Remarks at the North Melbourne AFL Grand Final Breakfast

October 2, 2017



Thank you very much. It is great to be here on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation and we acknowledge their elders past, present and emerging.

Thank you Ben, for such a warm welcome. And Gillon, thanks for the advice on administrative matters – that was good too.

This is a day filled with bipartisanship. Bill Shorten is here – each of us are supporting the Tigers. Our teams are out of the finals so we’ve got a unity ticket with Richmond.

And we’ve given Bill enormous help lately. You know he’s been off to North Korea – you saw that? Every support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Julie Bishop taught him how to do the death stare – he gave it across the DMZ and everything is going to be okay now. Very important.

We’ve got great support here from so many of my colleagues. Greg Hunt, what an achievement – in his first year as Sports Minister, his beloved Tigers are into the Grand Final. That’s a big achievement.

We’ve got Liberal Premier Will Hodgman. Labor Acting Premier Jacinta Allan.

Well, the Swans are not in the final so I’m sad about that and Lucy’s team, the Giants have just missed out again, Tony, but it is only fair that we are all entitled to have a team away from home.

So, I’m on the Tiger train and as I said, and to see the excitement in Tigerland yesterday, it was electric.

The bright eyed excitement of the fans, the old tigers who remember last time they won, the young tigers who thought it could never happen, they will roar with every goal and cheer every Dusty ‘don’t argue’ as though they were out  in the centre with him. 

And it turns out that politicians have a fair bit in common with Tiger supporters - the ups and downs, the years in the wilderness, the bad press, the false hope, and dare I say it, the revolving door of leadership.

But I’m pleased to say that those days are well and truly over at Tigerland, and touch wood they are for me as well.

Richmond’s opponents today however are very formidable.

And there is so much to admire in the Adelaide Crows - their talent, their record, and their sportsmanship speak for themselves. They are the best side in the league for a reason.

It’s hard to go past the resilience and the unity of a team that has overcome such trauma and grief.

The death of Phil Walsh shook us all.

It was a tragedy. A reminder of the damage done by mental illness in our community. And it’s in no small measure because of him that the Crows are here today, and so determined to win.

I want to commend the AFL for the role they play in knitting together strong communities across the nation.

Whether it’s encouraging kids to be healthy and active through Auskick.

Whether it’s putting professional women’s sport where it belongs, on the big stage, in front of big crowds.

Whether it’s nurturing Indigenous talent like Daniel Rioli, Charlie Cameron and Eddie Betts.

Or whether it’s engaging young Muslim men with the AFL through the Bachar Houli Academy at Richmond.

This sport brings out the best in our people, the best in our nation.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to watch the Swans beat the Bombers in the first week of the Finals at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

It was a beautiful day, a very strong Bloods win, and best of all - for me, a chance to take it all in with our daughter Daisy her husband James and their kids four year old Jack and baby Alice.

The Swans/Dons game was the first time Jack had seen boys - big boys in that case - play AFL. Daisy is a school teacher and she has been taking Jack to see some of her girls play for the East Sydney Bulldogs women’s AFL team. Jack has become the water boy. So that little guy is growing up understanding Aussie Rules is a game for boys and for girls. Well done mum, well done AFL.

So, getting back to that day in the sunshine, Buddy kicking four goals, Swans surging ahead, baby asleep in my arms and a cool beer. Daisy said it was a rare example, and possibly the ultimate limit of male multitasking ability.

Or was it ‘hashtag worst grandfather ever’?

I don’t think so - and neither did millions of Australians who understood as we all do that what matters are the values that that small moment, and this great game represent.

Family, community, mateship - from the highest pinnacle of the game, to the smallest, most unassuming footy club in the suburbs and towns of Australia.

Each week, you keep us coming back. Thank you.

Go Tiges!


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