Aubrey Hamlett talks to a former club champion, the voice of the fans and a Troo Roo to discuss the Kangaroos involvement with its fans and community.
The North Melbourne Football Club was dominant. They had a player who was commonly known as the ‘King.’ They also had two premierships in the 1990’s, a decade where they were considered by many to be the best team in the league.
All seemed to be flying high at Arden Street.
However something happened, that dominance never quite stuck. Membership numbers dropped, losses rolled in as did their ladder position and, the Kangaroos were at the centre of constant rumours that they may move interstate or even fold altogether.
Through all that though one thing remained strong. The fans.
In an era where the team is young and appears to be on another climb towards September glory, the one thing the club can be grateful for are those who stuck by them through thick and thin.
The Club Champion
‘I think North Melbourne fans are still as passionate as ever but the longer you are involved with the club the more relationships you develop with the fans,’ says former Kangaroos player, Brady Rawlings.
Club champion and life member, Rawlings, says fans were an important part of his playing career and, now in his role at the club as a senior recruiter and induction coach.
After a 13-year career, playing 245 games in the blue and white, Rawlings was drafted at pick number 15 in the 1998 AFL National Draft. He won three Syd Barker best and fairest medals at the club, and was known as one of the elite taggers in the AFL.
Now in retirement and undertaking a new role at the Kangaroos, Rawlings was able to reflect on his own involvement the community as a player.
‘In my early years I was involved in care for kids, this involved going to schools and helping out in class but in particular taking kids for activities outside and developing their skills,’ Rawlings explains.
‘All players have a lot of community involvement and the amount of clinics, hospital visits and school visits they do is terrific.’
The Troo Roo
Lauren Toner is a customer service agent and the vice president of the North Melbourne Kangaroos Cheer Squad.
She has been an active member of the Cheer Squad since she was 13-years-old. Now after 22 years in the squad, Toner is a Troo Roo life member.
The 35-year-old says that the highlight of the 2012 AFL season so far was the Kangaroos 30-point win over Collingwood in Round 21.
Toner says she is lucky to be part of such a close group and relishes being there on the frontline when the Kangaroos win.
Something that fans may not know is that each committee and cheer squad members are volunteers. On game day, Toner is out there on the ground, loading and unloading the banner, and at half time the group pulls the banner a part.
In between her full time job and cheer squad commitments, Toner also takes care of their Facebook page where the squad shares information and encourages other North Melbourne fans to join.
As vice-president of the squad, Toner says no help is refused and their aim is to build a strong team of people.
The Connected Fan
Passionate North Melbourne supporter and frequent blogger, Marnie Cohen, has been a Kangaroos member for 12 years.
Cohen said that she supports the club and credits her dad, who has supported the club since the 1970’s for passing on the family tradition.
‘I really think it’s in your blood…like your destiny,’ Cohen explains when asked why she is a Kangaroos supporter.
‘I wouldn’t have it any other way, I think as a young man my dad made the right choice, and I’m glad I’ve followed in the North Melbourne direction.’
The aspiring journalist is currently completing her VCE and in May 2011, Marnie began her blog, North Melbourne Opinion. The aim of the blog is to give voice to North Melbourne supporters through the ‘joy and heartache.’
‘Over the past 13 months, I’ve gained so many followers and connections, and I absolutely love what I’m doing,’ Cohen says.
The 18-year-old believes that her club gives its fans every chance to interact and share in their journey. She’s proud of her club that gives back to its community.
The Kangaroos are leading the way with helping their community excel not only in sport but also in education. The Huddle, which is situated at the brand new club headquarters, provides programs for young people from as young as nine to 25-years-old.
‘The club just loves giving back, they’ve got such a big heart, and the things they do for the local community is something to be so proud of,’ Cohen explains.
As the North Melbourne Football Club embarks on their first September finals campaign since 2008, the Kangaroos fans know that there has been a lot of hard work contributing to its recent success and redevelopment of its facilities at Arden St.
The club now boasts 33, 754 members, a number which shows that the club is back on its feet and is rebuilding to secure the future of its community on and off the field.
The culmination of the Kangaroos recent success and September campaign can be attributed to its loyal fans that have repaid the faith.
Cohen sums up the Kangaroos spirit, ‘all [their] hard work and potential was finally spilled out onto the football field.’
Favourite Fan Moments
Brady Rawlings shares his favourite fan moments during his playing career.
‘Dot and Kay were my two favourites, they are heavily involved with the North Melbourne peninsular supporter group and we have been close since I come over as a 17-year-old schoolboy.’
‘They would do anything for the club and have been two people of many that I believe make our club so special and unique. They not only take an interest in the football but they like to see the young boys grow into men.’
‘Any milestone that I achieved you could guarantee a card from Dot and Kay and the interest they show in my family as well as football make them special people. They love a laugh and are always up for some banter.’