Kangaroos take on a new fight

(L-R) Emma Castricum, Suzi Byne, Alana Nancarrow, Matt Grassham, Simon O'Shanassy, Terry Daniher, Emma Vulin MP, Lachlan Balzary, Tanner Thomsen, Callum MacGregor and Kelvin Simmons at the Officer Big Freeze. 413407 Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Marcus Uhe

Woody from Toy Story, Spiderman, Nick ‘Honey Badger’ Cummins and Sharon Strzelecki were among the famous faces taking a dip into the ice cold waters at Officer Recreation Reserve on Saturday for the Officer Big Freeze.

A total of nine sliders from across the venue’s clubs, including senior football, senior netball and junior football, and local business partners took the plunge into the pool, where water filled with 14 bags worth of ice were waiting for each brave participant.

Pakenham MP Emma Vulin, who recently revealed her diagnosis with motor neurone disease (MND), and Terry Daniher, the brother of Neale and arguably the face of the fight, both witnessed the event and shared their thoughts and experiences on combating the disease.

But the event held a special significance for the Officer Football Club, and Saturday’s opponent, Monbulk, through Officer’s vice-president Jason Smith.

Jason’s father, Shane, played nearly 200 games for the Hawks and lost his battle with MND in December 2019.

“Jason came to us with the idea to do it against Monbulk,” Officer Football Club president, Lachlan Balzary said.

“We spoke to Monbulk about getting involved and raising some money so that other people don’t have to go through what the Smith family went through.

“All the clubs came together; Monbulk, our netballers, our junior club, the senior footy club, all had sliders of their own.

“Everyone, even Monbulk and the other partner clubs at our precinct, everyone was 100 per cent on board straight away.

“ROC Netball club ordered all the socks and beanies for both clubs, the junior footy club had two tables at the luncheon, the Monbulk footy club helped sell raffle tickets.

“It was a real collaborative thing that was bigger than footy on the day, which was fantastic.”

Balzary himself went down dressed as the Boxing Kangaroo, in tribute to the club’s mascot.

He said the water “takes your breath away” when first submerged, but had no regrets in doing his part to fight the beast, and thanked all who contirbuted to the event, from all the clubs, local businesses, guest speakers and more.

“It was for a good cause and everyone who went down said they’d slide again without a moment’s hesitation,” he said.

“MND is an insidious disease and it takes away those people’s ability to be able to fight and speak out about what they’re going through.

“I couldn’t be prouder as president of our club for making a stand and to be able to raise some vital funds and awareness to such an insidious disease.”

It’s estimated the event raised more than $5000, as of Monday morning, 17 June.