Kicking goals at the Reclink finals on and off the park

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WATCH THE VIDEO: See all the action from Reclink’s annual grand final footy carnival held at Peanut Farm Reserve in St Kilda.  

From grassroots to elite, it’s footy finals time and nothing matters more than bagging the big one, just ask the players who were looking to do their communities and clubs proud at this year’s Reclink Cup on Wednesday 4 September.

Raeles Budge from the Wynbay Bulldogs, explains how joining a Reclink footy team has allowed her to build friendships and transform her life. "I got involved with Reclink 12 years ago through my housing worker. It's given me a purpose to live" she says. "Back then I wasn't really doing too good but once I started getting involved with Reclink and playing footy I started to feel like I'm somebody."

From the Ballarat Bushrangers to the Brimbank Roadrunners, finals are what the competition’s 18 teams across the state have worked towards all year and there were some classic marks and snaps at goal on the day.

The Reclink Football Grand Final Series is a culmination of a 10-round all age, all gender and all abilities season featuring more than 400 players who are drawing on the power of sport to take positive steps to tackle homelessness, mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction.

They've been backed by over 700 participants, volunteers, community agency staff, AFL personalities, radio commentators and of course the great staff and volunteers at Reclink.

The Victorian Government is proud to have kicked in $100,000 to assist Reclink in providing state-wide sport and recreation opportunities for people experiencing significant mental health challenges and other disabilities. $1.1 million was also invested in a new female friendly pavilion at this year’s Reclink Cup finals venue, Peanut Farm Reserve, to ensure local sport is more inclusive and accessible.

Research shows that exercise and team sports can help with depression, self-esteem, boost energy levels, and provide pathways for people to reconnect and re-establish their lives.

The Reclink National Program has engaged over 3200 people experiencing disadvantage and delivered over 45,500 sport and recreation participation opportunities, according to Professor Matthew Nicholson from La Trobe University’s Centre for Sport and Social Impact.

The evaluation found some amazing results, with participants reporting an 80 per cent reduction in their drug or alcohol use, 79 per cent reduction in problem gambling and 78 per cent spent less time in a correctional centre. In addition, 27 per cent had been able to gain employment or increase the number of hours they work and 37 per cent had started or undertaken more skill or work-based training.  

The full results of the evaluation are available on the Reclink website.