Thursday, 3 December 2015
Koo Wee Rup Football Club, Road Safety
Today in the first part of my address I am going to celebrate and then in the second part I am going to recriminate. I am celebrating country sport in the first instance. Because of my inability to maintain my fitness at the highest level I was not part of two grand finals in my time with the Koo Wee Rup Football Club. A few weeks ago I found a photograph of a whole lot of former Koo Wee Rup footballers, some of them of my vintage—players and supporters of the Koo Wee Rup Football Club premiership golden area—who gathered at the Royal Hotel, Koo Wee Rup recently to celebrate the 70th birthday of their coach, John McKenzie, who led them to grand final glory in 1979 and 1981.
Teammates helped John relive a period when the Demons were a force in the now defunct West Gippsland Football League and families such as the O'Hehirs—who were at the Pakenham races the other day—the Ingrams and the Dwyers produced a string of star players. During the celebrations, stories of some of the torrid clashes with neighbouring clubs such as Nar Nar Goon, Pakenham and Garfield were relived and possibly slightly embellished.
John, who now resides in Queensland, told the gathering that he was honoured to coach the Demons, but equally important were the many lifelong friendships he made during his term. He further stated that his coaching philosophy was fairly simple—control the ball more than the opposition and be prepared to run all day. Many of his players vividly remember McKenzie's training runs from Koo Wee Rup to Bayles and back home again. Back then they thought he was losing the plot, but his method produced two flags in 1979 and 1981 and runner-up in 1980 and is now used by many AFL clubs. John still follows his Demons online via the Pakenham Gazette and looks forward to seeing the Koo Wee Rup Football Club back as a force in the EDFL. He is particularly interested in where they will be playing football following the current restructure of local football by AFL Gippsland, which is planned for season 2017.
The recrimination is this: while we celebrate those years, the death toll in Victoria in those same years from car accidents was 1,091 people. That was the year we had just begun to bring in parts for car seatbelts and a reduction in the amount of alcohol that a driver can consume. We were going to bring the toll down. On the weekend, I was thinking of the 233 deaths so far on Victorian roads. That does not account for the thousands that will be completely impaired for life from a motor accident or from being part of a motor accident.
This is important to me because at this time of the year some 50 years ago I was in an after-school accident and my best friend died. I have been physically impaired, though not noticeably, I hope, for all of my life since that time. That loss destroyed lives, families, careers and futures. My loss was the loss of a friend who was a brilliant hockey player, academically very good, and someone who would have made a fantastic contribution to this nation—Adrian Webb.
In that 233 road toll, how many hopes and dreams have been destroyed? How many people will die in car accidents today, tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next? How many 50-year-olds on motorbikes will die? There was an accident the other day that was just read out on the eight o'clock or the nine o'clock news and they then just moved on to another story. Yet there is a whole family devastated—three families, four families, five families. If we lose them in a bushfire, we race in to help. If we lose them in a terrorist attack, it consumes us for days. But here we have in Victoria, 233 people killed in one year—and the year is not finished.
I know there are people who have the idea that people in Bendigo and throughout Gippsland will still be there after Christmas, that the children will still be there after Christmas. What I would love would be a nil toll; for them to announce that in the Christmas period in Gippsland nobody died in a road accident.