Footy Fun Day

Jack Riewoldt rode his bike to school today.

Fully clad in his Tiger gear; the number 8 on his jumper, black shorts, yellow and black socks. Runners, not boots, on his feet.

He pedalled a 16inch Malvern Star BMX that was also in the right colours, yellow and black. I call it the Tiger Bike.

The bike was bought in the township of St.Arnaud on Cox Plate Day 2011. I had gone up to this old gold mining town for a weekend away with the family to relax and to go to the races, country style, not to buy a bike.

St. Arnaud is a town that sits quietly at the junction of the Wimmera and Sunraysia Highways; quietly minding its own business as the rest of the world busies itself with a more frantic way of living. It has a long strip of beautiful shop fronts. Many are empty though. It has an Edna Walling garden, a municipal pool without a slide and a pub aptly named the Farmers Arms.

It is a town full of surprises.

When I was there I came across  a department store up the street. Not one of the big chain stores you find in the city but a little independent one whose name I can’t remember. It had everything in it that anyone could ever need in life; it had fishing tackle, bait, hooks and all those fiddly things that go with angling; it had furniture, clothing, haberdashery and terry towelling  grow suits for newborns; it had bras in every size imaginable, hanging alongside the XXXL high visibility vests.

This store had it all.

Somewhere nestled amongst the oddity of all these things mixed in together, a new Malvern Star bike in yellow and black stood out. It looked at us like an unloved puppy in a pet shop window, begging to be taken into a loving home. It was expensive and far too big for my then six year old. The bike was bought on impulse simply because of its colours, yellow and black.

That was two years ago.

Today, you may have seen Jack Riewoldt riding to school on his bike, or you may have seen Paul Chapman, Buddy Franklin or Dane Swan doing the same. In case you are wondering why, many of the local school kids are celebrating  Footy Fun Day, or Footy Colours Day, this month by wearing their team colours in support of a charity.

This morning at my sons school, I witnessed a football parade that was a sea of vibrant colours set against a background of themed songs that drew choruses of cheers, jeers and roars. A delightful sense of fun and friendship united these children, their teachers and families. Everyone participated.

Our school raised money for an organisation that looks after kids and families going through the rigours of cancer. Kids who are too ill to easily celebrate the small joys in life such as riding bikes and dressing up as ones favourite footy player. Kids too, who may no longer be with us and whose families grieve daily for that which they miss.

Today was a fun day.

And all is good.

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