By Brad Matheson
When the COVID pandemic hit the state earlier in the year the impacts on different regions was significant, none more so than in the indigenous Community of Woorabinda (175km West of Rockhampton). It was even more fitting as the day aligned with the launch of the AFL’s Sir Doug Nichols Round.
Woorabinda State Primary School teacher, Anton Petkovic, has been on the ground through the recent challenges and is now working towards providing opportunities for the youth of the community. Petkovic spoke of the challenges that restriction put on the community, given how much sports and recreation offered the region, “The Woorabinda Council and community agreed to lockdown during the first wave of COVID-19. That meant only essential medical and police staff were allowed to leave or enter the community. This also meant that school sport, weekend sport and inter school sports events were cancelled.”
This was disappointing news for the community and AFLQ Capricornia as pre-lockdown Capricornia Regional Manager, Scott Smithwick, had done months of preparation in developing a plan to deliver a program for all Primary School Students to participate in a Schools Program and setup an after school AFLX Competition for youth Boys. It put further stain on the youth of the community with the impact of losing one of their greatest passions, Sport. “During the Lockdown students were restricted play at lunch time and one hour of PE a week. Many kids have dearly missed their weekend sport and representative sports. We love our sport in Woorie”, Mr Petkovic spoke of the challenges faced during lockdown.
Fortunately, the smiles have returned to the faces of these kids as Woorabinda State School aligned with Baralaba State School to schedule an AFL Gala Day on Friday 21st August where over 70 kids kicked the Sherin around the oval of Baralaba State School. AFLQ Competition Manager Capricornia Brad Matheson, was thrilled to be able to involved in the day and was pleasant surprised with the involvement of the day. “We started planning the day expecting around 35 participants so to see over 70 kids running around with a footy in their hands was overwhelming and certainly a great sight to see given what we have been through and what much of our country is still experiencing”.
“Although we see footy back on the fields around our state we still face challenging times being able to provide content throughout our vast region, and to see the work that Scott Smithwick had put into this area pre-lockdown I felt it was important that we were able to deliver some content to these students. The numbers that we got shows just how important it is to be able to get to these areas. It is also a credit to Anton (Woorabinda SS) and Sam (Baralaba SS) for the passion they have to be able to plan such days for their students.”
There was plenty of raw talent on display as the students went through a variety of skill based challenges and lots of great action, with bananas and speccy’s a plenty, when it came to game time. But most importantly over 70 kids left the day with a big smile on their face, as did the teachers. Mr Petkovic was just as excited as his students and could see the benefits days like this provide, “We had a huge response to the day and the kids had a blast. A return to days like this is important for our students, we see a massive spike in student attendance and motivation in class when the week ends with school sports or Gala Days, thank you to Brad Matheson for coming out and thank you to AFL Queensland!”
As the group of tired students were reflecting on a fun filled afternoon there were more smiles in store as each student left the day with a small gift courtesy of the Gold Coast SUNS.