McLaren Mentor is the new Southern Zone Coach


Gianni Petrucci has been announced as the senior coach for the Southern Zone at the 2023 SA Country Football Championships in the Barossa Valley towns of Nuriootpa and Angaston on Saturday, July 8 and Sunday, July 9.

Having coached in both the Southern and Great Southern (GSFL) Leagues, and leading the GSFL to consecutive victories in the past two interleague June long-weekend matches, Petrucci is excited to continue his progression in coaching ranks.

Petrucci is the son of an Italian immigrant John Petrucci, who arrived in Australia as an eight-year-old, going on to play thirds football with Collingwood in the 1970s, before moving to McLaren Vale in South Australia.

His lad Gianni first played soccer, with his football journey starting at 13 at his foundation club McLaren, the team he would go on to coach to an A-grade premiership in 2022.

“I first started coaching the McLaren Senior Colts, when I was playing in the A’s,” Petrucci told

“I did that for three years.

“On playing side, I finished at 28 because of concussion issues.

“From there I had a couple of years as an assistant with the South Adelaide Under 18s program.

“My A-grade coaching career started at Reynella, winning flags against Morphetville Park in 2013 and against the Brighton Bombers in 2015.

“I had a season at Unley with the Double Blues in 2017.

“We won the Reserves title that year and from that Grand Final side I coached, five guys went on to get drafted in the AFL.

“They were defender Brandon Zerk-Thatcher to Essendon, Callum Coleman-Jones to Richmond and now North Melbourne, Charlie Ballard, who is doing great things at the Gold Coast and Mitch Crowden, who was on the Fremantle list.

“The fifth was Jordan Houlahan to the Bombers as well.

“I was also Martin Mattner’s bench coach for the League side, and I can vividly remember late in the final quarter of that (league) Grand Final screaming from the boundary at the players to get back into defence.”

Gianni Petrucci (right) holds the 2017 SANFL reserves premiership cup aloft with Sturt captain Henry Voigt. Picture – Peter Argent

That season decider Sturt won a “War of Attrition” where over 250 tackles were laid by the smallest of margins in front of nearly 40,000 people, kicking 8.8 (56) to Port Adelaide’s 8.7 (55).

“With a young family and having kids starting to play their own sport, I returned to my home club, McLaren in 2018,” Petrucci recalled.

“The club’s A grade had won just six games across the previous three seasons.

“We made it into the Grand Final that year, but ran into an accomplished Langhorne Creek outfit, which included Ben Warren (two time Norwood premiership player and 2014 title winning league coach), James Sellar, Jarrod Kellock and Lachie McGregor amongst their side.

“Then a 15-year-old, and now Sydney Swans listed AFL player Matthew Roberts played against us in that Grand Final.

“We (McLaren FC) have been around the mark since, including a couple of losing Preliminary Finals, before the 2022 victory over Willunga in the Grand Final.”

A school teacher by trade, currently at Cardijn College’s Marcellin Campus in Christie Downs, Petrucci was assistant coach in the Southern Zone program at Whyalla last year, now is the man calling the shots in 2023.

His two assistant coaches in the navy and white in the Barossa Valley are Ray O’Donnell from the Cove Football Club and Petrucci’s right hand man at McLaren, Andrew Cook.

Over past two decades since 2003, the Southern Zone have been one of the most prolific winners of the Men’s championships, collecting nine titles – 2003, 04, 05, 07, 09, 10, 12, 15 and ’21.

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