Football-netball clubs pivot to player, community mental health through pandemic – ABC News

After a tumultuous two seasons with little sport played, football-netball clubs across Central Victoria have risen to the challenge to lead their clubs and communities’ wellbeing support instead.

The Girgarre Football Netball Club was forced into isolation after competing against Shepparton East in round 15 of the 2021 season before the regional city experienced a coronavirus outbreak in August.

President Brendan Nicholson said about 150 people were directly affected by the game’s exposure site, with the ripple effect reaching players in Echuca and Kyabram.

The club’s social media sites became a hub for the Girgarre community of just over 550, which Mr Nicholson said led to a greater sense of checking-in with each other.

For the small country town of Girgarre, the football-netball club is sometimes the only constant source of connection for people.

That has only been amplified throughout the pandemic.

“We consistently do 100-120 meals every Thursday night and that’s not just players, that’s people from town and supporters, and it becomes a real social event for the week. As well as Saturday.

“It’s a huge void left, both socially and financially, when it’s not there.”

Man in blue lacket smiles in fornt of football team in blue and white vertical striped jerseysMan in blue lacket smiles in fornt of football team in blue and white vertical striped jerseys
Brendan Nicholson said the club’s social media sites led to a greater sense of checking-in with each other.(

Supplied: Girgarre Football Netball Club

)

The club president said some people had shifted away throughout the pandemic, but off-season events were in the works to re-engage the community.

“We need to keep engaged as much as we possibly can. People need to have a bit of hope going forward,” Mr Nicholson said.

“Whether it be having a beer or a chat, they can sit down and forget about their troubles for a couple of hours.

“Those couple of hours of relief, or doing something different, are incredibly important.”

Taking the next step

Echuca Football Netball Club player Georgie Eishold said when the pandemic hit many people felt a lack of purpose.

Three sisters stand on a netball court with arms locked around each other.Three sisters stand on a netball court with arms locked around each other.
Georgie Eishold (right) says her club’s committee provide proactive strategies around mental health.(

Supplied: Georgie Eishold

)

“We were going to training, unaware if we were actually going to get to play on Saturday,” she said.

“There wasn’t that purpose or reason for people to go for a run or train.”

To ensure engagement remains a priority after the pandemic, Ms Eishold  joined the club’s newly-formed Health and Wellbeing Committee, with the benefits felt in the entire community.

Already, the committee has instigated guest speakers and strategies to recognise the need to have proactive conversations around mental health.

“We deliver what our community needs, and right now it’s around mental health and wellbeing,” Ms Eishold said.

“It’s more than just football, netball, and turning up on a Saturday.

“It’s about creating that conversation and a place for people to have that conversation, and feel they can get support regardless of what’s going on for them.”

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