Essendon and Geelong will celebrate and recognise the incredible contribution of regional communities to Australia when they clash in the inaugural ‘Country Game’ at the MCG in Round 4 next season.
The fixture is set to become the next big blockbuster on the AFL calendar with a number of exciting initiatives and activities planned to support the event.
In the build up to the match, footy fans will be given the opportunity to enjoy a taste of the country in the City, with plans underway to transform the Yarra Park precinct into a country festival prior to the game.
The festival will include a live concert, farmers market, field shows, and many more activities celebrating ‘life on the land.’
Essendon great, Kevin Sheedy, came up with the concept while touring regional Australia.
“The ‘Country Game’ was born out of a very simple concept, celebrate the great people who keep our country going,” Sheedy said.
“The people across regional Australia don’t get enough recognition for their tireless work, and we should celebrate the history of agriculture and farming to Australia’s economy, as well as the people who live and work in these regional towns.
“Country and regional towns have also made a massive contribution to our game. Some of the competitions’ greatest players grew up kicking a sherrin on the various dairy farms, sheep stations and dusty towns at the back of nowhere.
“I have no doubt this could be the next big blockbuster game on the AFL calendar. Round 4, Saturday night, MCG is about saying thanks to those tiny towns across Australia who ‘punch above their weight’, a full MCG would send a very powerful message to those on the land who are doing it tough.”
CEO, Xavier Campbell, said the ‘Country Game’ will also help raise vital awareness into issues facing regional Australia.
“Kevin has worked tirelessly to bring this fixture to life and I think it’s a fantastic way to celebrate the significant contribution country and regional towns make to the AFL and the Australian way of life,” Campbell said.
“Essendon Football Club understands the power football plays in educating society across a variety of national issues and history. It’s important we remember our nation was built on primary industry.
“We currently play on ANZAC Day and Dreamtime at the ‘G, so to add the ‘Country Game’ is an honour and one we believe will help raise vital awareness for the issues facing rural and regional Australia.
“The birth of the ‘Country Game’ wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation and support of the Geelong Football Club and we’d like to personally thank Colin Carter and Brian Cook for buying into this exciting initiative.”
In addition to the ‘Country Game’, Essendon and Geelong will also play a NAB Cup match in a different regional town each year. Shepparton will host the 2016 instalment on Saturday 5 March.
Further information surrounding the NAB Cup fixture in Shepparton and ‘Country Game’ in Round 4 at the MCG will be communicated in due course.