Avenel's reserves had extra motivation to win on Sunday - their popular coach was diagnosed with leukaemia last week.By Chalpat Sonti
There are times on the sporting field — and off it immediately afterwards — when emotion can get the better of those present. For good reason.
And there was no better reason than at Stanhope on Sunday. The occasion was a KDFL reserves final between Avenel and the home side.
The Swans twos, under the guiding hand of mentor Joe Pollock, have been the shining light for the club on the football field this season. Avenel qualified third, and won the club’s first senior-age football final in some time when beating Tallygaroopna on August 31.
It was full steam ahead for the next eliminator at Stanhope. But then the cruel hand of fate struck.
Joe Pollock had been unwell for a little while but nothing could prepare him or partner Stacey Hogan for the news they received last week. Pollock was diagnosed with acute myeloblastic leukaemia and was admitted to the Olivia Newton John cancer centre in Melbourne. It was a devastating blow and the couple face the long road to recovery.
Typical of Pollock though, it was a minor matter in some ways — there was a game of footy to be won. Offsider and reserves stalwart Hank Woldhuis explained.
‘‘Even though he got diagnosed, he called me the morning after to make sure I could organise training and things,’’ Woldhuis said.
And that was the start of it. The Swans players delivered for their coach the best way they knew how on Sunday, overcoming a nervous start to demolish Stanhope by 49 points.
Some of the play, particularly in the third quarter, was inspirational as the Swans kicked 10 of the last 11 goals to book a place in the preliminary final.
Tyler Peacock was outstanding, after being sent early on to do a job on Stanhope dangerman Brenton Sheppard. The likes of Josh Brinkhuizen, Robbie Sidebottom, Brodie Sherwood, Matt Cameron, Al Loweke and Clint Capuano were others to shine.
And didn’t Pollock know about it. Ms Hogan kept him informed of progress during the game via the phone.
‘‘He just loves those boys and he wouldn’t miss this for anything,’’ she said.
And they would want him there more than anything. Players recorded messages to send him after the game. Let’s let Woldhuis say how much he means.
‘‘The love for Joey is pretty enormous here and no-one wanted to let him down,’’ he said.
‘‘If it brought a smile to his face it’s all worth it. He was our 19th man, you could say, but we would have loved to have him here. We’re all great mates , everyone works for each other and for the coach, and that’s because of Joey.
‘‘We don’t have the really big personalities, Joey wouldn’t stand for someone putting themselves above the team and his coaching style and mannerisms rub off on the team.’’
They’re the sort of character traits that make Joe one of the most personable local sporting personalities, whether it be for Avenel or his other great love, the Seymour Cricket Club, where he has been club champion.
They’re why grown men were in tears after Sunday’s game.
And Pollock’s homework paid off after going to Merrigum last week to watch Stanhope squeak home against Lancaster.
‘‘He noticed they were a quality side but didn’t like to chase and were a bit lazy when you counter attack, and he was right again,’’ Woldhuis said.
As Pollock said in last week’s Telegraph, the winner of the Avenel-Stanhope game could go all the way. There’s a preliminary final to be won first though, against Murchison at Girgarre on Saturday.
Pollock will sure be there in spirit. And should the Swans win, who would bet against him being at Tatura on the big day .
‘‘They would have to make sure he was handcuffed to that hospital bed to stop him, I reckon,’’ Woldhuis said.
Avenel1.0, 5.2, 11.2, 14.8 (92)
Stanhope4.2, 6.5, 6.6, 6.7 (43)
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