Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Corio Electorate: Football
September is a fantastic time to be alive, and particularly when your football team is winning. It is fair to say that in Geelong after the events of Friday night when Geelong overcame Hawthorn, our arch nemesis, footie fever has overtaken our town and that will only be enhanced by the events of last night, as Patrick Dangerfield was announced the AFL's MVP and the winner of the Leigh Matthews award. It is a far cry from following the Geelong Football Club in the 1970s, when we would struggle along to perhaps win two or three games a year. Right now, we are undoubtedly living through our golden age. And as every day passes during this September we are watching our town being painted blue and white evermore.
Other than footy, there is no other social phenomenon in Geelong, in my electorate, that so unites the community. It is a fantastic sport to watch, of course, but it absolutely is the embodiment of our community spirit. You cannot be in Geelong right now without understanding that footy deeply matters.
But the Geelong Football Club is connected to a much bigger football community—community football—which is played across all levels and ranks. Tom Ruggles, who is playing in the senior AFL team, was playing for the Leopold senior team just a couple of years ago. And, of course, Jimmy Bartel—a Norm Smith medallist, Brownlow medallist, 300 game player and triple premiership player—came up through the ranks playing at Bell Park. Jimmy's life is instructive because what he shows us is that footy is something that makes people better. Right now, Jimmy Bartel is engaged in a campaign against domestic violence. His full-growth beard, which is capturing attention, is his way of bringing to light this particular blight within our society and the need to do something about it.
It is not just at Bell Park and it is not just great footballers like Jimmy Bartel. At North Geelong we have Jason Habib, the president of North Geelong, who has talked about a young Sudanese player called Titit Nyak. He said, 'He came to us and hadn't played a game of footy ever before—so we as a club took him under our wings.' He is now, at the age of 17, playing in the Geelong Falcons. Dale Purcell, the president of North Shore—another great club with a great pedigree—talks about the club providing father figures and guidance to kids in need.
But the footy clubs of the northern suburbs of Geelong are doing it tough. So today I want to announce that, along with John Eren, the state Minister for Sport and also the member for Lara, which covers the north of Geelong, I will be holding a forum in coming weeks with the sporting clubs of the north to work out ways in which we can encourage greater sponsorship of those clubs so that football can continue to play the role it does within our community and make people better.