House of Representatives
22 October 2015
For five years now, I have been a patron of the Belconnen Magpies Aussie Rules football club. It is a club with a proud history—originally known as Turner Football Club, then the Bees and then the Blues. Then, after its merger with the West Canberra Football Club, it became the Belconnen Magpies in 1987 and moved to its headquarters in Kippax in 1991.
Although I have not gotten to as many games as I would like to this year, I did get out to 'The Nest' at Kippax to see the Magpies' convincing 118-35 victory against the Ainslie Tricolours on 29 August. The ACT AFL competition grand final was held on 19 September. Playing in both the first and second grade matches were, of course, the Magpies. Alas—despite a thrilling semifinal victory against Tuggeranong on 5 September—the first grade side was narrowly upset by Queanbeyan, 95-71. The Magpies second grade team also fought to the end, but ultimately went down to Tuggeranong 87-39.
The 2014 year was a tough one for the Belconnen Magpies. Fighting in the highly competitive North East Australian Football League, success was elusive, and the club was ultimately relegated to the ACT AFL competition. The Magpies now find themselves towards the top of the pecking order in the ACT. The club has amply proven its worth and, during the entire normal season, the first grade side was undefeated. The players, staff and entire club—especially coach Jeremy Rowe—can be incredibly proud of their efforts.
Let me indulge the House with a few of their season highlights. First and second grade both claimed minor premierships, finishing top of their respective ladders. Third and fourth grade missed out on making the finals, but each fought tough and creditable seasons. Statistically, the first grade side was by far the best attacking and the best defending team in the competition. In terms of individual achievements, first grader Chris York had a breakout season, kicking 80 'sausage rolls' in 15 games. Club stalwart Lex Bennett played his 200th first grade game for Belconnen against Queanbeyan on 30 May—only the sixth player in the club's history to achieve this milestone. The Magpies field teams in a range of divisions and in both genders. It was great to see them winning the girls youth competition, defeating Ainslie Black 21-10 in the grand final, with Alexia Hamilton winning best on ground for the Magpies.
Twelve Magpies players were selected for the 2015 AFL Canberra representative squad: James Bennett, Alexander Bennett, Ryan Turnbull, Daniel Jordan, Jack Baker, Dom Bunyan, Luke Wharton, Chris York, Isaac Taylor, Jacob Taylor, Daniel Posch and Ryan Bradley. Further afield, former Belconnen Magpie Jack Steele debuted in the AFL for Greater Western Sydney against North Melbourne on 19 June, putting in one of the team's best performances. In the women's sport, former Magpies player Elise O'Dea and current defender Heather Anderson were selected in the AFL women's draft.
An improvement on their sometimes antisocial namesake, the Magpies have swooped on social causes this year, throwing the energy of the club behind a number of community initiatives. During their first set of home games, the Magpies collected donations for a rare cancers charity and held a minute's silence before each game, with players wearing black armbands in honour of Canberra mother Rachael Netting, whose husband, Paul, played more than 300 games for the Magpies. Rachael passed away earlier this year after a battle with cancer. During the match against Ainslie that I attended, the Magpies dedicated their games and a special function to raising funds for Lifeline Canberra.
At their presentation night on 17 October, a range of well-deserved awards were handed out. In the women's grade, I acknowledge Emma Hampton, Hannah Wallett, Melissa Campbell, Katie McGinty, Jess Sibley and Heather Anderson. In division 1, I acknowledge James Bennett, Chris York, Dom Bunyan, Daniel Jordan, Isaac Taylor, Lexie Bennett, Tim Smith and Jack Baker; in division 2, John Love, Ben Turnbull, Jon Dunn, James Kenna, Matthew Newman and Jeffrey Dowdell; in division 3, Josh Visser, Jeffrey Dowdell, Geoff Kay, Bradley Fleming, James Michelle and Jack Sheers; in division 4, Rory Markham, Pat Ryan-Baker, Joe Quarmby, Tom Arthur and Eric Parkin. Among the rising stars, I acknowledge: Joshua Fitzpatrick, Elliott Jordan, Joey Pisciotta, Michael Pisciotta, Aiden Wenke and Aiden Ledson. For the plaque winners: the Frank Goddard Rising Star Award went to Luke Wharton, life membership went to Lex Bennett, the Len Sheedy Memorial Award went to Paul Gunn and the Alan Phillips Memorial Award went to Jeremy Foster. Inducted in the hall of fame were Brendan Read and Darren Denneman. The Rachael Netting Most Determined Award went to Melissa Campbell, and the Townley Award for Service to Senior Football went to Phil Batten.
I hope 2016 will bring even more successes. Perhaps a Magpies grand final win and a Labor election win in the same year. I cannot imagine a happier thing for a Canberra based politician than to see a Shorten government and a Magpies victory in the same year.