Winter, it’s the traditional footy season, although here on the Gold Coast there’s something incongruous about the weather. It’s a glorious day with the mercury reaching the mid 20’s and our Mayor’s Student Ambassadors have headed down to the local footy club to gain a better appreciation of Australian Rules Football.
The Ambassadors meet in the foyer of Southport Sharks, where two giant fish tanks host an array of tropical fish – including yes, a couple of sharks. I’m not sure if the Ambassadors realise what they’re in for today and certainly the Study Gold Coast team aren’t letting on – all they know is that they’re going to learn about the club and be introduced to that strange brand of footy we call Aussie Rules.
Sharks CEO Dean Bowtell is a former player with a distinguished playing career that saw him inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame. Dean takes our student team on a personalised tour where they learn about the history of the club, view the impressive facilities and, as a not-for-profit organisation, the Ambassadors discover that the club pumps $2 million dollars back into the local community each year through a number of initiatives.
For the (football) record, the Sharks were formed in 1961 when the Gold Coast’s population was around 100 000. They joined the big time state league in 1983 where they won the premiership that year – the only AFL footy club to do so in their debut season after being elevated into a bigger competition.
Ready For Action
During their tour of the club the Ambassadors are presented with a gift bag of goodies, including their very own Sharks’ footy jersey. The Ambassadors are so excited they don their new kit immediately as they head downstairs from the entertainment area to where the sport starts to get real.
First port of call is a warm up in the club’s extensive gymnasium. In a sea of iron and no shortage of takers pumping it, the Ambassadors climb on board some high tech exercise bikes. With the music and lights throbbing in time in the darkened room it’s more akin to a night club than a gym as one of the club’s trainers takes them through a high energy work out.
With no time to cool down our team of Ambassadors are in the Sharks’ footy dressing room, preparing for a workout with the coaching team. In their new black and white jerseys they’re ushered into the player’s pre-game meeting room known as the “Shark Tank”, where Jarrod Field, a member of the coaching staff gives them the lowdown on how to play the game.
Time to Play the Game
Before they know it our team of student wannabes are out on the park with the coaching staff going through a series of drills – kicking, catching, passing and bouncing the ball. Our Ambassadors embrace the basics of the game with gusto and they’re having an absolute blast while they’re doing it with smiles all round. This has been one of those rare opportunities where you get a real sense of what it’s like to be a player in a top flight footy team.
Our footy rookies might not be quite ready for a game, but they’re more than ready for lunch. Once again the Sharks turn their charming hospitality on for their guests with a magnificent pizza lunch on the rooftop of the club’s latest establishment the Aviary. With stunning views back over the city skyline on a cloudless day it’s a fitting end to an experience our Ambassadors won’t forget in a hurry.
This article was originally published on Study Gold Coast as Shark For A Day.