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Football and farming unite to help country kids

Footballers and dairy farmers are joining forces to give country Victorian kids a taste of footy.

Stanhope dairy farmer and local Auskick coordinator, Andrew Hipwell, has organised a major Auskick clinic at the Stanhope Recreation Reserve on March 26 that will bring together about 300 students from seven small local schools.

“It’s just something to give the kids an opportunity and promote fitness and sport,” Andrew said. “Our small schools seem to miss out on opportunities because of their size and location so we thought we’d do something about it.”

The clinic is being supported by Legendairy, the dairy industry’s communications initiative to raise the profile and reputation of Australian dairy.

Andrew said having Legendairy involved was fantastic.

“It’s great that Legendairy has an association with football. That’s what people relate to. Sport in the country is what makes towns tick.”

Legendairy is supporting the event by providing mini-footballs, arm bands and a special Legendairy-branded Sherrin football, which will be given away as a prize on the day.

A father of three and milker of 300 cows on his family farm near Stanhope, Andrew said dairy was the lifeblood of the district.

“It’s all about dairying in this area,” he said. “Stanhope and other towns in the area are real dairy farming communities. Probably 50 per cent of our kids in Stanhope Auskick are off dairy farms and most of the others would have parents or grandparents working at Fonterra.”

The Auskick day also has the backing of the Kyabram District and Goulburn Murray Football Netball Leagues and other local sponsors.

Interest is strong with about 300 students from Stanhope, Girgarre, Harston, Rushworth P-12, Rushworth St Mary’s, and Colbinabbin expected to take part in the clinic.

The clinic comes at an opportune time, as some local football clubs struggle to field junior sides. Stanhope, for example, has lost its under-14s team, although it retains an under-12s side.

“If we can encourage these kids to play we might encourage a few to keep going,” Andrew said. “We’re missing a bit of sport and fitness in the area at the moment.”

The tide is starting to turn in Stanhope. A few years ago only about six children regularly participated when Auskick started. That number grew to 40 last year.

Andrew played football for Stanhope and got involved in Auskick when his twin seven-year-old sons were keen to play.

At 48 and still fit thanks to his farming work, Andrew is happy to get out on the field and lead the way.

“I cramp up a little bit some Thursday nights but I absolutely love it,” he said. “We’re a football-mad family so it’s all good. That’s one of the great things about Auskick. Parents are always there, either watching or helping.”

Parents, teachers and local football clubs, including Stanhope, are supporting the March 26 Auskick clinic and children will wear their local club jumpers.

“This is a real community effort and hopefully one the kids will enjoy and remember for a long time,” Andrew said.

As he helps junior football ranks to revive, Andrew is also looking to a positive future for dairying in the region. The third generation dairy farmer continues to love working in the industry.

“I wish the prices were better but it’s going along not too bad,” he said.

Access to water is the biggest challenge for local farmers.

“Temporary water is $130 a megalitre so people are tending to let pastures dry off. They’re watering a bit less and feeding a lot more in the bale,” he said.

“But I think the attitude is that if we can get through the next 12 months then the industry is going to get better and the prices will come back.”