By Colin MacGillivray
An often-repeated maxim in country towns is that local football and netball clubs are ‘the heart of the community’.
During the past week and a half, Seymour Football Netball Club has demonstrated the truth behind those words.
When floodwaters from the Goulburn River inundated the town in the early hours of October 14, leaving hundreds of residents swamped, it was the club that spearheaded recovery efforts before government or council assistance had a chance to reach many residents.
Less than two days after the onset of flooding, the club’s Facebook page posted a ‘plan to band together for our community’, helping coordinate a group of local volunteers who were keen to assist with clean-up works.
Multiple daily social media updates kept residents abreast of where recovery works were underway, enabling anyone who wished to lend a hand.
With numerous Seymour tradespeople and residents on board, volunteers set about dragging water-damaged furniture out of people’s homes and onto nature strips, clearing debris and helping people re-enter their homes and businesses.
Many tradespeople joined with the club to donate not only their time and labour, but equipment to help clear large piles of rubbish.
Seymour Football Netball Club president Gerard O’Sullivan said while the club had served as an initial contact point for many, the works were a community effort.
“The emphasis should be placed on the number of community people who have gotten behind us and joined with us. It’s been incredible,” he said.
“In particular, the guys who have donated their trucks and excavators and Bobcats have been phenomenal. They’ve left their own paid employment and come and volunteered with us.
“We moved that much stuff in … four days, it’s been remarkable.”
Mr O’Sullivan said the club anticipated that government organisations would be slower to react to flooding and chose to be proactive.
He described it as a way of giving back to a community that had long supported the Lions.
“Year in and year out we go to the business community and our members and supporters for sponsorship and money,” he said.
“This is a real way we can give back. We can go to homes and businesses who have supported us for so long and say, ‘we can help you’.
“We had the absolute joy of having three senior netball premierships won four weeks ago and … coming from that sporting background, our players know that when you’re facing a challenge, you’ve got to put your hand up. I’m very, very proud of them all. It’s been bloody fantastic.”
CJ Ogston, who owns and operates Seymour earthworks company Australian Trenching and Excavations, said he and his three employees volunteered alongside the football club because they were passionate about helping their community.
“We haven’t had any work for a month because of the weather, so I’ve had the boys in the shed doing maintenance. At least now we can do something to help,” he said.
“There are a lot of small businesses that are giving their time. They’re not making any money right now, they’re just giving their time all day, every day, relentlessly and without thinking twice. It’s great.
“I’m proud of living in this community and proud of the people.”
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan lauded the efforts of the community volunteers.
“What’s been achieved has been nothing short of extraordinary, and it’s been entirely community led,” she said.
“It was supported by the football club, but people from the wider community as well who just pitched in to help. Sometimes they were helping their friends, sometimes they were helping people who they had never met before.
“If it wasn’t for the effort the community has put in during the past week, things would look very different in Seymour right now. The way they pulled together broke the back of the clean-up effort.”
Mr O’Sullivan said the efforts of both his club and the wider community in the face of adversity filled him with pride.
“I’m born and bred Seymour, and I’ve been involved with the footy club since I was 16,” he said.
“I’m just so proud of our community. It’s a ripper.”