Moe wins Riley Pearce Cup

In memoriam: Riley Pearce's parents Kerry, Andrew and older brother Liam with the Riley 'Choppy' Pearce Cup. The cup has been established in support of mental health awareness between Moe and Traralgon, two clubs that had strong connections to the late Riley. photograph liam durkin



EVEN those who don’t believe in fate may have been converted if they witnessed what happened at Ted Summerton Reserve, Moe last Saturday.
Not only did the Moe Football-Netball Club win the inaugural Riley Pearce Cup, named after the young Moe player who tragically lost a battle with mental health at the start of last year, they did it with three truly Lion hearted performances to do their club moniker proud.
In what was an emotion-charged day playing arch rival Traralgon, Moe completed the football trifecta in Round 4 of the Gippsland League with wins in the Under-18s, reserves and seniors.
The sense of destiny was undeniable – the Under-18s, coached by Riley Pearce’s uncle Paul Walsh, came back from a five-goal deficit at three quarter time to win by six points. Riley’s older brother Liam kicked three goals in the reserves, and to top it all off – the seniors won by a point.
Players across the grades wore specially made t-shirts during their warm-up with Pearce’s nickname ‘Choppy’ written across the front, as well as green socks for mental health advocate Mindfull Aus.
Riley’s number 16 jumper has been the last thing Moe players have walked past as they leave the change room to head out onto the field for every game in the last year.
The Under-18 game was undoubtedly the most emotion-charged, as Moe players, many of whom had played with Riley, were addressed by his father Andrew before the match.
As the contest played out Traralgon appeared for all money to be cruising to a comfortable victory, but come the last quarter, the young Moe players found something.
That something may well have come from above.
The Lions hit the lead for the first time late in the match, holding on for a remarkable 10.8 (68) to 9.8 (62) win.
There was hardly a dry eye as Andrew Pearce was embraced by players in the immediate
aftermath, while coach Walsh looked like he couldn’t quite believe what had transpired.
“I mentioned it before the game, I just said ‘he’ll be looking over you today’ … very proud of the boys,” the victorious coach said.
“We all knew how Choppy played and how hard he played, I said ‘if you boys take half of that you’ll go a long way to winning the game’.
“I think the last quarter brought that out. I know I definitely looked up at the sky a lot of times in the last quarter, grabbed my t-shirt and said ‘come on Chop’.
“The boys to their credit did a cracking job in the last quarter. Choppy was looking after us that’s for sure.”

Moving: Moe players wore special t-shirts in memory of Riley Peace. photograph julie sim

Post-match, the entire Moe and Traralgon contingent came together and stood for a minute’s silence before the commencement of the reserves game.
Like the Under-18s, the Lions reserves were addressed by a member of the Pearce family in Mark ‘Dougie’ Walsh, whose nephew Hamish also played in the game. Riley’s eldest brother Matt had played for Moe his entire career up until this season, moving to Dalyston to be closer to work.
Later that evening, Moe was presented the Riley Pearce Cup, decided on count back by virtue of winning senior football and A Grade netball after the Lions and Maroons had split wins across the grades in the two sports five-all.

Fly high: Moe and Traralgon played for the Riley Pearce Cup in support of mental health awareness at the weekend. photograph liam durkin

Taking a moment to reflect, Andrew Pearce said it had been a poignant day for the family.
“It’s been emotional. For the day to pan out the way it has, for the thirds to win the way they did, Choppy would have loved the hardness and the way they went about it,” he said.
“Speaking to the thirds before the game I just touched on Chop and how he went about his football, just enjoying the game. Win, lose or draw they need to enjoy life and get around each other.”
With Riley playing for Moe and having gone to school with many from Traralgon FNC, the two clubs have formed a tight bond throughout the ordeal.
A mental health round in Riley’s honour had been arranged last year, but was cancelled no less than four times.
Andrew wished to pay tribute to both clubs for the work they had done in getting the match for mental health up and running.
“Traralgon has been fantastic. There is that ultimate rivalry, but Kev Foley (Traralgon FNC president), the effort he went to has been fantastic,” he said.
“On the Friday before the last game was cancelled (in 2021) I came up here (to Ted Summerton Reserve) and the whole Under-18 Traralgon team was here and they spent a couple of hours with me.
“Clint Taylor and Mark Walsh (from Moe FNC) have been fantastic organising Mindfull Aus. Matt Runnalls (Mindfull Aus founder) came and spoke and I think the club got a lot out of it. The whole club has wrapped their arms around us, it has been very comforting. It definitely helps when you have that support network, it makes things easier.”
If you or someone you know is struggling, phone Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline 13 11 14. Mindfull Aus can be reached by emailing