If you look closely, you may notice that some of your favourite AFL players are wearing orange laces in their boots this weekend.
It’s not a quirky fashion statement, it’s their way of supporting Team Lace Up, a campaign to raise awareness and funds to help reduce social violence.
The laces have been distributed by Step Back Think, a not-for-profit organisation focused on the prevention of social violence, such as one-punch assaults, pub brawls and street fights.
“Sportspeople have the capacity to say to young people ‘this is a good way to be in the world …. and you can grow up and be this way too’,” said Step Back Think CEO Anna O’Halloran.
“We’re encouraging 40,000 Australians to don orange laces on their sporting field or at their work place to show their commitment to ending social violence. So it’s a really exciting campaign, a really fun one.
“I think what we’re seeing is some really good cultural change in the space of violence against women, and as recent events have shown it’s not appropriate and it’s not OK to even joke about that sort of thing, and we’d like to see that more around social violence, that the glorification of fights and men resolving things with their fists, we’d like to see that change.”
Several AFL players have stepped up to champion the cause – among them Carlton’s Marc Murphy, Collingwood’s James Aish, Fremantle’s Michael Barlow, Sydney’s Callum Sinclair and and Brisbane’s Daniel Merrett.
“I lost a dear friend to social violence and I think the main focus is supporting their family and supporting the people out there.”
– Jake Long
Blues ruckman Cameron Wood said this week that “all the boys at Carlton and the Northern Blues as well are going to be wearing the laces this weekend to help raise awareness.
“If you look at the statistics, I think nine people (in Australia) have already died this year relating to social violence, which is nine too many.”
Essendon has the bye this week, but rookie Jake Long said he and teammate James Polkinghorne felt strongly about the issue and had “tried to get around and hand out all the laces to the boys, so hopefully they’ll get on board as well”.
Long said he had seen the effects of social violence first hand, after one of his mates died after being assaulted on the streets of Melbourne 18 months ago.
“I lost a dear friend to social violence and I think the main focus is supporting their family and supporting the people out there,” Long said.
He was pleased that AFL players and other elite athletes had embraced the campaign, but equally urged sports people at community level to lace up.
“It’s just about educating people about social violence and the ripple effect it can have,” Long said.
Polkinghorne said the Bombers would be wearing the laces at training. “We’ll be getting the Essendon boys all in orange laces and it’s things like this that help raise the awareness and drive the message.
“The players have been really willing to help out. Everyone’s keen to help out and all for a good cause.”
Step Back Think was created by a group of friends after James Macready-Bryan, known to his friends and family as MB, was left with permanent brain damage when a stranger attacked him on his 20th birthday. The one-punch assault left the Melbourne man unable to move, talk and eat
In 2015, the Lace Up campaign:
– Involved almost 30,000 people lacing up across Australia;
– Featured 18 different sporting codes;
– Involved 1490 teams