves.

The Geckos, men’s and women’s teams.Source: Supplied

Ahearn is just one beneficiary of Olarenshaw’s guidance. It’s not too much of a stretch to suggest football has saved the 21-year-old’s life. One Aussie expat helper who doesn’t play openly told Olarenshaw recently if it wasn’t for the Geckos, he’d be dead.

“Both men’s and women’s teams have drug addicts who are recovering,” Olarenshaw says.

“Footy replaces a big hole that they’ve left in their life. Talent wise, we are very raw. We have guys who don’t know the rules and then guys like Jack Ahearn. They all have one thing in common: They love being part of the footy club and part of the network it provides.

“The women – who have a 9s tournament in October – want to learn and get better. It has given lots of people a friendship and a network because out of rehab they have probably broken some relationships across the journey.

“It’s been great to see their lives turn around and the enjoyment they get out of being around the club. For me, it’s like junior footy again. I love going there and training with these guys and girls.”

Recently, the Bali Pink Geckos have been formed.Source: Supplied


Later this year, the Bali Geckos will tour Sri Lanka. They will play football on Friday, cricket on Saturday, enjoy a long lunch on Sunday and then cricket again on Monday.

Recently, they took on Thailand at home, winning by five goals. Olarenshaw told his troops to make sure they are good hosts to the visitors so that more teams come in the future. But once the game started, there were no niceties.

Ten-per-side matches are full contact, but with abbreviated ‘Masters’ rules. Goals can only be registered from inside the 35m arc and it’s essentially ‘last touch’ for out of bounds.

Every year Olarenshaw chooses one destination where they’ve never played. Vietnam was stiflingly hot a few years ago, while the Geckos trip to Osaka in Japan made headlines thanks to Brian Lake in July 2018.

Ricky Olarenshaw’s still got it!Source: Supplied

“I organised the upcoming Sri Lanka tour through Brian Lara,” Olarenshaw says with a smile of a sports purist who watches six or more AFL games per week via the Watch AFL app and hardly missed a ball of the 2019 Ashes.

“I know Brian through my sports management days. I met him at a dinner in London and he invited me to come see Rhianna in concert in Barbados. We became good mates. I’m trying to lure him to Sri Lanka for the cricket trip but no luck yet!”


Olarenshaw has created an identifiable culture from almost scratch in Bali. With the help of president Greg Hinchliffe – who formed the club in 1997 – partaking in a training session for the Geckos has become a must-do for many current and former AFL stars on vacation.

Dane Swan was a popular guest.Source: Supplied

Their honour roll is headlined by Dusty, but also includes Dane Swan, Troy Luff, Heath Scotland, Aaron Edwards, Paul Williams, Brodie Holland, Max Gawn, Chad Fletcher, Dermott Brereton, Jordan De Goey, Nathan Jones, Jason McCartney, Steven Baker, Stephen Milne and Lake. Even Wayne Carey came for a training session a few years back.

As recent as 2014, Indonesia could not even fill a team in the 16-per-side Asian Championships. But in 2016 and 2017, they won back-to-back B-grade premierships.

Jordan De Goey had a kick with the Bali Geckos.Source: Supplied

Later this year, the International Cup is set to be held in Noosa. It’s a tournament held every three seasons somewhere in Australia and only Indonesian citizens are eligible to be selected for their country.

Olarenshaw is the coach and is working overtime to secure the funds required to make the trip. But it’s not easy.

“We have to raise our own funds – about $80,000 – to get there,” he says.

“Taking 25 people to Noosa for two weeks with no funding from the AFL is very hard. If we don’t go, it’s a massive hit for developing our country as a football nation.

The Bali Pink Geckos are going strong.Source: Supplied

“We are Australia’s closest neighbour with 400 million people and we don’t really have a national sport.

“I think the AFL needs to identify Indonesia as a place where the game can grow. In my view it’s an untapped resource.”


Olarenshaw himself couldn’t be happier. He barracks for the Bulldogs, despite playing for three other clubs. Doug Hawkins was his hero as a kid and this year Hawkins and Warwick Capper are due to visit — Hawkins for his 60th birthday and Capper to be part of the fun.

He has a wife and two children, prefers bare feet to runners and boasts a Bali glow that makes him question whether he ever wants to return to the Melbourne footy bubble, where he made his name as a player then agent and media personality.

“One of my grand plans is to get a full-size footy oval in Bali. That’s my dream and for it also to be a cricket oval,” he says.

Ricky Olarenshaw has been integral to the growth of footy in Bali.Source: Supplied

“The great thing about moving to Bali is I’ve made such great connections through footy with people I didn’t know. It’s been great to keep my networks in the AFL. I have got my passion back for footy back. I feel like I’m playing footy with Keilor again.

“We have a great footy club with amazing culture and a really welcoming vibe. Anyone can come along. And that’s why every day is awesome here.”


l wonder if it the Thailand Tigers they beat. Probably was. A sensational read. Go Ricky, go, Go Geckos!


My brother played for Geckos and won the comp in Asian championship a while ago with Ricky captain/coach. They all partied hard after that.

Have met Ricky and gone surfing over there with him. Super bloke.

Def living the life that’s for sure. Nice little businesses turning over plenty, beautiful family and surfing as he pleases throughout the day.


Great article - great bloke. Will see if I can find out when they’re heading to Noosa - just up the road & would love to go and watch. Would appreciate any news on the date & venue if anyone hears.

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Wonderful story, Swoods. Thanks kindly for sharing.

p.s. Takes me back to my short-lived run with the Tokyo Goannas around 15 years ago. Overseas expat footy is a sheetload of fun. Ended up with some great mates out of it.


Ricky has got it all!

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I played a season for the Munich Kangaroos, which was mostly intra-club practice followed by beer. We went to Frankfurt once to take on our “traditional rivals” (read … only rivals), the Frankfurt Eagles. They were mostly young fit German blokes kitted out in full Eagles gear courtesy of the generosity of the WCE, while we were older, not fitter, Aussie blokes kitted out in our own white t-shirts cos the Tin Rattlers couldn’t afford to send us Kangaroos guernseys.

Frankfurt were younger, fitter, stronger and more desperate to win but we ended up winning solely because we knew how to (occasionally) hit our targets.


l trained with the Thailand Tigers briefly about 2002. l wold have played for them but pulled the right quadricep training/kicking a heavy ball in the wet, typical of the Bangkok wet season.

Teams such as the China Blues and Hong Kong Dragons, used to love coming to Bkk to play the Tigers, as they were made more than welcome by the local fillies. Some of the efforts of the players and girls have now passed into local folklore. l am may be convinced into regaling some of the various exploits at the BBlitz BBQ.


No mention that Ricky O is one of the biggest massage parlour owners in Bali … where “massage” is not the main service offered

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If you go to Bali and need to visit a ‘massage’ establishment then I think it’s fair to say you’re one ugly ■■■■■■■■■■■■.

Ouch, CJ, and I hear ya. I tore my hammy (badly) 5 mins into my first game with the Goannas.

Enjoy the BBQ. Wish I were there to swap stories with ya. :wink:

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Still remember Rick’s first quarter in the 93 GF. Had it on a string.


He was the catalyst in the first quarter, he was the one more than anyone else that got the ball moving and rolling away.

Funny this line doesn’t rate a mention.
Even though he won a flag with us, obviously he didn’t leave on good terms.

I met him a few times back in the day. I think he was already a dogs fan, maybe even lived in the same street as Scott west?

Joe Misiti?

u will walk in with a sore back and walk out with a sore back but with a smile on your face


shared a back fence in Keilor until I moved up the road when I was 12


He came to my primary school when I was a kid had a kick of the footy with him

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yes I was Bulldogs fan as a kid, and then had a lot to do with the Bulldogs post AFL career. And yes when u change clubs a lot of bridges can be broken during the process then it is hard to barrack for them with any passion, particularly as I don’t really know any of the current players