THIS has definitely not been the year of the Tiger for Lexton Football Netball Club but members' community spirit has captured attention - and an AFL player.
The Tigers have won an AFL player for game day next season, following a Thursday night training session with an AFL and Netball Victoria legend - food and beverages thrown in - for their efforts to keep players and supporters engaged and active during lockdowns.
Things had already shaping up as tough for the Tigers before the pandemic hit: their clubrooms were broken into and their major fundraising drive, via music festival Rainbow Serpent, was postponed indefinitely with the Lexton fires.
Lexton club president Jordan Phelan said WorkSafe Victoria's Country Club Challenge seemed like a great chance for members to really come together and focus on something fun.
Then to win, undoubtedly boosted club morale.
"They all jumped on board, young and old, to get involved," Mr Phelan said. "...It has been really tough for us. We didn't know whether we were playing or not. We returned to training but there were so many unknowns and clubs pulling the pin and extra pressure on volunteers to meet guidelines.
"We're glad the right decision was made. As a club, we would never want to put anyone at risk...The best thing the club could do going forward was win and now we've got something to look forward to next year."
Lexton, which plays in Maryborough Castlemaine District Football League, had been running a wheel of fortune, live every Saturday at 2.30pm - what normally would be opening bounce for senior football - as fun for members.
Adding in the eight-week country challenge seemed an easy fit. Competition was predominantly via Facebook with club members urged to submit photos or videos for various tasks, like backyard goal or a Round the World challenge with as many people as they could muster.
WATCH BELOW: Lexton's winning Round the World challenge effort
The Tigers topped the latter and the club hero challenge nominating Matt Torpey, for his work on the clubrooms after they were broken into, and netball manager Rachel Phelan for her work to keep Lexton players together during lockdowns.
This earned the Tigers two $1000 weekly equipment prize packs of footballs, netballs and goal post padding.
Mr Phelan said it all helped a lot.
The Tigers have a strong contingent of players from Ballarat and Miners Rest but Mr Phelan said they were all part of a strong community.
WorkSafe received 2683 entries from 39 clubs across the state for the challenge.
AFL Victoria's community lead Rick Bell said it was great to see competitive spirit between clubs but that "Lexton demonstrated real drive".
Just which AFL player the Tigers will secure for a non-playing appearance remains uncertain.
Lexton is where Sydney and Collingwood premiership player Darren Jolly grew up in the game but this was a club very much in Tiger territory.
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