Tyneal O’Dwyer was watching the nightly news on TV at home earlier this year when the stark reality of the Gippsland bushfire crisis truly hit her.
And the teenager from the Catani Netball Club felt the overwhelming need to do something – at least in some, small way.
What eventuated over the next few weeks was nothing short of remarkable, as her spark of an initial idea formed a netball competition on Sunday at Taplins Road that featured 10 clubs from among three leagues.
All the proceeds raised on the weekend went towards the Gippsland Emergency Relief fund – more than $6500 all told, a truly staggering amount.
The tournament included games across both junior and senior age brackets, with clubs from the Ellinbank and District Netball Association, the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition, and even the Drouin Netball Association taking part.
On Sunday, Tyneal told the Gazette how her idea was formed.
“I was sitting at home with mum – watching what was happening with the bushfires on the news, and we just really wanted to help,” she said.
“We had no real idea what to do, and I just said ‘what if we put on a tournament?’. “Mum thought it was a great idea so we brought it up with Ange and she put it all together and did an excellent job, obviously.
“It’s just amazing to see how it’s all come together – it really is a great feeling.
“I just want to thank the Catani Netball Club, and all the other clubs for coming along to take part. It wouldn’t have come together if it wasn’t for everyone participating.”
‘Ange’ is Angela Banbury, the Catani Netball Club president.
She stepped forward, along with her fellow committee members, to help Tyneal’s idea become a reality.
“We got around it as soon as Tyneal came up with the idea, really,” she said.
“This has come about from the concept formed by an under-17s player at our club and we want to congratulate her for the initiative.”
Kelly’s Hotel in Cranbourne was an instrumental backer of the event – sponsoring the medals and trophies for the participating players and teams, and also donating $200 on behalf of each winning team to the fundraising effort.
The Kooweerup branch of the Bendigo Bank and Garfield’s Country Style Meats also got right behind the cause, while all 10 participating clubs on Sunday paid a $100 entry fee per team. That, alone, raised $2700 for the cause.
“It’s great because you’ve got the likes of Bunyip, Cora Lynn and Kooweerup coming back to Catani from West Gippsland for the day and that’s been fantastic,” Ange said.
“It was the first hitout for a number of clubs, and we had a great crowd come to our courts throughout the day.
“Tyneal’s idea was just incredible in the first place, but then when you have the backing that we’ve had of all these sponsors and clubs as well, it’s just been unreal.
“Lang Lang was the first club to register, within minutes of the social media post going up, and entered four teams. All the clubs have been fantastic in getting behind the cause.”
Ange has already confirmed that the tournament is again set to take place next year.
Cora Lynn’s senior netball coach and football club vice president, Allan Douglas, also praised the initiative behind Sunday’s event.
“It’s a great atmosphere here, and from our point of view we’re just happy to be a part of it. We didn’t even hesitate to take part,” he said on the day.
“Our girls will get six games out of today, but I think we’ll remind them throughout the day of the real reason they’re here – to be aware of what’s actually happened.
“It’s a great day.
“Everyone who’s here now has done something to contribute towards the bushfire fund.”
One of Cora Lynn’s players, Emily Webster, cut her holiday in Echuca short to come to Catani to participate in the event.
Tournament grand final results
A Grade: Catani 8 def Bunyip 7
B Grade: Nyora 12 def Catani 11
Under-17s: Kooweerup 11 def Bunyip 8
Under-15s: Kooweerup 15 def Longwarry 3