Mental health a focus

Mark Eustice, an AFL star of 137 games with three clubs, was raw and emotional when he spoke.

By Jessica Anstice

Over 400 people gathered around the Officer Recreation Reserve to watch local footy players battle it out in an effort to raise mental health awareness on Saturday.

While children played on giant board games such as Connect 4, Jenga, a Hungry Hippo inflatable, jumping castles and mixing with Melbourne Stars mascot Starman, 52 local men and women turned on an entertaining display of football in the Not On My Watch match.

The match between Officer Junior Football Club and Officer Cricket Club saw the Under 8’s turn to shine and entertain the crowd with skills they learn throughout the season at half time.

“In what was an entertaining contest, the team representing the junior football club was able to overcome inaccurate kicking to win by one goal and both teams forming a guard of honour for a family who’d lost a loved one earlier in the year,” Officer Junior Football Club president Shayne Honey said.

“While tutu and wigs were adorned by some, the true meaning of the evening was not forgotten.

“Before the first bounce, a minutes silence was observed in memory of those lost and suffering to mental health conditions.”

With local DJ, DJ Stew keeping the crowd entertained and of what the night was about, the players hammed it up to the crowd, showing some flashes of brilliance and of attempting skills past their time.

Following the children’s amusements and football match, the crowd packed out the RG Porter rooms, first up to see Jayson Dorey’s 17 years of dreadlocks be cut and replaced with a shiny bald head.

Anthony Hayes lost his dreadlocks of five years but decided to keep a short back and sides look.

A long line of wannabe hairdressers paid $5 each to cut the dreads off the two brave men.

Officer Cricket Club president Tim Smith opened formal proceedings, telling the packed house why mental health awareness is so important, imploring people to speak up if they need help and the importance as a community that they look out for friends and loved ones.

AFL star, and former Emerald player, Matthew Lobbe took the stage with brother Caleb and spoke about their brother Tom who suffers from schizophrenia.

Mr Lobbe talked about finding out his brother’s diagnosis the same weekend he was to make his AFL debut with Port Adelaide.

The brothers dispelled dome perceptions about schizophrenia, spoke about how mental health has affected their family and how important it is for clubs to get around people but also how important it is to be open with others.

Mark Eustice, an AFL star of 137 games with three clubs, was raw and emotional when he spoke.

Mr Eustice detailed himself as a young man, being given his dream opportunity of being plucked from his local team Strathmore, to his favourite AFL team Essendon, of the elation of his debut but still feeling something wasn’t right.

The crowd followed Mr Eustice’s story of moving through three AFL clubs, his successes and ultimate downfall at the end of his career.

The loss of a club structure, an undiagnosed mental health condition (bipolar) and losing all to addiction.

But it wasn’t to end there as Mr Eustice’s story is a successful one, and as he told, it was his mates that helped pull him from the dark days.

Mr Eustice told of a former teammate making the call and asking him to go to the doctor.

It was his own Not On My Watch moment, before he told of his rehab, his bipolar diagnosis and what that meant in terms of his mental health and what he needed to do to win his fight, to get his life back and proud to be clean and sober for almost 13 years.

Secondary to the mental health awareness and conversations, the event raised about $1200 for Beyond Blue and Regain Life Focus.

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