Essendon coach James Hird and AFL commissioner Bill Kelty were outstanding speakers at the second annual Norm Smith Oration held on Tuesday June 5 in the Members Dining Room at the MCG.
More than 250 MCC members and guests were entertained by the duo, with Hird proposing the toast to football and Kelty responding.
Hird, an Essendon dual premiership player, captain, Brownlow and Norm Smith medallist during a 253-game AFL career between 1992 and 2007, spoke of his immense passion for the game, evident since he first supported Essendon as a youngster.
He also reflected fondly on the impact that the club has had on his life, with his father Alan and grandfather Alan Snr playing for Essendon before him.
He spoke of the uniqueness of the game, from the rules to the shape of the football, the shape of the ground, the interchange and all aspects which make the game our own.
But most importantly, he said, the great thing is that on any given day, in any given round, of any given season, any team can win (as Melbourne displayed on Saturday night against his own team!) He said he believes that the team that puts in the greatest amount of work on any day, will ultimately be the team that wins.
Unlike many other codes of football, such as the English Premier League where the richest clubs often prosper, Hird said our game has the unique structure of a salary cap that works to keep the competition as even as possible.
He spoke of the importance and passion of the fan and that for him, he is an example of a kid living the ultimate dream - a passionate Essendon fan who had the great privilege of playing for the club he loves and is now coaching that same club.
Like the former great custodians of the game such as Dick Reynolds, Ron Barassi and Norm Smith, he hopes that he can achieve what they did, and that is to leave the game in a better state than when he began.
An Australian trade unionist and a well-known figure in the Australian labour movement, Kelty served as secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) from 1983 to 2000 and is a long-serving member of the AFL Comission.
A keen Essendon supporter, he spoke very passionately about his love for the Bombers and the game of Australian football. He said it is the greatest game in the world and is a wonderful representation of what being Australian is all about.
Kelty said that when Ron Evans asked him to join the AFL Commission he was not initially interested in the "commercial aspect" of the game, but was convinced by Evans that he too wanted to do the right thing by our native game.
He spoke very passionately about Evans’ contribution to the game and his achievements by way of improving conditions/pay for AFL players and increasing the TV rights owed to the AFL by the TV stations.
He said that Evans made a conscious decision as AFL Commission chairman to not let AFL go down the path of rugby and that he did not want to lose any more clubs or see clubs merge – he wanted to make the competition better.
Thank you to all MCC members and their guests who attended and made the night one to remember.
Find out more about upcoming MCC functions.