After five months and a long winter, finals football and netball hits the region at the weekend in the Mininera and Horsham District leagues.
The following weekend, the Wimmera league will also join its neighbouring league in the finals frame.
Sport has the ability to bring out the most passionate of views, and rightly so. Getting behind our country football and netball clubs is a part of what keeps our communities ticking along.
Active support from the sidelines adds a fascinating atmosphere that is not seen during the regular season. Keeping this support loud is a must during finals.
But let’s ensure during September we keep our support friendly as tensions can flare during finals sport.
Disrespectful comments from players or supporters, or even violence, is not an image we want projected onto our youngest participants. Sport should be about enjoyment first.
No one wants to see violence in sport at anytime of the year as the consequences can be life-changing.
We saw how easy it is to lash out on the football field when West Coast Eagles star Andrew Gaff punched an opponent recently.
Sport in regional communities is going through a tough patch at the moment as populations dwindle and workload on our volunteers increases. The last thing anyone needs is for an incident of violence to take place during finals.
It’s also important to keep our umpires in mind as clubs’ seasons come to an end during sometimes heartbreaking circumstances. They give up their weekends to provide an objective eye on-field and although sometimes they might get a call wrong, remember they are doing their best.
Just like clubs struggle to rally together player numbers each season, it is the same for our umpiring groups. Scaring potential umpires away would harm the integrity of football and netball in the region.
By creating a healthy sporting environment, one filled with support for our clubs but one that remains in a healthy atmosphere, we can encourage participation in the future, both in terms of playing and umpiring.
And as has been well documented, participation will be key if we want to see the region’s sporting clubs not just survive, but prosper.
Sean Wales, Sport Reporter