Waikerie Football Club 110th Anniversary

Waikerie Football Club

The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE (Chaffey—Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development) (15:16): Today, I rise to acknowledge a great event that happened in the Riverland over the weekend to celebrate a 110th birthday, which I attended down at Waikerie. It really was quite a celebration. It was the 110th birthday of the Riverland Football League's reigning premiers, the Waikerie Football Club. I will give some history. From humble beginnings in 1908, the Waikerie Football Club Magpies began as a foundation member of the Mid Murray Football League. It was not long until they won the inaugural premiership and enjoyed a hat-trick from 1911 to 1913.

The remarkable history of the Waikerie Football Club continued when it joined the Upper Murray Football Association and won premierships again in 1934 and 1936. The club then took a battering, going without a premiership for nearly 40 years, until 1974. That is quite a drought. It was followed by another period without a premiership until the early nineties. The Waikerie Football Club has cemented its position in the Riverland community and has bred not only some of the finest footballers in the state, with notable players such as Russell Ebert, the late Bruce Light, Luke Jericho and Brad Helbig, but also one of Australia's great AFL contributors, Mark Ricciuto, and of course Troy Lehmann. They are two outstanding AFL players in the modern game. They have both played for premier teams.

The Waikerie Football Club has supported generations of up-and-coming young footballers. On Saturday, along with thousands of people, I attended the game at Waikerie Oval against the Renmark Rovers. There was not a spare car park to be seen anywhere close, I might add. The spectators were three or four deep all the way around the oval. Former Waikerie player and life member, Waikerie Football Club champion Stan Burnett, 93, provided the coin toss with the help of his family. Local media attended the event, and the game was broadcast live on air from the ground.

Saturday celebrations were also held in conjunction with the footy club's 10-year anniversary of the 2008 A-grade premiership, the 20-year anniversary of the B-grade premiership in 1998, the 30-year anniversary of the 1988 under-18s premiership, the 40-year anniversary of the 1978 under-15s premiership and the 30-year anniversary of the 1988 under-13s premiership. It was a tight game that saw Waikerie just come out on top in the A-grade to win by a margin of 13 points over the Rovers. I was there to watch the under 15s and under 13s take home the win earlier in the day. It was a great day, and a day for all people in Waikerie to be proud. Renmark did take it up to them, but Waikerie were just too good.

This year, Waikerie also entered a women's team in the Riverland Women's Football League and saw one of the first ever matches from a female team in the opening match of the inaugural Riverland Women's Football League, a momentous occasion for the Riverland and the Riverland Women's Football League. Life members, former players, supporters and volunteers attended the game to celebrate the magnificent milestone, and the Magpies unveiled the commemorative guernsey for the game, which was auctioned after the game. The Waikerie Football Club hosted a dinner following the game attended by a large contingent of stalwarts, historians and the traditional people who have long attended game after game, season after season. It was great to see.

Sport and sporting clubs have a huge impact on many regional communities and local spirit, teaching team building, discipline and the ability to ride the highs and the lows. Those of us in this place who play sport understand that winning is always great, but understanding how to lose graciously is also very important.

The Waikerie Football Club is a hugely important part of the Riverland west community and there are many people to acknowledge: the president, Brendan Sidhu; the football operations director, long-time president, Henry Crawford, a great 'Waikeriean'; and the current Waikerie coaching team, Shayne Stevens, John Seaford, Tristan Geehman, Jackson Sutton, Craig Hahn, Brendan Turner, Shayne Clonan and many more.

I would also like to particularly pay tribute to Gary Pfeiler, who has been a long-time president. He has not only supported Waikerie but has also been the president of the RFL and brought Waikerie through some pretty tough times into some really fruitful times. I commend the club for its success over 110 years and its commitment to the community. I wish the Waikerie Football Club all the best for the remainder of the 2018 season.