How Kyneton became a club for all

Kyneton has been named the winner of the AFL Victoria Club Inclusion Award. (Supplied)

By Oliver Lees

Kyneton has capped off a challenging year for football on a positive with the club named the winner of the AFL Victoria Club Inclusion Award.

The virtual awards were held earlier this month with the aim of celebrating individual and community achievements.

The Tigers were selected for the prize ahead of Ferntree Gully and St Albans football clubs.

Under the leadership of president Hayden Evans, this year the club fielded its first side in the Victorian Football Integration Development Association (FIDA) season.

The league – which was established to accommodate people with disabilities – has grown steadily over its 30 year history, but before this season did not feature a team within an hour’s drive of the Macedon Ranges.

As he took the helm at the start of this year, Evans said inclusivity was at the top of his list of priorities.

“The club is extremely proud to win an award like that with the path we’re on,” he said.

“We wanted to do everything we can to engage everyone in the community and that meant putting in resources.

“We wanted to be a one club town, and to do that you have to engage the whole town. In the past we may have lost some parts of the community.”

Evans said it was a focus of his to have the club giving back to the community wherever possible.

That includes redirecting a portion of the club’s finances into charities each year. This year the Tigers were able to redirect more than $13,000 to local organisations and food charities.

In a further show of community engagement, this year the Tigers hosted the Eaglehawk Football Netball Club for the annual Pride Cup.

First launched in Yarra Glen in 2012, the Pride Cup serves the twin purpose of providing an inclusive environment as well as encouraging members of the LGBT community to be more engaged in community sport.

The club’s senior football and netball teams donned custom-made rainbow pride guernseys and were joined by AFLW star Darcy Vescio for a lunch event.

Speaking at the AFL Victoria awards event, Tigers secretary Natalie Kornfsky said “We’ve got a few people around our club that have a disability and have always wanted to play football, but that have had to travel one to two hours to be involved in football”.

“We decided this year that this is the time to take a step in the right direction and provide a really inclusive space so everyone in our community can get involved with this game that we love.”

Evans said he’s looking forward to having a full season of footy, where the entire club can get together, and hopes that other clubs in the shire will follow suit in creating a FIDA program.

The Tigers will hold come-and-try days for next season in the near future.