The football match for everyone

Action: The two ruckmen contest the centre bounce. Photographs: Zaida Glibanovic




YOU’VE heard of lunchtime footy. How about midweek lunchtime footy?

The Latrobe Valley Panthers Reclink Football Club played their first game of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation football league last Wednesday (May 17).

The once-a-month footy match saw the LV Panthers take on the Odyessy House Victoria team in a fast-paced and fun game with all spectators entertained at the Morwell Recreation Reserve.

The Reclink Australia’s Victorian Football League is available to people 16 years and over of all genders, ages, cultural groups, and abilities who have experienced or are experiencing disadvantages.

There are 15 teams across Victoria with locations in Morwell, Collingwood, Casey, Geelong, Hawthorn, Werribee, Footscray, St Kilda, Dandenong, Frankston, Rosebud, Bendigo, Sunbury, Ballarat and Pakenham. The program is funded through the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation’s Latrobe Valley Gambling Harm Prevention Project and delivered by Reclink Australia, a charity that connects people through sport, recreation and art programs to promote social inclusion. Reclink has been providing service to Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley since June 2021.

Neighbourhood Watch Latrobe catered the event with a free barbecue for all the spectators and players to enjoy a snag or two.

Though the Morwell side lost the battle 92 points to 41, both teams came off the ground with smiles, with friends and family cheering on the side lines.

Latrobe Valley Senior Sports coordinator Isaac Copeland was very proud of Reclink’s work and mission to foster inclusivity through sport.

“I think what Reclink does as a whole and especially for our footy, it really breaks down all the barriers as for everyone that can’t play on the weekend in mainstream sport can come down to a Reclink team on game day and really just embrace it,” he said

“This is our first proper game. We had a little training footy clinic last week … we had 60 people attend, and today we had around 80 people come around, and yeah it’s just a great day.”

To make the football game inclusive, the Reclink team modifies the rules so anyone can join.

“We modify the rules, so people can wear a vest so they can’t get tackled, so it really opens up for anyone to access it and play it, which is amazing,” Copeland said.

“Reclink is for everyone, and it really shows you know everyone has a different walk of life that comes to play for a Reclink team for example, our team in Morwell is mixed up of disability agencies, Mental health and rehab centres.”

“Everyone from different walks of life can come to be in a local team and sing the song afterwards and have fun,” he added.

Copeland said the day is all about community, socialising, and inclusivity, but it does not lack healthy competition.

“I think that’s the joys of it. It is modified so it can be played at the beginner level, but it also can be played at a very high standard where people can really feel like they are playing at a high level, like the mainstream clubs on a Saturday. It really gives that opportunity … its really cool to see these guys run around and get a bit fired up.”

Reclink Australia provides evidence-based sport and recreation programs to disadvantaged Australians to create socially inclusive, life-changing opportunities. In partnership with more than 500 community organisations. Reclink Australia’s programs create pathways to improved health and wellbeing, education and employment outcomes for all participants.

La Trobe University research revealed the importance of Reclink’s work as its reach, diversity and outcomes achieved for those hard-to-reach people in the community is one of the best Australia-wide.

Mathew Lowe, a dairy farmer from Drouin who works seven days a week, loves to play in the Reclink league.

“I’ve just started with Morwell this year, I played for Casey last year, but it’s all about giving people a second chance at life, like for people going through drug addiction and alcohol rehab and all that, so pretty much we get out on a Wednesday to get together play a bit of footy and have some fun,” he said.

“I kicked the first goal for the club, we don’t really know one another, so it was all new to us today … we’re taking it game by game, we just want to bond and make friendships.”

Having had a friend who has battled addiction but now plays for a Reclink side, Lowe has seen first-hand the benefits the game can have on an individual.

“I’ve had a mate of mine who’s had an alcohol problem, and he’s come out the other side; he’s 12 months clean now, and his love for the game is awesome; I think everyone deserves that second opportunity in life,” he said.

Lowe said that sport was a great way to improve people’s lives, being great for people’s mental and physical health; he said it could “change people’s lives around.”

The first Reclink match at Morwell seemed a great success, as Lowe said, “it was good to get out and have a good run around.”

If footy is not your thing, Reclink in Latrobe Valley provides many other free sports activities, art and recreational programs for all abilities, genders and ages.

Reclink is always looking for more participants.

For more information, go to

Head honcho: Shaun Johnson and Isaac Copland, sports coordinators at Reclink Latrobe Valley and event organisers.
Inclusive: The Reclink football games are for every one of all abilities, genders and backgrounds.