Edition #11: People making a difference

Photo of four male footballers and six female footballers from the same team, standing in a football field clapping and cheering towards a point left of the camera, a crowd along the boundary can be seen in the background.
Photo of four male footballers and six female footballers from the same team, standing in a football field clapping and cheering towards a point left of the camera, a crowd along the boundary can be seen in the background.
Rockdogs raring to go at the start of the Reclink Community Cup 2018, photo: Paul Jeffers

The winner is ... community

The Reclink Community Cup has been run and won again for 2018, and the winner again was – well, nobody cares who the winner was.

It’s that rarest of sporting creations, one where more than 10,000 people will stand on the terrace, cheering and laughing and connecting with friends and family, with little to no regard as to who finishes in front on the scoreboard.

Although, maybe I’m saying that because the Rockdogs were triumphant. Those skanky, bedraggled, raging, late-to-bed, head-banging gods of Melbourne’s music scene again overcame my beloved Megahertz, which is made up of radio presenters from Melbourne’s two biggest community radio stations, Triple R and PBS. I was a Megahert from 2000 to 2012. Is the singular of Megahertz a Megahert? I do know that I Megahert my hamstring one year.

Five women in red and white football singlets sitting in a club change room with their arms around each other, laughing and looking at the camera, a man in a red and white singlet in the background.Preparing for the game in the Megahertz change rooms, photo: Paul Jeffers

The crowd laps it up. Dogs, kids, live music, footy, friendship, community and giving to a great cause. And because the result doesn’t matter, there are no odds – no gambling! Not even a little bit. No ridiculous markets for first goals or leading possessions or quarter-time scores or first person with a tattoo to kick a goal with their non-tattooed leg. No grinning, mealy mouthed former players telling us in the one breath that ‘a punter had $10,000 on so and so’, and in the next to ‘gamble responsibly’.

More than a game

Reclink Australia is the charitable heart that beats at the centre of the Community Cup. It’s an organisation that provides arts and sports programs to Australians experiencing disadvantage, creating socially inclusive, life-changing opportunities.

For two hours, they pull on the jumper, chase a ball, and experience the joy of active sport.

To witness a Reclink footy match is to behold the true power of sport. Players may be homeless, they may be struggling with drug, alcohol or gambling addiction, they may have been the victims of violence, or they may be long-term unemployed. But for two hours, they pull on the jumper, chase a ball, and experience the joy of active sport.

As one participant put it, ‘Reclink has given me the opportunity to excel at something I’m really good at. It has allowed me to acknowledge all the good traits about me and who I am.... It’s given me a lot of hope’.

Hope, acceptance, camaraderie, opportunity, progress. Reclink changes lives.

Sports-betting-free zone

Not only is the Reclink Community Cup free of the sports betting deluge that saturates nearly every other sports fixture, it’s also sponsored by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. And it’s a good fit.

As Reclink CEO John Ballis explains, ‘Research has shown that people who experience disadvantage are also vulnerable to gambling harm, which can have a devastating effect on the person and their family’.

Photo of a smiling woman with tied-back dark hair handing miniature white AFL footballs to four children seen from behind, the interior of a bright orange marquee in the background, with a table with footballs and orange drink bottles on it, LOVE THE GAME emblazoned on the back wall, and bright orange balloons to the right.Spreading the 'love the game' message at the Community Cup, photo: Paul Jeffers

Reclink’s sports programs have strong participation from males aged 20 to 30, a demographic overrepresented when it comes to gambling harm.

The organisation is part of the Foundation’s Love the Game Sporting Club Program, which aims to reduce gambling harm by minimising the exposure of young people to gambling advertising. The Foundation is also funding Reclink to establish community football leagues for people experiencing disadvantage in regional Victoria.

'Research has shown that people who experience disadvantage are also vulnerable to gambling harm.'

John Ballis, Reclink Australia

The great thing about sport is that life improvement, coaching and ‘being your best’ all thrive naturally within the walls of the change rooms. So it is for the players of Reclink. The support services and education programs are rolled into training nights.

Says one support worker: ‘We did sessions on responsible gambling, we did the drink driving program, the good sport program. We deliver them in the context of football. So they’re not sitting in a classroom or anything like that; they’re sitting in the club room. They have some amazing insights and knowledge that gets shared amongst themselves. It’s a great learning environment that they will actively engage in’.

Long live Reclink and the Community Cup – it’s a magical day.

Photo of a crowd of people standing outside, wearing warm coats, bright scarves and beanies.Rugged-up Community Cup spectators, photo: Paul Jeffers

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