Volunteers encourage Eagles to fly

National Volunteers Week takes place from 8-14 May 2017, celebrating the contribution of all volunteers – AFL or otherwise – right across Australia.

Every week in New South Wales and the ACT, thousands of volunteers commit their time and energy towards growing AFL within the region.

From manning club canteens and running local Auskick Centres, to chairing club Boards and keeping time on Saturday afternoons, AFL volunteers are the backbone of our grassroots game.

One set of these volunteers resides 45 minutes from Kempsey, in South-West Rocks.

Running the Macleay Valley Eagles is a small but dedicated band of volunteers not connected to the club in any other way, but through the love of their community.

Led by Club Secretary, Rhonda Colliver and her husband, Kevin Ackerly, this group of volunteers have not only created a thriving footy club, but a community of their own.

As a comparatively young club – forming officially in 2008 – the Macleay Valley Eagles have grown leaps and bounds in recent years.

Now sporting Auskick, Juniors, and a recent addition in Youth Girls, the Eagles are quickly becoming a powerhouse within the AFL North Coast competition.

“Youth Girls has been great for our Club, and the girls in Kempsey and the Macleay Valley,” explains Rhonda Colliver.

“The first game we had 10 players, and then by the second game, we had 16. The interest is growing fast.”

Working predominantly with young Indigenous people, the volunteers from the club have collaborated with the community to build a home for local ‘at risk’ adolescents.

“Our aim is to give these kids a pathway in life and give them confidence in themselves.

“Club volunteers work at Kempsey PCYC on Friday nights at the ‘Safe Aboriginal Youth Program’. These volunteers cook meals and clean up afterwards for more than 60 youths.”

Remarkably, the volunteers from Macleay Valley, even drive their players to their games. Using a 12-seater bus – bought by selling their own car – Rhonda, Kevin, and Bruce Raeburn ensure their team’s safe arrival before the first bounce.

“Club members pick up and drop off players for training. Some committee members have had some of the players to their home for the weekend as well.”

The Eagles’ volunteerism also reaches into the local school system. Coaches from the club often go into the local primary schools to teach AFL over lunch. In turn, this initiative will see 12 new teams entered into the state-wide primary school competition, the Paul Kelly Cup, in 2017.

The drive of the community behind the Eagles has also seen some great success for their players.

In 2016, Chris Holten and Shaydan Close were both selected to play for the AFL NSW/ACT state squad at the National Championships. Young up-and-comer, Maleah Waters-Holten has also been selected as a part of the Woomeras squad for 2017.

As a thank you for their efforts in working with the local Indigenous youth, and for creating such a great community club, AFL NSW/ACT recently provided the club with over $4,000 worth of equipment.

Unable to afford items such as scoreboards, new footballs, and coaching equipment, AFL NSW/ACT was proud to provide this support to a club epitomising the spirit of the volunteer.

Should you wish to become a volunteer at your local AFL club, please visit the volunteer section of our website.