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    Nick Pekin in front of a large crowd at the 2019 HDFNL grand final.

Footy boss: Season a rallying point


An official overseeing a vast network of football and netball players across the Wimmera-Mallee has urged communities to use a resumption of mainstream country sport as a socio-economic rallying point.

Horsham District Football Netball League chairman Fred Mellington said the start of a 2021 winter sporting season represented the perfect opportunity for regional towns and districts to ‘bounce back’ after the COVID-19 pandemic.

He made his comments as he counted down to the first home-and-away round of Horsham District league competition this Saturday and after Wimmera league clubs Ararat and Stawell broke the ice with a Good Friday fixture.

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Mr Mellington said it was important that regional communities looked beyond the simple sporting side of football and netball competitions.

“Community sport is a perfect platform to regenerate our region,” he said. “The message from us to everyone is – just get involved. The games themselves are just that, games. It’s the ancillary benefits that come from participation that are so important to our rural wellbeing.

“The football-netball and sporting culture in general goes well beyond sport. It’s more about people and communities.

“While playing the game and generating competition is important, we all know people who have long been involved in clubs who, when it comes down to it, only really care about the people involved and how everyone works together – the sporting side is secondary.”

Mr Mellington said he was looking forward to the opening round of his competition with nervous anticipation.

“Just to get the game underway and to see that first ball-up or centre pass will be great.

“It’s been far too long and our people need that time at weekends to be able to get together, catch up and share experiences. Sport is a great conduit to developing regional solidarity,” he said.

“While there have already been and will always be all sorts of emerging issues to deal with,  we have no choice but to be optimistic.

“We just have to work on getting things right. Some might argue otherwise, but the reality is that much of the social lifeblood of our communities is dependent on getting both football and netball running at full capacity.

“So again everyone – get involved.”

Last month Mr Mellington appealed to parents across the region to encourage them to help clubs fill critical shortages in junior football and netball ranks.

He said the number of junior participants in both sports across the competition remained a primary concern.

“It’s a major issue but hopefully, when we get started, more juniors and reserves players come out of the woodwork,” he said.

Mr Mellington added that the introduction of former Kowree-Naracoorte-Tatiara league club Kaniva-Leeor United this season was also exciting.

“We wish them all the luck in their new venture in the league and have no problems in believing they will become part of our family,” he said.

The entire April 7, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!