Bushwhacked: A true test of character

PEOPLE who know me will be really gob-smacked in a moment, when I ask their indulgence while I discuss an issue about …. football.

I’ve never really gotten into this whole footy thing, probably as a result of being the only kid in primary school who couldn’t catch, kick, had no distance perception and spent every winter morning with a bloody nose from putting my face where the footy was about to arrive.

This was the 1960s, which meant I was an absolute failure as a male, should go and sit with the girls or – worse – ha ha read a book.

In hindsight, I now wonder why schools didn’t realise there were other sports that visually challenged kids could take part in. Such as cycling, which I now love.

Anyway, I carried that disregard for footy into my younger adult years and for two glorious winters acted as honorary secretary of the original AFL: the Anti Football League.

Today, though I want to say a huge thank you and congratulations to the players and anyone else who had anything to do with the Bendigo Gold VFL team and all its past manifestations.

Gawd, those young blokes have had a tough year, knowing their tem was about to fold, knowing there were no resources and that week after week they were going up against clubs which they knew would whack them.

I’ve often been of the view that you can tell more about a person’s character by the way they leave a tough situation rather than the way they began.

I was hoping against hope that the Gold would notch one magic win in these last few weeks, but it hasn’t happened. Yet! Yet, every week they’ve covered themselves with gutsy glory, going in hard against all the odds and often coming heart-breakingly close to a victory.

Y’know, if I was stuck in a battle trench in some war or other, these are the sort of blokes I’d want alongside me. Not the sort who score regular wins and know their futures look okay.

I value people who achieve when the odds are that they won’t. It’s interesting to ponder where their motivation to keep going came from, and I really hope that their efforts won’t be in vain in the long run.

I was associated with the first moves to develop a VFL team in Bendigo, and I wasn’t hugely popular in some quarters for doing do. My face still graces some dart boards in Bendigo over this.

Some parochial local club folk reckoned it’d be the ruin of them, that the VFL club would rob them of their best players or their support base. I thought the argument was silly and the VFL club could act as a pathway to the national game for regional blokes, along the same lines as the Bendigo Spirit WNBL team.

That’s how it should have been, but with many local footy “legends” quietly undermining the VFL effort, it’s a wonder the club survived as long as it did.

Despite the fact that it brought regular statewide TV coverage to Bendigo through the ABC, and for a while linked us to the national game. I felt it brought more to Bendigo than it took.

Many will say I was wrong in 1998 and still am.

Maybe.

But there are more than 500 young men who, for a while, shared a dream of stepping onto a greater stage and making a name for themselves. And that’s just gold.

I truly believe the best of them were in the 2014 team.

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