THERE was a huge air of excitement in the Boundary Room at the WACA ground last Thursday but it was football not cricket that was the word on everyone's lips.
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions, the premier event on the WA country football calendar, the Nutrien Ag Solutions Country Football Championships was back.
And it was very evident how much football pulls communities together and provides such a central focus to winter sporting weekends and the fabric of daily life in the bush.
Following a heartfelt welcome to country by Ingrid Cumming, who spoke of her father Len Collard's football journey, the presentations began.
Nutrien Ag Solutions, which has been sponsoring the championships continuously for 48 years, handed over a cheque to the WA Country Football League (WACFL) for $110,000 for its annual season sponsorship and pledged another three years of support.
Speaking on behalf of the company Nutrien Ag Solutions, general manager south WA, Justin Lynn said it was Nutrien's longest running sponsorship anywhere in Australia and one that had great synergy to its regional business footprint.
"We work hard to help farmers and clients succeed in everything they do and our staff are a big part of the communities in which they live and work," Mr Lynn said.
"This is why we have seen it as so important to continue our support for this event over the past two years even though we have not been able to hold the championships.
"It's great to be back and I congratulate Tom Bottrell and his team at the WA Football Commission for securing the WACA for tonight's function and Sunday's grand finals and I wish all teams (450 players in total) the best of luck."
One of the highlights of the night was the induction of two more life members to the WACFL by patron and life member Ken Baxter.
Mr Baxter presented the gold badges to WACFL president John Shadbolt and Morawa's Milton Milloy, a long-time supporter of country football and possibly the first father-son combination to join the ranks, with his father Jim Milloy also a life member.
Mr Shadbolt, who hails from Mukinbudin in the Central Wheatbelt Football League (CWFL) has held numerous positions over the years including with the WACFL as its president since 2018 and executive member since 2008 and with CWFL as a director from 1998 to 2012, president from 2001 to 2003, patron and made a life member in 2012.
Mr Milloy started his football involvement with the North Midlands Football League (NMFC) in the 1980's as a coach from junior to league level, as a board member and was made a NMFC life member in 2017.
In 2008, he followed in his father Jim Milloy's footsteps and joined the WACFL executive until 2019 including as junior vice president from 2014 to 2019 and also worked as its operations manager for nine months in 2013.
With a passion for junior talent development Mr Milloy has been involved with the Midlands RFDC since 2004 and its chairman since 2014.
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