Wānaka AFC is a thriving football club based in the Central Otago region. The club has 550 members across Juniors, Youth and Seniors. 

We take pride in being a local community club for everyone, catering to all ages, stages and abilities from the age of 5+ years. Wānaka AFC also offers a development pathway for aspirational young players through The Academy at Wānaka AFC. 

Check us out on Facebook and Instagram where we post regular updates, photos and videos! 

Our Team

Ben Sippola

We have recently welcomed Ben Sippola on board as the Director of Football for Wānaka AFC and the Technical Director of the newly established Academy. We are incredibly fortunate to have a football professional of Ben’s calibre working in the Wānaka community.

Originally from the USA, Ben honed his skills as a player at Butler University (NCAA Division 1), earning 1st Team All-American and All-Academic honours, before embarking on a professional playing career in the USA's Major League Soccer, then in Scandanavia.

Ben is an OFC/NZF B-License accredited coach with almost 10 years of coaching experience in the New Zealand football landscape. As the former Technical Director of Olé Football Academy and Head Coach of Western Suburbs FC, Ben oversaw the coaching, football education, methodology, training programmes and welfare of hundreds of young players across multiple regions of New Zealand. He has played a key role in helping develop numerous professional footballers, US University athletes and NZ National Team players. Ben has relationships with a multitude of clubs and academy environments around New Zealand and the World.

Ben served as the CEO and Technical Director of Olé Football Academy in Wellington for 9 years. Here, he carefully crafted and developed a distinct coaching style, football philosophy and methodology all while building Olé Football Academy into a youth football development powerhouse. Ben simultaneously steered the Western Suburbs FC First Team as Head Coach, winning a Central League title, qualifying for and competing in the NZ National League and taking the team to a Chatham Cup semi-final. These teams, competing at the highest levels of New Zealand Football, were always, on average, the youngest teams in the country.

Email Ben

Thomas van Hees

With a sport management degree, over 20 years of playing, and nearly 10 years of coaching experience, Thomas is a highly qualified professional in the New Zealand football landscape.

During his playing career in the Netherlands, Thomas had the privilege of playing with players who have played for over a decade in the Dutch Eredivisie and has been coached by UEFA A licensed coaches.

Inspired by his own coaches, he started paying it forward by coaching a junior football team at his local club in the Netherlands. 18 years after that first experience, Thomas has coached juniors & youth in

New Zealand. In New Zealand Thomas has been involved with the Southern United Academy, Central Otago Academy, Olé Football Academy and now The Academy at Wānaka AFC. Thomas has also worked as a Football Development Officer for Southern Football. Delivering Skill Centres and skill stations for the whole Central Otago region.

Thomas is proud to hold OFC/NZF accreditation as a community and advanced Coach Educator, further enhancing his ability to develop and mentor aspiring players and coaches. In addition, Thomas is OFC/NZF B-Licence accredited and looks forward to becoming an A-Licence coach in the future. His diverse coaching background and expertise make him a valuable asset to The Academy at Wānaka AFC.

Email Thomas

Simone Sippola

Simone, the newly appointed Club Manager of Wānaka AFC, oversees day-to-day operations for the Club and Academy. Her responsibilities span communication, scheduling, social media and design, business development, logistics, and more.

With over a decade of experience, Simone has dedicated her career to working with children and youth in underserved communities through non-profit organisations, all within the realm of sport and active recreation. She spent five years with the Outward Bound Trust of NZ before establishing and leading a hugely successful girls' boxing academy in Porirua.

Previously, Simone served as the Director of Operations and Communications at Olé Football Academy, where she spent four years. Her deep connection to football includes playing for Wellington United’s Women’s First and Reserve Teams. Simone has Junior and Youth coaching accreditations and has experience coaching in various environments, particularly enjoying mentoring girls and young women.

Her contributions as a community leader have earned her notable recognition, such as being selected as one of 15 women for the Sport New Zealand Women in Leadership Programme and being named among the most influential women in Porirua. Additionally, she's served as a trustee for several community organisation boards and played a pivotal role in securing over $1 million in health funding to establish a Youth One Stop Shop health service in Porirua.

You'll often find Simone on the pitch, camera or phone in hand, capturing moments and elevating the profile of Wānaka AFC club, Academy, and the broader community.

Email Simone

Josh Shackleton

Josh is the goalkeeper coach for The Academy at Wānaka AFC. Josh is also about to play his fourth season as the Wānaka AFC First Team starting goalkeeper and is the Captain of the team. 

Originally from Auckland, Josh played for his boyhood club Papakura City FC from First Kicks at 5 years old, all the way through to the First Team. 

Josh has gained great experience as a goalkeeper coach in an academy environment over the last couple of years, and he's highly regarded by the local youth academy players. Being a senior player, he also adds value as a leader and mentor for our young academy players as they make the transition into the First Team environment. 

Not having access to goalkeeper-specific training as a young goalkeeper himself, Josh loves having the opportunity to offer this to aspiring goalkeepers now. He enjoys seeing players challenge themselves to get better, take on advice from training and put it into play. 

He's looking forward to coming on board with Ben and Thomas in 2024, and loves their drive and ambition to take Wānaka AFC and football to the next step in the area.

It's a privilege to have Josh on board to bolster The Academy team and offer this specialist training!

Wanaka AFC Committee

Thank you to all of the amazing volunteers who give up their time to be on our committee and contribute to our thriving football community here in Wānaka!


 Scott Evans



 Fiona Gibson



 Kirsty Schmutsch


 Committee Member  


 Rob Norman

 Committee Member 

 Girls Football

 Jessica Zeestraten

 Committee Member

 Senior Football

 Flynn Brown

 Committee Member

 Volunteer Coordinator

 Kate Le Brun

 Committee Member

 Digital Operations

 Ben Wisbey

 Committee Member

 Equipment & Infrastructure

 Brett Collins

 Committee Member

 Legal Advisor

 Andrew Lovelock