You might have seen quite the inundation of local footy posts on my blog this year; that’s because of my volunteer work with the Eastern Football League this season.
Having spent 2012 & 2013 building up something of a profile with AFL Victoria and covering state football, in many ways, a move to different pastures felt right.
Given it was only a couple of weeks before the EFL season started when I got my pass and details sorted, it was a bit of a rush job to research teams, check my gear, and ensure I was ready for my first game, which was Blackburn v Balwyn in Division One.
I’m lucky to live directly across from Morton Park, home of the mighty Burners, and I was not disappointed on my first day of work. Balwyn won narrowly, and it was the quality of the match that really made me appreciate my decision.
While being a volunteer might not be earning me money, it certainly has its perks when it comes to experience. I have gained valuable contacts, as well as heaps of time perfecting my sports photography skills with a longer lens and faster and more sophisticated camera than in previous years.
On top of that, I’ve had the opportunity to experience proper radio broadcasting for the first time, including being live in the studio post-match, phone wrap-ups from around the grounds and boundary riding on EFL Gameday.
My photography is what’s probably “sprouted” the most. Some of my best shots have come from this season, and I’ve covered more games in one EFL season than two with AFL Vic – and there’s still a couple of weeks to go.
Have to say my favourite game might have been Doncaster East v Mulgrave on May 3. It was a shocker of a day, constant rain at more than a drizzle, rubbish natural light and a slippery boundary. Add to that a mysteriously punctured shoe, and it was a crazy day.
Kitted out in the full rain rig – raincoat, gloves and a full-size camera cover – I was the only one brave enough to venture out from under the grandstand and rooms, aside from the players, umpires and coaches.
I was not disappointed. The result was an incredible one point victory to Mulgrave, and perhaps my most priceless photo of the season.
Better still, many of the teams – especially in Division One – could challenge plenty of the VFL sides. Norwood, for example, have Matthew Bate and Jordan Gysberts in their side, former AFL listed players. Their consistency over the past few years has made them one of the teams I’ve enjoyed watching this season.
One other important thing to touch on; everyone learns from each, and from themselves. As a photojournalist, for starters, I have to adapt to changing light conditions and game speed.
I usually write a game shotlist for each goal and special moments or comments that help me write a match report or help with my radio summary, and sometimes things are missed. You’re constantly keeping one eye on the game and on eye on your sheets.
Boundary riding has been great as well. Right in the thick of it and being the on-ground special comments men is fun, but watch out for flying footballs!
It has been a guaranteed opportunity every week – other than me being sick or being unavailable – and I believe this is why I will go out every Saturday and be a part of it. It does add to any busy schedule, but working as part of a major media team has allowed me to expand both my CV and reach, especially via social media.
Wearing the EFL media gear around has made it all feel pretty official too. I have had a great season and would happily go around in 2015.