FOOTBALL fans across the region who have been waiting for the 2018 Western Border and Mid South East seasons to kick off can have a taste of that next Friday – March 2 – when the league premiers go head-to-head at McDonald Park.
East Gambier will host Mount Burr in a trial game, but with more at stake than just a pre-season hit out.
The game has become a fundraiser to raise money for a footballer who suffered an injury while playing in Darwin.
The “Help Tai Walk Again” campaign is run in support of Tai Martin-Page who suffered a serious spinal injury earlier this year.
Martin-Page suffered the injury while playing against East footballer Jayden Eldridge, who just a couple of games later suffered his own spinal injury scare.
Eldridge is currently in Darwin awaiting a specialist appointment before returning to Mount Gambier, while Martin-Page will have a long road ahead, still unable to walk, with doctors not sure if he ever will.
The main focus of the football game will be on raising funds for Martin-Page, to aid with the cost of his recovery.
East coach Matt Willson said he hopes the public get behind the effort on the night.
“I think it is something we probably take for granted at times, the ability to play football,” he said.
“To have someone so young have that taken away from them so quickly, it makes you stop and think and appreciate what you are doing.”
Willson said Eldridge was playing his first game in Darwin when the injury happened to Martin-Page.
He said when Eldridge suffered his own injury, it had a major impact on the club.
“You see it happen on the news, then when one of your players or someone you know really well is put in a similar situation, it really hits home how easily it can happen,” Willson said.
“In Tai’s case it was not a huge physical knock, but it obviously got him in the wrong spot.
“He was very unlucky with how it turned out.
“Jayden is still waiting in Darwin for further information, but all signs point to him making a full recovery very soon and we are hoping to have him back in the Mount in the next couple of weeks.”
Willson said the game itself would be a good chance for people in the region to see the two top sides in their respective leagues go head-to-head before the seasons kick off in April.
He said it would be a chance to run some young players and see how they fit into the roster against a tough opposition.
However, he said it was more than just a trial game for either club.
“It is a trial game, but more so for us we want to do our bit for Tai and raise as much money as we can,” he said.
“It is not so much about people coming to watch a couple of teams play football, but about country football coming together as a community and throwing our support behind a man who could really use it at the moment.
“The “Help Tai Walk Again” wrist bands will be for sale at the gate in adult and youth sizes.
“We will run some raffles and are looking for donations of items we can raffle off.
“We will have donation tins going around the ground trying rustle up as much money as we can.
“It will go to a fundraising committee that has been set up for Tai, to help with his recovery and hospital bills.”
The game will kick off at 6.30pm at McDonald Park.