Bigger than footy

Pakenham and Officer will once again take to the field for an Anzac Day blockbuster on Thursday. 180216 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Nick Creely and Russell Bennett

The significance of Anzac Day is felt far and wide in Australia. It’s a chance to reflect, and to stop and think about others who have protected, and paid the ultimate sacrifice for the men, women and children of this nation.

The Pakenham and Officer football and netball clubs – while they will clash on the field, and on the court this Thursday at Toomuc Reserve – understand the significance of getting the chance to represent the region and to show their utmost respect.

For them it’s about more than football and netball, about more than the final scoreline, it’s a time of reflection and community spirit.

With a big crowd expected to flock to the home of the Lions in what is sure to be an emotion-filled day of community spirit, Kangaroos president Nick McLennan said the club was honoured to be able to represent the region on a day that continues to grow in “importance and significance”.

“As a club we are excited to face this challenge head-on and would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of our club, and the local community who uphold and protect our way of life so that we could be here today,” he said.

“Anzac Day is a day of growing importance and significance within the community. But the day is about far more than just football.

“On Thursday we meet not to celebrate and glorify war, but rather to remember those who have served our country during conflict and crisis, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice for our country to uphold and protect our way of life so that we can be here today.

“On Anzac Day we also stop to remember not only the service men and women who served abroad but also those who served on the home front supplying strength to our fighting forces.

“On Anzac Day we stop and reflect on the qualities of past generations of Australians who in times of extreme hardship displayed courage, discipline, self-sacrifice, self-reliance, resourcefulness and friendship.”

The Kangaroos were also honoured with the presence of the Pakenham RSL at their selection dinner on Thursday night, with McLennan saying it was a powerful reminder of what’s important.

“Recently we hosted the president of the Pakenham RSL, Mr Brad McCann in the lead up to our Anzac day clash to discuss the importance and the significance of the day,” he said.

“The silence in the room during Mr McCann’s address was deafening with our men’s and women’s teams acknowledging the task they now have ahead of them, whilst understanding that this day is about far more than a game of football.”

Toomuc Reserve will see plenty of action on the day, with the Under 18s kicking off at 11.25am, the Reserves at 1.10pm, and the marquee Senior match at 3.25pm, which will also see a special Anzac Day ceremony minutes before the opening bounce. The action-packed day will finish with a huge Women’s match between the two clubs at 5.30pm.

In other AFL Outer East Anzac Day clashes, Berwick will host Healesville at Edwin Flack Reserve in the Premier division in what will be the first clash ever between the two clubs, while Kinglake hosts Yea in Division 2.

In the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition, Tooradin-Dalmore will host the Warragul Industrials for the first time.

Gulls senior coach Lachie Gillespie said there’s a real excitement in the build-up to the clashes on-field and on-court, but the significance of the day remains front of mind for everyone involved.

“It’s one of those games we all look forward too, and we know we’re playing for a bit more than the win or loss itself,” he said.

“This is to remember and pay tribute.

“The footy part is really a very small part of the day.”

Tooradin-Dalmore had John Wells OAM – the president of the Dandenong Cranbourne RSL – speak at their selection night last night. The opportunity to host him was something the club felt “humbled by”, according to Gillespie.

“It lets some of the young guys know what people have had to go through, and sacrifice, at their age,” he said, adding that many of those involved at Tooradin-Dalmore would take it upon themselves to head to an Anzac Day service on the morning of their games.

“It’s pretty clichéd, but Anzac Day does put into perspective that we just get to go out there and have fun. It’s not life or death for us – it’s win or lose. We should be out there having fun, enjoying the game, shaking hands, and having a beer together afterwards.”

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