ADORNED IN PREMIERSHIP GLORY

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The Premiership winning VAFA Club Presidents collected their Premiership flag or flags from the 25 Premierships that were won in 2012 at Monday night’s AGM. Each year the VAFA invites one of the victorious Presidents to respond on behalf of all the Presidents and in 2012 this honour fell to Yarra Valley Old Boys President Ron Garlepp. Ron’s speech was so well received by all in the room we asked his permission to re-publish it here. 
Thank you for the opportunity to speak – this is indeed an absolute honour not just on a personal level but for all involved at the Yarra Valley Bushrangers – we are sincerely pleased for the opportunity to address our peers. 
Yarra Valley had a great year – in fact it couldn’t have been better. Grand Final Day was the best day of my life (don’t tell my wife and daughters that I said that – they get very touchy and reckon weddings and childbirth are important too). But I don’t want to talk about our club.
I want to speak about what we all share – the sheer joy of being involved with grass roots football and especially our absolutely unique dare I use that word “brand” in the VAFA. 
Here’s what gets me going, this is what I love about a football club. I want to use the example of one of our young players who shall remain nameless – let’s just call him Daniel Vanderzeil.  Earlier this year Vanders came up to me and said “Ronnie, Ronnie I found my club polo.” I said “Why what happened?” “Lost it seven weeks ago”. “Geez where did you find it?” – “Bedroom floor.” When next I saw his mother I mentioned this and quick as a flash she replied “He doesn’t live at home.” 
You see each of our clubs has bundles of these quirky characters and it’s always great theatre being around a footy club. 
I’m an old bloke who gets great delight as an observer of all our young men at every club. We’ve all got them: the blokes who can lose everything they need to actually play a game of football (some of them every week); blokes whose whole life is in chaos but bloody hell – Saturday night –do they step up there! It is Saturdays where the really do excel – weeks of planning and all of it executed with military precision. Blokes who whinge about every twinge on  Tuesday and Thursday, career ending injuries and spending inordinate amounts of time on the rub down table with the young (female) physio but are able to saddle up miraculously every Saturday.
As administrators I’m sure from time to time we all ask ourselves “Why are we involved and what do we get out of Amateur football?”
Indeed what about our players? Is football an important part of their lives and ours? Players with busy careers, their own businesses or the twin burdens of University and part time work not to mention the allures of opposite sex… what do they get out of it and is it worth it?
 The answer by the players is of course is a resounding yes, and from us off field we’re involved because we get satisfaction playing our part getting them on the ground each week. 
Our Clubs are all there for the same reason. Every club in this room exists to provide absolutely vital recreation for young people. It’s a competitive world out there and come Saturday it’s their chance to be Chris Judd or Buddy Franklin or Jobe Watson. 
I’m not forgetting the VAFA’s men and women in white – come Saturday it’s their chance to be Ray Chamberlain or Chelsea Roffey. Moreover the friendships and the networks that they make will sustain them throughout life. 
Every club has players who find work through another at the club. Every club has brothers and cousins able to take the field together in front of proud parents who strive to keep a lid on their emotions. Importantly our clubs enable best friends to keep in touch, to play sport together and to forge new friendships.
The benefits are spread as it provides great entertainment for all of us whether we are parents, partners, girlfriends, family, ex schoolmates, friends and past players we all get the chance to share the experience, free of charge.  
Let’s never forget that all of our players and officials have real jobs, or University and families and mortgages yet they devote many hours each week to play football…. for NOTHING! 
Let alone our coaches who I would guess (based on Yarra’s coaching panel) sacrifice around 20-30 hours each week (for pity’s sake don’t tell their employers). As I say post match at every home game why would you go to the AFL when you can watch this? 
Every one of us has favourite players from our club that we admire for a host of reasons. Is it the silky skilled natural athlete or the fearless hard nut who strikes fear in the hearts of opponents as he crashes through? Is it maybe the champion full forward banging ‘em through or perhaps the dashing backman? Is it the hungry little onballer getting an armchair ride from the unheralded ruckman?
I’m personally unashamed to admit that I jump on a player’s bandwagon in the blink of an eye. I love the lair, the player who runs like a deer, kicks like Malcolm Blight and risks a broken neck every time he goes for a big mark. 
However, as a former shocking footballer, I really love the B Grader – the players who put in everything they have, to get the best out of their ability just to play a part, to be a member of the team. We have all got them! 
I’m pretty new to Administration in the VAFA (by the way it’s a pretty easy position to get – not many hands go up around the club!). When the opportunity came along to be President I told myself it’s not a job – it’s a role and it was my choice.
So I made two rules for myself:
1.    Don’t get grumpy and
2.    Share the load – when appointed I said I’d be the laziest President in our history because I wasn’t going to do everything! 
And you know what – slowly but surely other people do offer to lend a hand.
In closing I can only heap praise on everyone from the top down at the VAFA Headquarters. An example – in recent weeks Michael Sholly has gone out of his way to assist Yarra Valley in a couple of ongoing off field issues. His handling of Local Government was a masterclass in dealing with bureaucracy but I also give my plaudits to everyone else at Elsternwick. You are all great to deal with. 
A reminder of the Amateur Values
A Mission……
To provide an affordable, enjoyable and competitive game of Australian football in a safe environment, whilst making a meaningful contribution to the community and the development of the game (In other words we make a difference).
1. Amateur – All players play for the love of the game.
2. Excellence – Strive to optimize performance in all endeavours.
3. Collaboration – Work in consultation with all relevant stakeholders.
4. Innovation – Seek improvement through the adoption of new ideas and policies.
5. Enjoyment – Provide an environment that delivers a safe and rewarding experience for all participants.
6. Citizenship – Promote player development to improve their contribution to the wider community
I believe in all of these things.
Lastly we are all in this together – we can be great rivals on the field but we all share a common purpose. We are helping young people as they plot a course through life. 
I wish all the clubs a successful 2013. Let’s continue that rivalry, let’s all strive to play in a higher grade but most of all let’s continue to share the values of Amateur Football and be very passionate about what we do and make sure we have some fun when doing it!
Please raise your glasses and toast the prospect of another mouth watering season of football in 2013!
Ron Garlepp, President of Yarra Valley Old Boys Football Club, Division 3 Premiers in 2012.