Year in review: community football in 2021

Lexton and Talbot face off in front of a excited crowd in the WorkSafe Country Club Game to welcome back football after the COVID layoff

Community football clubs and leagues throughout Victoria have banded together to bring the game back and create some memorable moments in 2021, despite enduring another year of COVID interruptions and challenges.

As we head into a new year where grassroots football will continue to return and thrive, we take a look back and reflect on some of the highlights for Victorian community football in 2021.

Return to play for Community football

The return of play in 2021 was a welcome reward, after a 2020 season in which community football was almost brought to its knees.

The 2021 community football campaign was again challenging, as we endured multiple COVID interruptions across the state but—due to the hard work of our clubs, players, coaches, umpires, volunteers, administrators, supporters and everyone else involved— community football was able to make a successful return.

AFL Victoria and WorkSafe Victoria hosted the Country Club Game to celebrate the return of football, with the Lexton Tigers taking on the Talbot Hawks.

Resumption of inclusion competitions

The resumption of the Robert Rose Victorian Wheelchair Football League and Energy Safe Victorian Blind Football League competitions in November signified a return to competitive play in Victoria after another layoff.

Both competitions enjoyed exciting finals competitions, with St Kilda taking out the VBFL premiership and Collingwood taking home the VWFL premiership, honouring their late captain, Brendan Stroud.

The Saints take home the Energy Safe Victorian Blind Football League premiership

Lual's realises dream at Cora Lynn
Earlier this year, Lual Lual was told he would make his senior debut for the Cora Lynn Football Club in the West Gippsland Football League.
Lual was the first Sudanese born player to represent the club at senior level, and he described it as ‘a dream’.

The moment Lual is told he'll debut for Cora Lynn

Gizza inspires with his senior debut for Phillip Island
A passionate contributor to club and community, Jess Gizza made his senior debut for the Phillip Island football club against Wonthaggi and kicked a goal which was warmly celebrated by his teammates.

Jess Gizza kicks a goal for Phillip Island

AFL stars return to their Community Clubs
It’s always great to see our elite talent return to show support for the community clubs that helped develop their talent.
Earlier this year, Bailey Smith (East Malvern), Max King (East Sandringham) and Charlie Curnow (Torquay FNC) were among some of the AFL stars who returned home to their junior clubs to the delight of the young players.

TAC Unity Cup
Over 600 new footballers took to the football field in March with the return of the TAC Unity Cup Hubs and TAC Unity Cup Gala Day.
The program has been running for 13 years with the aim to break down cultural barriers amidst the joy of learning Australia’s national game.
Participants learnt AFL9’s football and had opportunities to attend professional development sessions to learn more about road safety in Victoria.

Players embrace at the TAC Unity Cup

Pride Cup
Multiple teams and leagues throughout Victoria AFL Victoria continued to promote inclusivity and diversity by hosting Pride Cup matches in 2021.
Pride Cup challenges homophobia and transphobia within sporting clubs — making them more welcoming for LGBTIQ+ fans, players and officials.

The jumpers worn in the Pride Cup matchup between Yarra Glen and Powell Town

Strategic Community Investment Fund
The Strategic Community Investment Fund returned in 2021 with over $1 million in grants provided to help clubs, leagues and regions achieve strategic objectives and provide a platform for sustained success.
There was a total of 127 successful applications across the state contributing to funding of new teams, facilities, programs and more.

AFL commits further $8 million grant to Community Football
The AFL announced a major $8 million extra investment to help bring community football back and ensure the grassroots game thrives, following two years disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding commitment directs funds to where they’re most needed and has been made in acknowledgement of the importance of community football and the people involved. The package will go towards getting kids active in schools, helping households return to their community clubs and bolstering support for volunteers, coaches and umpires.

Executive General Manager of Game Development, Rob Auld's message to community football

TAC Road Safety Round and Club Rewards Campaign
Victorian footballers, officials and supporters across the state donned blue armbands on the field, at training and on social media—to honour people killed on our roads and show their commitment to road safety—as part of AFL Victoria and the TAC’s Road Safety Round.

TAC Road Safety Round was complemented by the TAC’s Club Rewards Program that offered grants of up to $10,000 to clubs that engage with their members on road safety issues.

Over 150 grassroots football and netball clubs across Victoria shared in more than $1 million as a reward for helping prevent death and serious injury on our roads.

WorkSafe Club Safety Fund
WorkSafe AFL Victoria Country clubs were eligible to apply for funding to make improvements to the safety of their facility and to assist with occupational health and safety initiatives with a contribution of up to 50 percent of total cost as part of the WorkSafe Club Safety Fund.

Energy Safe Canteen Awards
A total of 32 Victorian grassroots clubs were awarded grants of up to $1,000 to replace old, unsafe and energy inefficient fridges, bain maries, stoves, pie warmers, steamers and fryers.

Community football awards
The Community Football Awards took place in November to recognise outstanding contributions made to Australian football across Victoria and celebrate some of the amazing achievements that enabled football to return this year after a cancelled season.

There were 16 award winners in a variety of categories that acknowledge the important role our community members play in the sustainability and growth of grassroots football.

Inaugural Women’s Coaching Month
Throughout the month of July, the AFL celebrated the inaugural edition of Women’s Coaching Month which showcased the wonderful contribution of female coaches across all levels of our game.

Women’s Coaching Month provided an opportunity to highlight some of the coaches leading the way whilst also promoting programs and initiatives to get more women coaching at community level, across state leagues and at the AFL and AFLW level.

Juanita Sanger of the Frankston Dolphins JFC