The West Australian Country Football League (WACFL) luncheon on WAFL grand final day was a time of farewells and welcomes as country and metropolitan football enthusiasts came together united in a single bond - their love of Australian Rules Football.
The WACFL (now called Country Football WA) was celebrating its 50th anniversary year, Nutrien Ag Solutions its 49th consecutive year of country football sponsorship and the WAFL its 139th premiership final.
League contenders East Fremantle and Peel hadn't been on the winners' podium since 1998 and 2017 respectively, with both looking to add to the trophy cabinet.
The Sharks ultimately prevailed, along with Claremont in the Colts and Swan Districts in the reserves.
Outgoing WACFL league president John Shadbolt, Mukinbudin, said his farewells after a 16-year stint at the helm but a lifetime of involvement in country football.
"I clearly remember getting measured up for my coat at my first meeting in 2007," Mr Shadbolt said.
He had many thank yous, some of the strongest and most emotional for his deputy Ian Stanley, Kalannie - also a long-time champion of country football - and his wife Debbie and family.
In welcoming new president Brendan Simpson, Quairading, it was a chance to officially announce a new name and new look for the WACFL with it now to be known as Country Football WA (CFWA), complete with a modern new, stylised swan logo, its iconic brand of the future.
An accompanying video shown on the day drew plenty of chuckles and nostalgic conversations as it championed inclusiveness, the commitment of volunteers and the age-old sense of purpose and belonging so crucial to grass roots football and the welfare and survival of regional communities.
WAFL chief executive officer Michael Roberts welcomed the move back to Optus Stadium for its grand final celebrations after having to relocate last year and said it allowed for a true celebration of football at all levels, with this year a parade of all junior football team flag winners 15 years and under.
"Our aims through the WAFL are to have a close competition, to improve the sustainability of our game, to increase our relevance with games held from Broome to Geraldton and to hold annual meetings in the regions - this year we went to Goomalling in the Mortlock league," Mr Roberts said.
"And in the 50th year of your organisation, I commend you on your three major achievements this year in the new brand, the new governance model to now include juniors and bringing in new board members.
"It takes guts to effect change and I commend John (Shadbolt) and his team on having the courage and leadership to do it."
Mental health was also to the fore with an inaugural Tackle your Feelings community champion award made to Pinjarra Tigers Football and Netball Club secretary Krystal Bee and president Bron May for the outstanding work they have been doing since starting mental health programs at their club in 2016 following "a few local incidents".
This was presented by Dan Mahony, partnerships lead with Tackle Your Feelings, the program instigated by the AFL Coaches Association with support from the AFL Players Association following the stabbing death of former Adelaide coach Phil Walsh and sponsored by Zurich Foundation to promote mental health awareness and programs at rural and regional football and netball clubs.
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