I’d like to start by thanking all club members for their overwhelming support of my Presidency and of this committee. The amount of encouragement, endorsement and positive feedback we’ve received over the last 12 months, is an indication that we continue to achieve what was my first priority in taking this role; club unity.
The back half of 2019 saw the club achieve many successes, including but not limited to, the Memorial Run, The 52nd Traralgon Marathon, Walhalla Wound-up, King & Queen of the Mountain, the AV women’s team winning the division 4 title, the Christmas break-up event, where members were gifted Christmas running tops and had a fantastic night celebrating together, and, perhaps more importantly, we saw an increase in member’s optimism and welcoming support for each other.
There were many points of business and initiatives over the last year, including:
-Voting on the proposed move to Latrobe City’s new Catterick Crescent sporting facility, which was unanimously rejected.
-Reinvigorating the duty roster to ensure everyone took their turn and fulfilled their duty at Thursday runs, so the responsibility and load was more evenly shared, which I think we certainly achieved.
-Getting members to step up and fill the jobs, which for too long, had been an unfair burden undertaken by Bruce Salisbury, including weekly course-marking, which members jumped in and supported with enthusiasm.
-And rebranding the Memorial Run to be a more representative event for the community, and to raise awareness and funds for mental health in our region.
At the end of the year, the club was running high on a wave of enthusiasm, a real feeling of camaraderie and positive welcoming inclusiveness.
As we started back up for 2020, this feeling continued, with increased membership, higher attendance at Thursday runs, and another successful Community Fun Run on March 15th, which turned out to be the last big event in Victoria. The following Thursday, March 19th, was to be our last Thursday group run, because on Sunday March 22nd, we went into a period of national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Four months later and we still haven’t had an official club run. We haven’t had an official Thursday or any events, which has included postponing or cancelling most of our calendar, including the 53rd Traralgon Marathon. But through this, something very special has been achieved; membership has continued to grow, and, on the whole, the connectivity of members with the club, and with their running friends, has actually strengthened. It has been quite incredible and heartening to be a part of.
It has perhaps been one of the most difficult times in the club’s history to navigate, but it’s also been a time, I think, that the committee, the club and members should be rightly proud.
Many sporting clubs have just stopped. They’ve cancelled entire seasons, abandoned training, hung up the boots for the year and mothballed their plans. Some clubs have been forced to fold or merge. The Harriers however, has continued to engage people, continued to run social and training groups, continued to plan for events and have contingencies in place, and continued to grow membership.
At this stage of the year, in any other year, we’d just be coming off the Traralgon Marathon and The Memorial Run, but unfortunately, both these events are on hold at the moment. If rules, regulations and restrictions allow, we have plans to run these events for members only, but all we can do at the moment is wait and hope the pandemic eases.
It has been a difficult time to be at the helm of the club, and along with the core executive of Cakey, Ann and Edi, and the general committee, there have been many testing decisions and angles to consider, many things to respond to quickly, and information, directives and rules that we’ve needed to disseminate, appraise and observe. Reacting in uncertain times, and knowing that any decisions and plans we’ve made could change at the drop of a hat, has certainly been challenging.
We’re all well aware, that with COVID-19 spreading across Victoria, and the daily changes we’ve seen, from lockdowns, restrictions and testing, that we are not immune to the virus here in Latrobe and greater Gippsland, and we certainly aren’t devoid of responsibility when it comes to the protection of others.
We’ve had to adapt and take responsibility to ensure we’re adhering to the rules and regulations, which I am confident all members are. Washing hands, practicing good hygiene, maintaining physical distancing, staying home if you’re not feeling well, getting tested if you have symptoms and now, wearing masks when out about, but thankfully not while actually running, are all things we’ve had to incorporate into our daily routines.
Protecting ourselves, our family and the wider community, is part of our responsibility, and the Harriers are seen as leaders in our region when responding to these challenges. I personally have been a sounding-board and a resource for local government and the media, and Cakey continues to field public enquiries about the club’s position and response to the on-going situation.
As a well-established and respected club, we have a responsibility to do the right thing, because it isn’t just about morbidity. Evidence is emerging every day which shows survivors acquire some serious and lasting damage from this virus. We may be fit and healthy and able to recover, but members of our family, our friends and at-risk sections of our community, may not be so durable.
One of the big issues facing clubs and organisations, and indeed the general public, has been the misinformation being spread, especially on social media, along with media scare-mongering. Very clearly, we, as an executive, are monitoring the official authorities to get our information, upon which we base decisions. Edi and Cakey have been excellent resources in their knowledge, research and monitoring of government at all three levels, the Chief Medical Officer’s statements, the ABC, circulars by Health and Human Services, and the directives of our governing body Athletics Victoria.
I believe as a committee, we’re always open to conversations and ideas, and hold the interests of the club and members at the core of any decisions. I believe we acknowledge and appreciate the history of the club, and the committee, and in particular the executive, is there to represent members and run the club for the benefit of all into the future.
On a positive note, the Virtual AV events have been very popular over the last few months, replacing the actual AV season. I thank Cakey for coordinating this. I’ve also had many members contact me about their small groups, and other running adventures. Social media has been a great way to keep in contact with running friends, the club’s Facebook page, and member’s individual pages and Instagram accounts, are tremendously active. The club newsletter has been invaluable to members, and I thank Ian Twite and Alfie Warner for its production each week. Also the media committee of Barry, Tom, Molly and Corny do a stellar job promoting and informing.
As a committee I feel we have injected a lot of positivity to the club in the last year, and refocused our energy on giving back value to members, including social activities, monthly dinners, weekly spot prizes organised by Kaye Livingston, and initiatives such as the reflective club running vests, which were funded by the 2019 Community Fun Run, and have generally been well-received by members.
We’ve also ensured new runners to the club are welcomed, introduced and valued, which has no-doubt added to retaining and gaining new members.
Into the committee last year, we injected some youth, some new faces, and a couple of long-term members who put their hands up for the first time, indicating, I feel, that the club is on the right track, and has refocused on inclusive representation and essential succession planning.
I believe that the adage “this is our club; your club”, is essential to making a community organisation such as the Harriers, a flourishing and positive body. Things don’t just happen, without members making them happen, and everyone contributing to the vision.
To that, I’d like to thank outgoing committee members Georgia Calloway and Mandy Ellis for their support and work over the last 12 months.
I also wish to thank all general committee members for putting their hands up to ensure that the club continues to operate, and indeed strengthen going forward. I believe we should be proud of the work we’ve done collectively, building the club back to where it should be, to be inclusive, to support all members, from AV teams to social runners, and everyone in-between. I thank you all for making the time to support our wonderful club.
I’d like to make special mention of Ann Bomers,who stepped up to the role of Treasurer last year, and has been nothing but a delight to work with, and exceptionally supportive and efficient in this role.
Also to Vice President Edi Murat, whose unwavering belief in the club, and the vision for us to be a fantastic welcoming place for members, with good governance and leadership, I thank for his support, authenticity and emotional intelligence, often going over and above, to make the club a better place for all.
I’d especially like to thank Club Secretary Bryan Cake, who has been an invaluable member of the executive, performing his role with humour, fairness and insight. Cakey has held the role of Secretary for 3 years, along with being AV Captain and RD for numerous events. He’s decided to step aside from this position, clearing the way for someone else step up, but he has committed to staying on the general committee, to help guide the new incumbent Secretary ease into the role. Cakey, I genuinely thank you for your support and appreciate the working relationship we developed. I think it’s been one of the keys to the positive position in which the club currently finds itself.
I feel that my aims of reunifying the club, being approachable and providing opportunities for all members to be empowered to be involved in decisions, and to continue being a part of a friendly, supportive club, are being met and exceeded. I believe as a committee we have reinvigorated the energy of the Harriers, and all should be proud of their input. We should continue to invite members to share their ideas, but remember, ideas only become reality, when someone does the work to bring them to fruition.
In closing, to have a vibrant and successful club is what we all want to achieve. We have dedicated, talented, friendly, supportive people in this organisation, and if we work towards supporting our AV members, who represent our club, and our social running members, who are our life-blood, if we aim to find a balance, if we all work together and support the committee, Thursday runs, and our amazing events, then the Harriers will continue to grow and prosper, despite any adversity.
Phill Mayer – President, Traralgon Harriers