Not often does a country-raised footballer get the opportunity to play SANFL football where they grew up.
But this weekend, South Adelaide’s Ben Heaslip will apply his trade in Victor Harbor, just down the road from his old stomping ground at Encounter Bay.
The Panthers and the Adelaide Crows’ SANFL team will travel to Victor Harbor this Saturday, doing battle in the annual state league regional match. The clash starts at 2:30PM at the town oval.
The time and venue coincides with the SA Country Football Championships. Approximately 250 footballers from around South Australia are making their way to the seaside town to compete in the annual two-day carnival.
Heaslip confesses his excitement in being able to take SANFL footy to the community, especially to an area he knows so well from his junior footy days.
“Like any country footy club, there was a real community feel,” he said about his former club.
“We were pretty solid in the A-grade, but we struggled in the juniors a bit because Victor Harbor, I think, were the dominant side.
“There was always a rivalry between the Victor Harbor and Encounter Bay footy clubs too of course.”
Still working as a real estate agent in the area, Heaslip lived there until last year, opting to move closer to the football club based in Noarlunga.
“It’s a great spot to live,” he said.
“The trek gets a bit annoying when you’re doing it ten months of the year, three-four times a week, but you’d absolutely do it.”
It’s a weekend which is set to be an enjoyable one, and as the 25-year-old utility/midfielder alludes to, he certainly hasn’t forgotten about old allegiances.
“I would have loved for it to have been at the Encounter Bay Oval, but no, it is exciting,” he said.
“It’s creating a bit of a buzz down here. Obviously it’s the school holiday period, and already there’s a lot more traffic down here than what we would usually have.
“So it’s certainly bringing the crowd down which is good, and hopefully we’re ready for a good crowd on Saturday.”
More State League Footy News
In a statement, SANFL Head of Community Football Lisa Faraci commented on the enormity of the weekend. Roughly 5,000 footy fans were expected to attend matches at the South Australian regional centre across the round.
“We’re all set for what will be a great weekend of country footy and there’s a real sense of anticipation after not being able to play the championships last year,” she said.
“We’re also excited to have the Great Southern Football League hosting it at two superb venues – Victor Harbor and Encounter Bay – which have both undergone significant facility upgrades recently.
“Regional communities and footy clubs have been doing it tough, so this is an exciting opportunity to increase participation, bring people together and assist regional footy on its road to recovery.”
Whilst he’s involved in the SANFL league game on Saturday afternoon, as a country-product, Heaslip sees the importance of a weekend of community football.
“I think its going to be a good weekend in general, given that it’s going to be a weekend of footy,” he said.
“Port [Adelaide Power] play on the Thursday night, and then after that it’s pretty much all going to be down here really – the footy for the weekend – so it’s a good opportunity to come down and watch some local footy.”
The Panthers go into the clash on the back of three losses in a row. They are still, however, sitting in third position on the SANFL ladder and playing competitive footy, aware of what needs to be done.
“We played some pretty good footy against the Eagles on the weekend and just didn’t take our chances up forward, but from an effort point of view it’s there, it’s just a matter of efficiency going forward,” Heaslip said.
“They’ve [the Crows] been performing well the last few weeks – they took it up to Glenelg on the weekend – but hopefully we’ll match up pretty well on them.”
Whilst this may be the first ever SANFL game to be played for premiership points in Victor Harbor, the two sides battled it out just up the road at Encounter Bay in 2017, with the Crows winning by six points.
SANFL Round 14
Saturday July 10
Woodville-West Torrens v West Adelaide, Maughan Thiem Kia Oval @ 2.10pm
North Adelaide v Central District, Prospect Oval @ 2.10pm
Sturt v Glenelg, Unley Oval @ 2.10pm
South Adelaide v Adelaide, Victor Harbor Oval @ 2.30pm
Port Adelaide v Norwood, Alberton Oval @ 2.35pm
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