Justin Toohey’s toast to the VAFA

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At Wednesday night’s VAFA Sportscover Season Launch, former Board Member, Justin Toohey, delivered the traditional VAFA toast to all in attendance.

Touching on the history of our Association and the values of all who make it the standard it is today, Toohey’s speech resonated with all in the room.

Read his transcript below:

Thank you to President Tim Nelson and CEO Michael Sholly for bestowing on me the honour and opportunity to propose the traditional toast to the VAFA for this Season Launch.

The Victorian Amateur Football Association is a Melbourne institution. It has been since 1892, which makes it Launch 124. Hundreds of thousands of Melburnians people have widespread respect and affection for this organisation, and our extended family touches on the lives of more people than we know.

This season some 2200 football matches will be conducted under VAFA auspices across the length and breadth of metropolitan Melbourne, so as we gather tonight at this place, this shrine to Aussie Rules football, in preparation for the upcoming contests in the year ahead, I wanted to pause and reflect on the intrinsic ties that bind us as participants to this great amateur football competition.

  • For players, it’s the competition where you can find your own level – test yourself against the best at Premier A and B if you want; join a group and work to progress up the grades together if that’s your aim; or for others (and probably by far the majority) it’s a recreational outlet – the chance to play a team sport, with your mates, for the love of the game, to blow off the week’s cobwebs and stay fit; and to do so in a competition that is constantly refreshed through the promotion and relegation system. And off the field is just as important, if not more so in many cases – giving players a reason to linger, a place to belong, and cement lifetime friendships.  It’s not just about playing football.
  • For officials and volunteers it can be about putting something back in – a recognition that this competition and this association of football clubs always gives you back more than it asks you to contribute. It can be about staying involved and engaged in the club after your playing days have finished.  It can be about remaining connected to your youth because footy clubs are great places for keeping young in mind and body.  Whatever your motivation, volunteers are the glue that keeps our clubs together.  You are truly the bedrock of this Association.
  • For sponsors, this Association provides branding, networking and business opportunities and the longevity of many of our business partnerships speaks to the value sponsors see in associating their businesses with the VAFA.
  • For spectators, it’s truly a game to suit your mood – you can engage in some old style barracking if you want; or you can sit on the grass and ponder something more existential while the game goes on around you – all without the concern of alcohol fuelled spectators. You can watch on your own, or meet with old friends and acquaintances.  You see, hear, and feel the game in all its imperfections.  You can have a kick on the ground and listen to the coach’s address – and all without being drowned by sports betting advertising pollution.
  • For kids, it’s an opportunity to escape from structured lifestyles, to run around in a safe non-digital environment, to just ‘play’, and maybe even hit the canteen for a limp hot dog on a stale bread roll.
  • For women? Well that’s an unfolding story, and the VAFA community is becoming more inclusive for women.  This year we have the first female head coach of a team; we are witnessing the emergence of women’s football teams among our member clubs; the Board has plans for a women’s competition from 2017; and the redevelopment of Sportscover Arena starting later this year is to house a women’s umpiring academy to assist the growing number of girls blowing the whistle with the VAFA.  So important steps are being taken to broaden the VAFA’s appeal for women beyond the realm of volunteers and spectators.

These are the ties that bind us – the ties which give the VAFA a soul to which no other community football league can lay claim. They are built on core values of playing as amateurs, fair play, generosity of spirit and mutual respect for all involved in and around the game.

To the President, the Board, life members, special guests, staff, all players, clubs, officials and supporters present here tonight – we are all custodians of these values as we launch into Season 124.  I wish you well in your endeavours this season – may your road trips be mercifully short, may your injuries and suspensions be few, may you kick with the wind, may your matches be close, and may the umpires wear your team’s socks.

Could I ask that all please be upstanding and drink a toast to the Victorian Amateur Football Association as we launch Season 124.

Vale Maurie Considine
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