The appearance of Santa Claus to a raucous ovation from hundreds of kids said it all.
Getting the festive fella to make the long trip from the North Pole just days out from Christmas is no easy task.
But then again, the 2013 finale of the Roaring 40s’ AFL 9s competition is no ordinary event.
More than 1000 people converged on Wesley College on Monday for a special family night, that also saw the conclusion of the hotly contested 20-team social competition.
Santa, who arrived via a fire truck, joined mascots from the Western Bulldogs, Wesley College and the Bendigo Bank to keep the kids entertained, while mums and partners enjoyed tours of the School’s facilities.
On the field, the action was just as lively with two teams made up of dads from St Michael’s Primary School students going head to head in the Division 1 Grand Final.
While all 20 teams were in action in the round-robin carnival to finish what has been another bumper Spring/Summer season, it was the Muppets who eventually prevailed over the highly fancied Dragons in the decider.
And despite plenty of feeling in the games on Monday night, Roaring 40’s co-founder Matt Bradley said it was the social aspect of the sport which was the appealing factor for those involved.
“AFL 9s is all about having fun and getting together with your mates and enjoying some physical activity,” Bradley said.
“More than half our teams are made up from dads from the primary schools in the Glen Waverley area and AFL 9s is a great way for them to get to know one another.”
“The schools love it and some even print the results in their weekly newsletters.”
Bradley said they also received great support from the wives and partners of the players.
“We have wives tell us all the time how much their husbands enjoy playing in the Roarings 40s comp.”
“They’re getting off the couch, catching up with their mates and only have to commit to an hour or so a week.”
“It’s a stress release and a bit of a distraction from work and family.”
The Roaring 40s concept is the brainchild of Bradley and Stuart Mackie who started the competition two years ago with just three teams.
Despite the name, the competition is primarily for men over the age of 35 with a few exceptions allowed in each side.
And judging by the turnout on Monday night, there are no signs of it slowing down.
Teams in matching uniforms – some professionally made – has become common place, with some even sporting matching shoes.
Ex-AFL players Steven King and Simon Garlick play regularly, while the league’s best and fairest medal is named after another fellow player; former Melbourne midfielder Adem Yze.
Even the king himself Wayne Carey came down for a look on Monday night.
“It was great to bring the community together for the Family Night and we were overwhelmed by the attendance,” Bradley said
“We have to thank Mercedes and Coles for sponsoring the night and allowing us to put on all the different activities.”
Going big is nothing new for the Roarings 40s crew with their best and fairest night turned into a gala ball, complete with red carpet and more than 250 guests.
And now state of origin is on the cards.
“I’m moving to Adelaide in the new year and hoping to set up a similar competition.”
“Hopefully we can bring a team over to take on the Vics and maybe make it an annual event.
Photos: Yuri Kouzmin
Article courtesy of www.aflvic.com.au