Casadio Park was the place to be on Sunday with the showpiece fixture of the 2022 Steeline Bendigo Bank Limestone Coast Football Association season.
With International playing host to Gambier Centrals, it meant players, fans, families and referees alike were busy donating to Foodbank for the annual Food Drive and celebrating First Nations people in the Indigenous Round fixture.
Both have become successful annual traditions and some of the most celebrated aspects of the season, being an equal attraction to the high-quality action on the pitch between the two powerhouse clubs International and Gambier Centrals.
It meant the top of the table battle between two of the fiercest LCFA rivals carried much more meaning and generated some greater good for the community.
Last year 442kg of food was donated at the drive, but the 2022 edition of the event reached even further heights.
A grand total of 543.3kg was donated which equates to 1087 meals for those in need within the Limestone Coast.
In addition to the meals, $269.60 cash was also raised and Foodbank regional branch manager Lynne Neshoda said the soccer and wider community delivered once again.
“It is something that started a few years ago and it is growing each year which is just fabulous,” she said.
“More and more people are getting behind it, especially both soccer clubs involved International and Gambier Centrals.
“Vince Versace has also been awesome, so this is just bringing more and more awareness.
“We got lots of food and a full pallet which is really good.
“The food will go into our hub and it is distributed from there.
“Some goes into our warehouse and sent out through to agencies there going across the board.
“We had no soup at all and got heaps on Sunday which is fantastic in this cold weather.”
The donated meals from the big day will now head to the Foodbank food hub located at 23 Cave Road and support those in desperate need.
Neshoda said the Food Drive could not have arrived at a better time with the winter chill and price of living issues growing by the day and hopes the community can continue to donate when possible to keep up with demand.
“With the cost of living at the moment we are seeing people who never thought they had to knock of Foodbank’s door saying they need help,” she said.
“It’s not just people on Centrelink payments, it’s also low-income earners, people with health problems, there are so many different reasons.
“With high rents and electricity bills people cannot afford to heat and eat so there is a lot of homeless and it is really growing unfortunately which is distressing.
“We are purchasing more and more basic pantry items because we cannot keep up with demand, so any more monetary donations are greatly received.”
To add to the occasion the teams also gathered on the pitch to celebrate First Nations culture with the Inter and Centrals contest also being renamed as the Indigenous Round.
The home side walked out wearing their striking Indigenous themed playing kit to celebrate the occasion and the first day of NAIDOC Week.
Both teams stood as one on the pitch to celebrate and acknowledge the Boandik people.
Seven years ago the annual Indigenous Round fixture was created by Inter senior coach Gareth Von Duve now the initiative is still going strong and the best player medals are named after him.
The Welcome to Country was proudly delivered by Tim Brennan, who said it is always an important ceremony to hold to help the community’s path to reconciliation.
“My nephew is Gareth, who is one of the people who helped initiate it and I am always very proud to be a part of this because this is what reconciliation and moving forward is all about,” he said.
“It lets people appreciate our culture and gives Aboriginal people the recognition they deserve which is a great thing to break down barriers.
“We do this at Kalangadoo as well and now the soccer association is on board after seven years so hopefully everyone embraces it.”
Brennan is also involved in the annual Indigenous game held by the Kalangadoo Football Club and is pleased to see more of these occasions take place around the Limestone Coast, but is certain more needs and will be done in the future.
“At Kalangadoo we are incorporating something every year which is important to us,” he said.
“This year we had a smoke ceremony and put the design on the ground that represents Kalangadoo and the flag in the centre circle, while we have had the guernseys for a while now.
“For me its about finding these new unique and creative ways of making it better every year which is the beauty of it.
“We have amazing clubs like Inter where people embrace it which means its endless and who knows what its going to look like in 10 years time.”