Jason Williams chats to Port Adelaide players after an intraclub match. Picture: Matt Sampson/PAFC

THE PORT Adelaide office which new development coach Jason Williams shares with Chad Cornes is always bustling. 

"It's full of players pre and post training coming to say g'day and it's not tight and tense," Williams said. "Chad really lets me be me and if I've got an idea and want to do something at training then he's fully supportive of it, which is important as I'm able to bring things to the table as well."

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This season will be the start of Williams' coaching journey in the AFL but far from his beginning in the game. After a strong resume of playing in the VFL and also representing Vic Metro at junior level, Williams turned his hand to coaching.

He was a midfield coach with the Calder Cannons in Victoria's under-18s program, and an interim coach at the club in 2021, before moving to the Northern Bullants VFL side as midfield assistant. Then two years as head coach of Bacchus Marsh in western Victoria coincided with his stint as the AFL's Indigenous talent programs head coach, before he signed with the Power ahead of this pre-season.

His stint at Bacchus Marsh even saw him coach against rivals Darley, the club that produced Port superstar Zak Butters, where the midfielder was a senior premiership player in 2017.

"We weren't too great and he has let me know about it," Williams said. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 15: Cubs head coach Jason Williams looks on during the match between Fitzroy Cubs and Carlton VFL at Ikon Park on May 15, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos )

Williams, who at 30 is one of the youngest members of a coaching panel in the AFL, said his early months with the Power under coach Ken Hinkley have underlined his passion for the role.

"To be able to come in every day and work on myself so that when I'm with players face to face they're getting the best of me has been great. I've definitely loved working with the coaching staff, led by Ken, and it's a real values-based environment," he said. 

"You can tell Ken really cares about how people feel in it and because he cares naturally every other coach who's here cares.

"The step up itself has been really easy. The big difference between a full-time program and a part-time program is you've got people at part-time programs who want to be an AFL footballer but their ambition and their habits often don't and that feedback is difficult. But when you're in an AFL environment, people are seeking feedback from you constantly, they're happy to get it and they trust that what we're doing is going in the right direction."

Coaching wasn't always on Williams' radar. But after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in 2018, and with his hopes of making the top level fading, he eyed other opportunities. 

"I thought 'I've had a good crack at trying to play footy for a fair while now' and was lacking a bit of purpose because I hadn't achieved that," he said. 

"I went and volunteered at my local interleague under-19s program and from there fell in love with the process of working with the person to make them better and that gave me purpose in thinking of other people than myself. I really reflected on how lucky I had been as a footballer to show up to training and having your uniform folded up and there for you, having your boots cleaned. 

"The goal was never to get to the AFL – it was just to work with people and share in the joy that comes with that."

People are seeking feedback from you constantly, they're happy to get it and they trust that what we're doing is going in the right direction

- Jason Williams

With more experience he found further opportunities, including going overseas to do a study tour at Stanford University in California, where he spent time with current All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. 

"I was like 'This is the coach I want to be'. He was very, very clear in his decisions, understanding how he'll achieve what he wants and his mission is very, very clear as well," he said. 

He was the latest in a line of coaches Williams has worked with or played under, including Gary Ayres at Port Melbourne and also Mick Malthouse – who Williams formed a tight bond with during the filming of The Recruit football reality show in 2016. He continues Port's links with the show, having drafted the initial winner Johann Wagner and then appointing Michael Voss as an assistant after his stint as Recruit head coach. Three-time premiership coach Malthouse continues to be a mentor for Williams. 

"He has definitely shaped part of my journey. I worked with Mick on the Recruit and didn't know him before it but I am still able to pick up the phone and talk to Mick at any stage. When I was coaching at Bacchus Marsh he was checking results and messaging me after games just letting me know he was there supporting me, so Mick's been a big factor in my life since that time," he said. 

Jason Williams looks on during a Port Adelaide training session on the Gold Coast. Picture: Isabel Gawel/PAFC

Port Adelaide's proud history with Indigenous players – it has seven currently on its list – has extended off the field with 2004 premiership star Shaun Burgoyne re-joining the club at the end of 2021 and Williams' arrival as a Noongar man originally from Narrogin in Western Australia. As well as his development coaching and work with the Power's forwards, Williams' role at the club also entails overseeing Port's Next Generation Academy. 

He said he expected there to be more chances in coaching for Indigenous people and cited ex-Richmond and new North Melbourne assistant Xavier Clarke and former coach and player Michael McLean as important in his pathway.

"The more people you can have in your environment who are from a diverse background is going to make your environment better because we have different experiences, different backgrounds and can connect with more people. But I'm very, very big on having the best people for the best job," he said.