Afternoon Reception in Support of the 150th Anniversary of Australian Football in Queensland
Kaye and I are delighted to extend a warm Government House welcome to this dynamic cross-section of Queensland’s vibrant Australian Football community – and that warm invitation extends even to the Collingwood supporters amongst us.
On the 22nd of May, 1866, around twenty enthusiastic members of the newly separated colony of Queensland converged upon the Metropolitan Hotel in response to an advertisement seeking “a meeting of gentlemen desirous of forming a football club” – for a brand of football then referred to as ‘Victorian Rules’.
And so tonight we celebrate that, one hundred and fifty years on, the sport we now affectionately call ‘Aussie Rules’ is so firmly and deservedly rooted in the hearts and minds of so many Queenslanders.
And it is a sport – and, in present company, it is safe to echo our Prime Minister’s suggestion earlier this year that it is “Australia’s most exciting football code” – which goes hand-in-hand with the quintessence of our Australian ethos: an ethos of camaraderie, of passion, of fair play, and, importantly, of inclusivity.
It is the ethos which I know will drive so many Queenslanders to get behind our Brisbane Lions women’s team during next year’s first ever National Women’s League – and the AFL is to be congratulated on this frankly judicious initiative.
I know it is also that same ethos which propels so many people to give their time as a volunteer both to the game, and also to the communities of which they are all such an integral part; to those generous volunteers here tonight, from all over our State, I thank you warmly as your Governor.
There is also a proud history of vice-regal involvement with the sport of Aussie Rules. It remains a great source of pride for all Australians that our nation’s first ever Aboriginal Governor, Sir Douglas Nichols, South Australian Governor in the 1970s, also played in the VFL and it is after him that the AFL’s Indigenous Round is named. The current Victorian Governor, Her Excellency the Honourable Linda Dessau, was an AFL Commissioner. And Queensland’s 17th Governor, Sir Henry Abel Smith, I am told, was the number one member of the still-mighty Wilston Grange Gorillas in 1964 and 1965.
Although not as well credentialed in this regard as Sir Henry, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to see both the Suns and the Lions in action this season.
And so tonight I also pay tribute to the game’s administrators, from AFL Queensland, and from the Lions and the Suns, and their community partners and supporters.
I was startled, Mr Warren, to learn of the game’s stellar growth in participation in our State last year – some 20% on the previous year, from an already impressive base. This speaks of a robust and effective administration, and as Governor, I acknowledge the profound benefits such participation has on the development of our children, and the work you all do to create pathways for the talented to reach professionalism.
It was presented to Jarrod Harbrow, having been judged by his teammates in the Suns victory over the Lions in Round 16 as displaying conspicuous leadership and courage. Jarrod, who grew up around Cairns, gifted it to me following his attendance at a NAIDOC Week reception held in this room earlier in the year. Needless to say, and to respectfully borrow a phrase, this matchball went ‘straight to the pool room’, and now sits proudly in the Fernberg Library downstairs. It powerfully reminds us that with the right support, there is no ceiling to achievement, for any Queenslander – and to that end I applaud initiatives like the recently launched Jarrod Harbrow Leadership Academy.
All of you here tonight are part of the wonderfully uplifting movement that is Aussie Rules in Queensland.
Your actions today are ensuring that the game in Queensland is well placed to continue to contribute beneficially to our State for the next 150 years. Thank you.