WHAT began as ‘we should have a…’ moment between a few horsemen has quickly developed into Australian harness racing’s biggest social event.
Talking with his peers over a drink or three last year, Victorian mentor Robbie O’Connell decided to take the conversation beyond words and into action.
A couple of months later, the inaugural TAB.COM.AU Charity Football Day was born!
With trainers and drivers throughout the state, and a few from across the border, forming four regional teams, the event was a big hit.
Not only did it provide industry personnel the opportunity to enjoy a fun day filled with laughter, the event raised valuable funds and awareness for the Childrens’ Tumour Foundation.
Match fees, raffles and a memorabilia auction saw $14,000 raised…a tremendous effort considering the foundation receives $18,000 a year from the government.
Fast forward 12 months and the big day is on again.
Not only will the four teams – Melton, Ballarat, Bendigo and Shepparton – do battle on the footy field in a ‘Round Robyn’ contest for the Katie Alford Cup, a netball section has been added to the agenda.
Katie, daughter of premier reinsman Chris Alford, suffers from the rare disorder Neurofibromatosis, which affects one in 4000 people.
Katie has become harness racing’s shining light for the charity.
With O’Connell the driving force once again, the August 31 showdown at the Strathfieldsaye Sporting Club promises to be a day to remember.
Tabcorp has returned as the major sponsor, donating the football jumpers, with Alabar Bloodstock covering the cost of the foot and netballs.
Alabar has also chimed in with a service to Grinfromeartoear, which is the main prize of a mega raffle.
The raffle also includes a service to Union Guy donated by John Campbell, with connections of Red Samurai also supplying a service to the former handy trotter.
There are also plenty of prizes for the non-breeders, including a 10 kilogram block of Cadbury chocolate, Bolinda Publishing Audio Books and a Myer voucher.
Other sponsors include Seelite Windows and Doors, Fernwood Melton, Amart Sports, Kevin Riseley, James and Son, Allan McNeil and Glenn Sharp.
A small fee of $50 for players and spectators (under 16 free) covers the costs of a sausage sizzle, the games and the night’s function.
The function will also include a memorabilia auction.
It was last year’s auction that proved to be the biggest money spinner for the cause.
Paul Smart from Azuma International supplied the various pieces of memorabilia, which raised almost $8000 for the sick children.
Unlike 99.9 percent of auctions, Azuma International didn’t place a reserve on the items.
For example, a supplier will put a $500 reserve on a particular item, and should it sell for $550, the charity only receives $50!
Azuma International, however, split the takings down the middle.
“To be honest, last year we were only cutting our teeth with the whole concept and were caught a little off guard by how big it turned out,” O’Connell said.
“This time we’ll be on top of everything from the get go and it will be an even better time for all involved.
“I’ve got no doubt those who played, or came along, last year will return, and with that in mind, the interest is expected to grow.
“It’s open to all harness racing participants, be it owners, stablehands, trainers, drivers, club officials, administrators.
“Even journalists…we’re open minded!
“All that said, last year was an amazing effort to raise $14,000, this time around we’re thinking closer to $20,000.
“So I urge everybody with an interest in harness racing to come along, either as a player or spectator…you won’t regret it.”