By Jackson Russell
Two District 12 firefighters were among a group of six to be honoured with a standing ovation at Rod Laver Arena before the Australian Open men’s final last Sunday night.
Wandong Fire Brigade captain Yorin Miller and Tallarook Fire Brigade firefighter Chris Buzzard, along with firefighters from Districts 15 and 16, were met with loud applause as they represented the thousands of men and women continuing to battle bushfires across Australia.
The firefighters also formed a guard of honour outside the player’s tunnel as the men’s tennis finalists Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem took to the court ahead of the match.
Mr Buzzard, who had previously been deployed to New South Wales and was involved in firefighting in north-east Victoria this fire season, said the reception they received from the crowd was ‘unbelievable’.
“It was phenomenal, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said.
“When they announced us, I hadn’t heard anything like that roar. It was a very touching.
“It was a shock. I don’t think any of the six of us expected that reaction from the crowd.”
Mr Buzzard said the public support of firefighters across the country had been ‘phenomenal’.
“To have the entire crowd on their feet standing was great and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” he said.
Mr Miller said hearing the standing ovation was ‘mind-blowing’.
“It was a bit of a shock but definitely an experience I’ll never forget,” he said.
“I don’t think you realise how widespread the awareness is of the CFA and the respect people have for the CFA. At times like that, you appreciate how well respected the CFA is.
“All of us were blown away by the level of support and the extent Tennis Australia went to looking after us with dinner and seats for the game.
“These things are once in a lifetime and we’re so appreciative of what they did for us, it was amazing.”
After opening the Australian Open season with the Rally for Relief event, nearly $6 million has been raised for Tennis Australia’s Aces for Bushfire Relief program during the Australian Open.