By sports editor Russell Bennett
Just try and have a conversation with Hayden Stanton without smiling. It’s almost impossible.
The highly respected Garfield senior coach has always worn his heart on his sleeve – on both sides of the fence at a footy ground – and genuinely cares for those he guides along the journey.
But he, like the broader community, has battled the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He was made redundant a fortnight ago – for the second time in 10 months.
But he’s doing everything possible to remain positive, and to continue to display that big, beaming grin of us.
But there are times where that just isn’t possible.
And those are times he doesn’t shy away from.
“I’m battling along, but I am ok – I know something will come along when it’s meant to,” he told the Gazette for this week’s installment of ‘It’s more than a game’.
Stanton is a devoted family man who cares deeply for the wider network of people around him, and he knows the way to push forward through such challenging times is together – as one.
“I truly hope that what these times have done, and will continue to do, is make people take stock and realise just what’s truly important in their own lives,” he said.
“What social interaction and community sport does is give people a purpose, and a place to belong to – where they feel connected and part of a community.
“Without having that for the moment, at least face to face, people are feeling a bit disjointed.
“For so many people there’s just not that place, that outlet, where they’re not judged, and where they’re part of something together, as a collective.
“At some stage in our lives, we all need our clubs as much as our clubs need us and this has proven that.”
Like so many before him who’ve spoken to the Gazette for the ‘It’s more than a game’ series, Stanton emphasised the importance of staying connected – by any means necessary.
Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social distancing.
“I’ve stayed connected with my guys through FaceTime and other means of staying in touch electronically – and we’re lucky we’ve got that technology to be able to do it, when we can’t be physically face-to-face,” he said.
“Each club throughout its senior football, netball, and junior networks has 800 to 1000 people involved, at least indirectly.
“From my point of view, my adage has been to reach out to people and make them realise that even though we’re not physically together, we’re there to support each other, and hopefully anyone doing it tough and feeling like they want to reach out does so.”
A little over a year ago – before Covid became a reality – Stanton started his own men’s health group, ‘Let’s Talk Health’.
“I’ve got over 80 people who’ve joined that,” he said.
“We talk regularly – we usually have meetings on a Saturday morning where we catch up, and out of that we’ve been able to help some people who’ve been really down.
“This is just another example of people talking, communicating, and being part of a community – together.
“When you think about your time at sporting clubs, you’re lucky if you can have some success on-field or on-court, but realistically what you hope to do is have a really long-lasting, positive impact on people’s lives.
“When I see a young kid come through, I want to know more about him as a person – who his family is, what their background is, and how I can help him become the best version of himself.
“My job with the footy club is about so much more than just wins and losses.”
Those seeking help should contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14 or by visiting www.lifeline.org.au; Beyond Blue at 1300 22 46 36 or www.beyondblue.org.au; Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or www.kidshelpline.com.au; or MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78.