Something a little different took place at the Denmark Walpole Junior Football Club (DWJFC) in 2023... Around 65 Auskickers kicked off the season and for the first time in recent history, a notable cohort of players were from Walpole! Ten Walpole players took part in the year's Auskick program, a tenfold increase from the previous two seasons when only one player from Walpole pulled on the footy boots.
The journey between Walpole and Denmark is a 90-minute round-trip. In recognition that the weekly travel commitment can be one commitment too many for families already juggling farm duties, other weekend work and parental responsibilities, the Walpole Op Shop, the Walpole CRC and the DWJFC came together to fund and support the hire of the CRC community bus to transport Walpole Auskick participants to and from Denmark each week.
Thanks to funding from the Walpole Op Shop, the shuttle bus service was provided free of charge to families. And whilst a rotating driver/chaperone roster was in effect, the ride-share capability meant that for most weeks, parents and caregivers were able to drop-and-run.
For some Walpole participants, it was their first introduction to AFL and it was wonderful to see players' skills and confidence in kicking, handballing, marking and game-play develop throughout the season. And less tangible, though of inestimable worth for a town that has limited opportunities for children to engage in formal team sports, Walpole Auskickers learned the spirit of the game and what it means to play as part of a team.
Book-ending each week's footy session was the bus trip to and from Walpole. Music and laughter filled the road trips and at times, it was difficult to tell which aspect the players enjoyed more. The children's eclectic DJ tastes took us to all corners of Spotify from the Richmond Tigers club song to the Sri Lankan national anthem, with TNT emerging as the group's weekly theme song, replete with hand horns.
Heartfelt thanks are extended to the Walpole Op Shop, the Walpole CRC and the DWJFC for funding and enabling the hire of the CRC shuttle bus. Likewise, heartfelt thanks go to all the volunteer coaches, coordinators, team managers and committee members at DWJFC for making Auskick possible.
Given the success of the 2023 initiative, plans are afoot to secure bus hire funding for 2024, with the hope that returning players will continue developing their football skills and that new, up-and-coming players will have the opportunity to experience the super fun, game-based activities that are the hallmark of the Auskick program.
Well done to all Auskickers at DWJFC for a fabulous season!