*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***
I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, I pay my respects to elders past and present.
To lovers of AFL, welcome back to the Australian parliament.
I have to make a confession, it’s been a day for these things.
I was playing back pocket at St Mary’s East Malvern Under 11s, the boys of the blue triangle, when I realised I wasn’t going to make it as a professional footballer.
Whenever I got to where the ball was, it just stayed ahead of me the whole time.
I was reminded of that this year, when the stars of the AFL Womens comp were visiting parliament - and that’s been something to celebrate, 500 new teams this year, remarkable.
Anyway, I was watching Richard Di Natale who was a very handy VFA player back in the day, effortlessly move the ball around and I thought I’d casually fire off a few handballs, no big deal.
For those of you who missed it, which was probably most of you, I was pretty happy with my work, could have been a Polly Farmer footy card.
That was, until I saw the footage on the news. Those cameras are always on.
It turns out I was concentrating so hard on hitting the target, my tongue was sticking out the whole time. Dan Hanneberry can pull it off – I cannot.
Not much of what we do up here actually filters down to primary and secondary school, thankfully, but my daughter did actually see this particular bit of footage.
She asked me what I was doing…and I couldn’t really explain. So I just said that’s why Daddy went on to be a champion chess player.
But despite all of that, tonight I get to do something every supporter and player wishes to do, hold a premiership cup.
And it’s genuinely impossible to know who’ll be holding it on the last Saturday in September.
This season has actually made politics look boring and predictable, with the odd exception.
I can’t remember a year when footy has been more exciting to watch, or more difficult to tip.
I’ve always followed a simple formula in my tipping, I back the favourites and Collingwood - and it’s been a bad year for both actually.
I freely admit – and a bit of bipartisanship helps – I freely admit the Prime Minister knows a lot about Sydney real estate, he’s a dab hand at the Constitution.
But I have to say, I never thought I’d see the day when Malcolm was ahead of me in the footy tipping. Forget the polls, the tipping.
Even though the Pies haven’t had the year they wanted, I’m not going to be buying into the debate about the coach.
Firstly, as I’ve said ever since I became Opposition Leader – if the team is struggling, it’s not about the leader.
And secondly, I remember a couple of years ago when Tony Abbott came out very strongly and backed Mick Malthouse, Mick was sacked about 25 minutes later.
So it’s probably best for Bucks that I stay out of it.
Speaking of the kiss of death, we lost a legend this year.
Captaining a premiership, 250 games and kicking 400-odd goals, these are extraordinary achievements in themselves.
But Lou Richards’ on-field performance pales in comparison to what he did for football.
So much of the humour and excitement in the lives of our fans, owes a lot to Lou and his pioneering work in footy media.
And in that spirit, I want to acknowledge the passing of Harry Beitzel today – he was a good umpire who became a great commentator for 3AW.
People like Lou and Harry showed us that while football is a serious business indeed – at the end, it should be about joy and it should be about
It should be about being willing to see the funny side of difficult times.
So in conclusion, I want to thank the AFL for everything it does to promote respect, to promote inclusion and celebrate the diversity and difference that makes this country such a special place.
And while we’re talking about ‘different’ – how good was the Dees supporter who brought his own cheese platter and smashed avocado to yesterday’s game.
It’s been a season of surprises:
- Richmond aren’t going to finish 9th.
- Hawthorn are going to miss the finals.
- And like Trent Croad and Shane Savage, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia is actually a New Zealander
- But amongst all of this, Melbourne supporters never change.
Thanks everyone, enjoy September.