Acknowledging the Volunteers

Monday, August 12, 2013

By Grant Williams
AFL Head of Development & General Manager AFL Victoria

Northern Blues General Manager Garry O’Sullivan uses the term “wonderful, wonderful people” to describe the volunteers at his club.

In the next breath O’Sullivan notes that the VFL Blues would not be able to function properly, if at all, without them.   

O’Sullivan is correct on both counts. 

Volunteers are invaluable, not only for clubs in the Peter Jackson VFL or AFL Victoria’s regional talent programs that field teams in the TAC Cup, but for every club in every football competition across the State.  

They often don’t receive the kudos of the 30 plus possession player, the adulation of the glamour forward who kicks a bag full of goals or the plaudits that accompany a courageous player. 

But, the countless volunteers, whose behind the scenes diligence, dedication, devotion and duty plays such a crucial role.  They are very much the fabric of any club.  

Some time ago, we asked VFL clubs to provide the number of volunteers that helped support their club activities; there are over 400 people.  Volunteers prepared to carry out roles like gate and time-keepers, trainers, physios, team managers, masseuses, water-carriers, statisticians, canteen/kitchen staff, VFL Record sellers, umpire marshalls, interchange stewards and many, many more.  

Name a job at a club and it’s safe to say it’s a role most likely occupied by a volunteer.   

Their love of the club and the game is inspirational.  Their contribution can’t be measured in financial terms but the passion and commitment that volunteers provide their clubs is invaluable.  

Every club has their own volunteer ‘heroes’.  

Some, like Janet Dooley, who has worked in the kiosk at Williamstown for more than 60 years, and Wal Williams (pictured) who has been Sandringham’s statistician for an extraordinary 1000 games, have spent a lifetime serving their club.  

While others like Sandra Matti, an Iraqi immigrant, has been drawn to the Northern Blues, to help out as a trainer.  

Stan Barclay, an octogenarian, has been the time keeper at North Ballarat stretching way back before the club joined the VFL.  Jean Schink has been helping out at Port Melbourne in a variety of roles for at least half a century.  

Volunteer duties are not confined from the first to the last bounce on game day.

Each and every Northern Blues training session Sandra Matti, Barb Calderwood, before she took ill, and Joey Falzon are there to help out with an endless list of chores.  

North Ballarat Football Manager Marg Richards notes that whenever the club has an away match the bus that transports the volunteers leaves the club at 8am and doesn’t return until 12 or 13 hours later.  

In effect it’s one day ‘gone’ in their weekend.  Now that’s selfless commitment for little or no remuneration.  

The facts are that volunteers carry the game in Victoria at almost every level.  Every now and again we should take the time to say “thanks”!  We can’t thank these true servants of the game enough.    

As Garry O’Sullivan noted they are indeed “wonderful, wonderful people”.  By the way, thanks!

This article first appeared in the AFL Victoria VFL Record for Round 17.

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