MAINTAINING physical and mental health is not always a priority for men living in rural Western Australia, but the Bruce Rock Football Club is hoping to change that through the launch its 2018 nude calendar.
More than 30 players of all shapes and sizes have braced the winter elements and stripped-off to raise funds and awareness for Wheatbelt Men’s Health (WMH).
The calendar was planned as a club fundraiser but the motivation behind the project quickly changed after a cancer scare rocked the group.
At just 28-years of age, player Matt Gilbert was forced to the sidelines to undergo surgery after finding a lump on his left testicle.
“I felt a lump and went and got it looked at and was told that there was an extremely high chance that it was cancer,” Matt said.
“I’ve got a two-year-old and my wife is pregnant so me getting better was the number one priority.
“I had to put everything on hold - business and footy all got put on the sidelines – and within a week of getting it seen by the doctors I was on the operating table and got it removed.”
Soon after the operation, Matt and his family received the welcome news that the tumour was non-cancerous and he was soon on the road to recovery.
He said although many men were uncomfortable talking about their health, diagnosing potential problems early was paramount.
“Don’t sit on your hands and wait for something to be painful, drastically overgrown or wrong, go and get it looked at and check your body,” he said.
“Hopefully the calendar can bring about a sense of blokes looking after one another and themselves and making sure that health is important, it does need to be a priority.”
Bruce Rock league coach Leigh Strange said Matt’s experience was a wake-up call for the rest of his teammates, who were affected by his experience.
Leigh said the Magpies made the decision to direct their efforts towards promoting WMH, to empower men to take responsibility for their well being.
“We’ve probably got a tendency as a sporting group filled full with young men to think we’re 10 foot tall and bulletproof, mentally and physically,” he said. “I think that something such as this really brings that message home, we’re not bulletproof, things can go amiss and if we just turn a blind eye to it, things can go wrong pretty quickly.
“Considering we’re a predominantly male sporting club and all of the work that WMH does, we thought we could do a joint fundraiser with them and raise a few dollars and push their men’s health message.”
With several growers in the Bruce Rock area struggling through dry seasonal conditions, Leigh said maintaining a healthy mental state was another relevant issue.
He said WMH’s promotion of “talking to a mate” was a fitting message for the unfolding season.
“As every week goes on, we’re all realists and we understand that the chance of a good season has gone, an average season has slipped away as well and from now on it becomes a salvage job, I suppose,” Leigh said.
“The big mantra of Wheatbelt Health is to talk to a mate and I think that’s very poignant in seasons such as this where our biggest frustration is the thing that we can’t control.
“Whether it’s a mental issue or a physical health issue, it’s just pushing that whole mantra of looking after yourself.”
With the help of his wide De – a professional photographer – Leigh rallied players together for the football-themed calendar.
Although some players were reluctant to take their clothes off in front of the camera, De said most men embraced the opportunity.
“It was in the middle of winter when we were trying to shoot and a lot of the photos were taken outside so it was freezing cold and they (players) still had to smile and look relaxed but they all did a great job,” De said.
“It’s a friendly calendar and it looks like they’re all having a lot of fun.
“We’ve got a real range of ages in there from 18 to in their forties and of all different body shapes, we wanted it to be realistic.”
Photos were shot in black and white, edited and put together in a calendar to be officially launched this weekend.
Wheatbelt Men’s Health community educator Owen Catto will be in Bruce Rock for the launch at this Saturday’s home game.
Mr Catto said support from the Bruce Rock Football Club would help drive the message of the importance of an holistic approach to men’s health.
“The idea of it is fantastic because it’s got presence, the actual fact there’s a presence hanging on someone’s wall reminding someone is always a good thing,’’ he said.
“It certainly gives us further reach.”
Funds will be split between the Bruce Rock Football Club and WMH.
WMH will use the money for non-core activities in regional areas, such as the sponsorship of the WA Country Football League’s Talk to a Mate Men’s wellbeing Round.
“One hundred per cent of any of our donation money is used for project activities directed straight back into the regional areas,” Mr Catto said.
“Anything which enables us to get that extra coverage and drive our message is really good.”
Calendars can be purchased online at: strangeimagesphotography.com/shop -online