AFL should bring back State Of Origin for bushfire victims
Everyday has started the same way in the past few months.
Wake up. Check Twitter. #Bushfires.
To put it lightly, it’s heartbreaking.
A total of roughly 6.3 million hectares has been ravaged, according to reports coming out via 7News. To put that into context, ‘That would be almost half of the entirety of England’.
An estimated half a billion animals have perished. Firefighters and people protecting their land have lost their lives. Tens of thousands of people have lost homes; some now homeless.
Hatred for politicians, a constant. Climate changes discussions have reached fever pitch.
A devastating summer. No word or phrase strong enough to justify the heartache and anguish felt by victims of the bushfires.
Moreover, no one can deny that the outpouring of angry emotion is unwarranted. Tensions are high and people are broken. People are entitled to answers.
My grandma lives in Tuross Head, a beautiful coastal town on the NSW south coast. I was anxious, nervous and messaging my family to get updates from the affected region over New Year’s. Thankfully, the town’s residents and my grandma are safe; for now.
To see that iconic bridge in Bateman’s Bay – one I would pass over every January with my family as a child – at a standstill, as thousands evacuated was a deeply saddening sight.
To witness the sheer devastation at Mallacoota. Families cradled closely on the beach together. That child with a face mask on in the boat, with the red inferno happening not far away.
It hurts, and I can hardly fathom the pain felt by the victims.
How could this widespread devastation happen? There’s plenty of finger pointing; in all directions.
But what I am doing? How can I play my part? I have donated, but it doesn’t feel like enough. I have even signed up to a Facebook group to help with general labour or admin; the idea is to visit an affected area on a free weekend soon and chip in as best I can. I am not a tradesman but have unqualified labouring and gardening skills. But again, it doesn’t feel like enough.
With this in mind, here’s how I am trying to provide a little bit more. I host the Melbourne Demons’ No. 1 fan podcast, The DeeBrief and we have four other AFL fan channels in our stable The Sash, The BluePrint, Pies Nation and True Bloods.
So, I thought why not portray my emotion in this article, use the combined 100,000 followers on our social media footy channels and start a petition to put healthy pressure on the AFL to bring back the State Of Origin for bushfire victims.
It’s the biggest and most watched sport in the country. Period.
State Of Origin can unify the states. Unify the supporters. Bring a little bit of joy to the victims. Above all else, it can be a standalone weekend which raises significant funds for the bushfire appeal. It would be emotional, but magical and ultimately a massive financial hit. The impact, potentially staggering.
Supporters of the code will never relent, always crying out State Of Origin to return one day. The last match in 2008 was a ‘once-off’ to celebrate the 150th year of the game. There is no better time to revitalise it in 2020.
In the coming weeks and months leading into the AFL season, CEO Gil McLachlan and the clubs can make a significant impact.
And to their credit, they are deliberating.
CEO Gillon McLachlan has released this statement today on the bushfire crisis. pic.twitter.com/AK4mjKU9wP
— AFL (@AFL) January 3, 2020
No doubt they will contribute heavily; whatever options they choose. Dedicating a round during the home and away season to the bushfire victims, donating money for each goal kicked in matches and doing a pre-season ‘friendly’ game with some of the best players could all work. But is it enough?
People will suggest player welfare is far too important nowadays in this modernised, commercial beast that is the AFL system. But I’ll leave you with this.
You have thousands of firefighters risking their lives everyday to protect wildlife, land, homes and people. The risk of players being involved in such a uplifting event is futile in my opinion.
What a missed opportunity it would be if the AFL passed on an occasion to galvanise the entire nation.