AFLW Specialist Coach James Debono has received the honour of being moved from the rank of Sergeant to the rank of Warrant Officer in a presentation by Dave Smith, the Chair of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Australian Rules Association.

In a ceremony held at the Holden Centre, Debono was recognised for both his past performance and potential for the future.

Debono progressed through the ranks from Corporal through to Sergeant, before being presented with his Warrant last week.

This senior soldier rank in the Australian Army is typically reached after about 18 years of outstanding service.

“It’s extremely special to be here tonight, and for the group to witness something that not everyone gets to,” Debono said upon receiving the honour.

“With a couple of girls sitting in the room that have endeavours to be a part of the ADF, you have a small inkling to what this all means.”

Since coming on board with the club, Debono has been a major asset to the group by integrating his military experience into the AFLW training environment, in a position made possible as part of a full-time secondment between the club and the ADF.

Collingwood and the ADF are leading the way with the unique shared pathway between the two organisations.

Debono has brought a unique blend of AFL knowledge and foundational skills including communication, adaptability and teamwork, that are essential in battle and on the football field.

Debono has over 18 years of experience in the Australian Army, seven of those as the head coach of the Australian Army AFL side. 

Following the presentation, Debono gifted his slouch hat to the club – a possession he has owned for 19 years.

“It’s resting place will be here, with the Collingwood Football Club and the AFLW program.”

Debono will continue to support the program until his secondment with the club concludes after the Christmas break.