by Greyhound Racing Victoria
Intense passion for his local footy club and a love of greyhound racing – and the greyhound breed – are characteristics you associate with Ely Park’s Michael Sigalas.
Sigalas is fighting the battle of his life at the moment as he wrestles with the uncertainty of his mortality brought on by insidious cancer.
In the midst of this battle, a stunning gesture of generosity is helping his local football club, the Eley Park Sharks, and also the promotion of greyhounds as a suitable pet.
Sigalas donated upwards of $10,000 to the ‘Sharks’ and all he wanted in return was for the club to sport the Greyhound Adoption Program (GAP) logo on their jumper for the next three years.
“Financially the Club was in a little bit of trouble at the start of the year,” Sigalas recalls.
“I spoke to my wife about it (donating) and we were able to do a little bit to alleviate the problem… enough to keep the Club rolling.”
“It’s an exciting thing to be able to do and give something back (to the community).
“Generally someone sponsors a jumper and you get your name or your business name across the front and back. Clearly I didn’t want the Michael Sigalas name stuck on the football jumper.
“Immediately I thought of GAP.”
Sigalas’ arrangement means that the GAP logo features on the front and back of the Eley Park jumper and it has already caused discussion among rival teams wanting to know more about the program.
Members of the the Division 3 club have been promoting greyhounds as pets to anybody that asks and the Sharks have been given the challenge of adopting four greyhounds within the Club community this year alone.
Sigalas, a self-confessed ‘footy head’, says that he wanted to combine his two great passions in life to give back to the community at a time where his health is letting him down.
“I’m a lover of community based footy and greyhound racing.
“Footy is a big part of my life as well as my family and friends. I’m mad keen on greyhound racing too and have been for forty odd years.”
Michael’s role at Eley Park is unofficially the ‘Chairman of Selectors’ but he helps out in all aspects of the Club including coaching from time-to-time. It’s something that has provided him with a great sense of purpose throughout his battle.
“Being around the footy club is the uplifting part… seeing people grow and develop is an exciting thing.
“It means a lot to me. It means more now that I’m ill and don’t have as much time as I would like.
“They (football clubs) weave themselves inextricably into the fabric of society.
“It’s a very important thing for people to play team sports, not just footy… it teaches you life lessons.”
The community nature of the football club is what he finds the most rewarding. At Eley Park he sees it firsthand.
“It’s not all about winning all the time. This is a club that gives a game of footy to blokes that love the game and want to improve.
“It is a close, small knit group and I find that really invigorating.”
Michael was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and since then he has been bravely battling the disease. Early on, it was his greyhound, Ronan Izmir, that provided that spark and zest for life that helped him fight through a difficult period.
Ronan Izmir was bought by Michael’s daughter-in-law and in 2013 he completed a Country Cup triple winning the Warrnambool, Bendigo and Ballarat Cups to claim a $50,000 bonus. Not only was he a great racer, he had a profound effect on his owners in a time a need.
“He is just a wonderful dog and personally for me a dog that gave me hope and inspiration in a time that was really dark.”
One instance he recalls is when in intensive care about to undergo major invasive surgery he had to convince the doctors to let him watch ‘Zap’ in the Warrnambool Cup.
“In May 2013 I was in intensive care and not looking too flash.
“He (Ronan Izmir) won a heat of the Warrnambool Cup and I had a massive operation and had tubes and everything down my throat.
“I was watching the race on my iPad in intensive care.
“The doctor said I don’t think you should do this it may excite you too much and I wrote down on a piece of paper, ‘if I don’t watch, I’ll die’ and I meant it.
“10 days later I was able to walk out of the hospital… I don’t know if he lifted me or the medicine lifted me or whatever, emotionally I was charged by the win.”
As for greyhounds off the track, he can’t recommend the breed highly enough.
“They’re the best dogs; they are docile, loving, caring animals. They are the ideal pets.”
Four adopted greyhounds ventured down to Eley Park’s home ground in Box Hill to see what all the fuss was about recently and were warmly welcomed by the crowd.
Michael even got to lead the senior team out onto the ground with the help of adopted greyhound ‘Spook’.
Michael’s story will feature on Prime 7′s ‘Off The Bench TV’ on Friday 19 June after the AFL is shown. People in regional Victoria will be able to watch the program. For other viewers, the Off The Bench TV Facebook Page will publish a YouTube link to the story on Monday 22 June.
Fore more information about greyhound adoption visit: gap.grv.org.au
For more infomation about Eley Park visit: www.eleyparkfc.com
This story was re-published with permission by Greyhound Racing Victoria – it was first published here were you can see more pictures.