Thank you very much and thank you Gill, Steve Irons and Richard Marles, the Co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of the AFL, Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition and so many of my parliamentary colleagues, it’s great to be with you.
And it’s great that we can unite tonight to celebrate what is, I’m sure we can all agree, one of the greatest games - the most remarkable athletic game played in Australia.
The most athletic, spectacular code of football - competes obviously with the world game soccer and with the rugby codes but even an old 3rd grade front row prop like me has to look back in wonder at the athleticism of the game when as they say the big men fly.
Speaking of big men I want to welcome Neale Daniher, a legend of the AFL – I was just saying hello to Neale a moment ago - as a player and a coach for the Bombers and Demons. An extraordinary Australian.
Neale, the awareness you have raised about motor neurone disease, your passion and resilience is inspiring and your advocacy on the need for research and funding into this tragic illness has been remarkable.
In such a short time you’ve achieved so much, and that’s something for which you and your family can be extraordinarily proud.
I’m pleased to add that the government has supported the Big Freeze at the ‘G, your remarkable cause, with nearly $3 million last year and a further $2 million this year under the Medical Research Future Fund.
As a New South Welshman, it’s great to be when both teams from New South Wales are having such a big impact on the AFL.
And it is remarkable, it says a lot about the way in which the AFL is a truly national game that out of the eight right at this point in time, five are from outside Victoria – two New South Wales teams, two South Australian teams and of course the West Coast Eagles. Steve is very pleased with that!
But it is truly become a national game, it is the national game.
And as a Sydney-sider, we’ve had to endure years of the Melbourne Storm having such an impact on the NRL, it’s about time two Sydney clubs are having such a big impact on your game – the Victorian game which is now well and truly, as I said, Australia’s national game.
Look out for the Swans come September – I’m sure, I know, they’ll be hard to beat.
But you know, the Giants have had a spectacular season and Lucy, as you know, is the Chief Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission works in Parramatta and I think I’m going to lose her to the Giants at any moment. I can feel her loyalties to the Swans moving to the Giants, but anyway, we’ll have them both covered.
But, look, let me finish on this point and it is really to praise the AFL for what it does right across the board for diversity, for inclusion, it is a powerful binding force in this the most remarkable, the most successful multi-cultural society in the world.
We’ve also had the inaugural and highly successful first season of the AFL Women’s competition - we just saw a great video about that - and I think we all know that is a national competition that will just go from strength to strength.
It has already done so much to inspire a generation of younger Australians, a new generation of girls, of aspiring women’s footballers to not only take up this great game, but to represent their club at the highest level.
Congratulations to the AFL. This is an exciting journey for all of us. You can see how popular you are Gillon with so many people here tonight, everybody loves Australian Football.
Thank you very much.