Prime Minister, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, and club representatives.
Co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of the AFL, Richard Marles and Steve Irons.
Friends and Colleagues.
Thank you for making the journey to Canberra at a time when some of you are worrying about getting players up for finals – and the rest of you are worrying about what the players will get up to on Mad Monday.
It’s good to see Gary Pert here.
Gary had an extraordinary career, Fitzroy team of the century, All-Australian and a Collingwood star.
The main reason I mention Gary is because I want to talk about myself.
Before Gary made the move across from Fitzroy to Collingwood, I was already taking to the field at Victoria Park most Saturdays– as a ground attendant.
It was 1990 – so I guess you could say I was a Premiership ground attendant.
It was low paid, minimum wage and in my case – highly unskilled labour.
I suppose you could call us ‘the front line’ – I think the police thought of us as more like a ‘human shield’.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a diehard Collingwood man.
That 1990 side – with Tony Shaw, Darren Milane, Micky McGuane – it was like watching a cavalry charge down the wing.
But there were plenty of times at Victoria Park, if the Pies were having a tough day – and the umpires were getting it wrong…you could just feel the terraces shaking.
The hardest bit was always the gap between the first siren, when the game ended – and the second siren when people were allowed onto the ground.
I’d be there, standing on the ground, with nothing but my blue coat and AFL badge to protect me – and there’d be blokes, looking a bit like extras out of Mad Max, in the crowd with their wrap-around servo sunnies and handlebar mo’s yelling:
‘We’re coming through you mate!’
And I used to think, ‘the chances of me being here when you run on are zero’
This has been another fantastic season for the game we love – right around Australia.
Buddy Franklin has well and truly got his swagger going for the Swans.
Crowds have packed the redeveloped Adelaide Oval.
The new indigenous-themed jumpers were a wonderful addition to Indigenous Round.
And who could forget the Pies stunning comeback on ANZAC Day?
It’s an old sporting cliché that ‘you only get out what you put in’.
But footy gives our nation, our communities, our people so much more than it takes.
From young hopefuls at 3,500 Auskick clinics around Australia, imitating the goal-kicking technique and the goal-celebrating technique of their heroes.
To the old blokes putting their hammy through one last test of optimism on a Sunday arvo.
We’re all caught up in the magic of football, of being part of a team, of savouring success that is all the sweeter because it is shared.
And for those of us who are mere spectators, there is nothing quite like the joy and despair, the ups and downs of a footy season.
And the AFL and it’s 804,000 members – and all the clubs - deserve credit for using their power, their influence, to support so many worthy causes and charities.
I congratulate Steve and Richard for establishing this group – the Parliamentary Friends of the AFL.
I think there is a lot of good we can achieve together, in the seasons and years ahead.
Thank you very much – Go Pies – in 2015 of course.
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