River Murray Football League – Tackling Illegal Drugs Forum
In a regional area about an hour outside of Adelaide sits the Murray River, and surrounding it, the River Murray Football League (RMFL). Made up of seven clubs, the League is a real cornerstone of the community. Terry Connolly, President of the RMFL, is passionate about it for this reason. Terry has lived in the area since 1995 and grew up playing football. He was the President of Tailem Bend Football Club for seven seasons, then took up the role of League President in 2018. In his short time as League President, Terry has become a champion of Good Sports and the Tackling Illegal Drugs (TID) program. All clubs in the RMFL are Good Sports accredited, three have an Illegal Drugs Policy in place and three are in the process of developing one.
“Good Sports has given us a valuable opportunity to strengthen our clubs and community by participating in their programs. We recognise that community sporting clubs are powerful in being able to change people’s behaviour,” says Terry.
In February 2018, the Murray Bridge TID Forum was held at the Imperial Football Club on Adelaide Road. Terry was a driving force behind the forum and helped organise it in conjunction with Good Sports staff. Representatives from all clubs in the League attended and the forum was followed up by a workshop in March 2018.
RMFL encouraged all attendees to take the information they learned in the forum and workshop back to their clubs, use it to implement a policy and educate their members.
Giving local clubs the tools they need
The passionate people running the clubs are all volunteers, and don’t feel equipped to handle the issues that society and clubs can have. Creating an Illegal Drugs Policy gives the clubs a framework to draw on if any illegal drug issues were to arise.
“The Tackling Illegal Drugs Forum has given us the tools, it’s been an awareness thing for us. We’re a snapshot of the larger community, the illegal drugs issue is confronting but we have to address it for the benefit of all our members.”
Terry says his league has been given a valuable opportunity to strengthen clubs and communities by participating in the TID forum, which fits in nicely with the League’s vision of ‘strengthening country communities through football’. He notes that it must be an ongoing education process to be effective.
“It’s no good to just have a policy and put it on the shelf. We encourage all clubs to meet with their junior and senior players and talk to them about the policy and what it means. This way, the young people know the clubs support them.”
By being involved in the TID forum, the RMFL and clubs are taking on a duty of care. It’s a commitment to their members and the wider community. Reducing the potential of harms from alcohol and other drugs is a key focus.
“It is all too obvious to say the League’s purpose is ‘football’. To me, what’s more obvious is the role our clubs play in strengthening communities. The value of sport to local communities extends beyond the sport itself,” says Terry.
From his many years of experience in community sport, Terry has learned a lot. He’s seen that regular involvement in sport can benefit individuals and communities. And contribute to a range of positive outcomes. These include more local people participating as volunteers in community life, community members having a greater voice and influence over decision-making, and more sustainable communities with local pride and a sense of place.
When asked why he’s such a champion of Good Sports and the Tackling Illegal Drugs program, Terry says that it’s important to him that the youth of his community are given the chance to live a great life.
“I’m only in this because I recognise the huge role sporting clubs can play in development of healthy communities and people. Football can be a great distraction from other issues in life and can provide a support network.”
A bright future
Recently, the League has begun live streaming games. Terry explains that this is fantastic in two respects. Firstly, it allows people who can’t get to the games to catch up on the sport they love. Secondly it allows the League to spread healthy messages out to its members. For example, recently they advertised their safe transport policy through the live stream. The reach of this information is much greater than it would have been otherwise.
Terry is excited about the future of RMFL, and the role it can continue to play in the community. For him, part of being a good sport is teaching footballers to be disciplined. Creating support networks is showing them how to be team players on and off the field.
“If you take away sporting clubs, you’re ripping out the heart of the community. In the RMFL, we have great leaders who connect with a lot of young people. There’s a lot of love there.”
Need help completing your Tackling Illegal Drugs policy? We’ve got some brand new resources to help you get to the finish line.
To complete your club’s Tackling Illegal Drugs Policy, log in to the Club Portal here.