THE AFL has announced a landmark State of Origin match to raise funds for the Australian bushfire disaster in addition to a monster donation to support relief efforts.
Victoria will play an All Stars line-up on Friday February 28, with money raised to boost a Community Relief Fund set-up by the AFL to help rebuild football facilities ripped apart by the national crisis.
Richmond premiership coach Damien Hardwick will lead the Victorians and Sydney counterpart John Longmire will coach the All Stars in the match to be staged at Marvel Stadium.
Hardwick said it would be an honour to coach the Victorian team, made even more special by the significant cause.
“It’s been horrible to see the hardship of Australians right across the country throughout this crisis, and the State of Origin game will be a chance for the league’s best players to come together and make a difference,” he said.
“The work of the firefighters and emergency support workers has been heroic, and this game is a way we as an industry will also be able to play our part.”
The AFL ($1.35m) – in association with the clubs ($900,000) and AFL Players Association ($250,000) – have committed a $2.5million donation.
A total of $1m will provide immediate emergency assistance through the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery fund. An additional $1.5m will kickstart the Community Relief Fund for grassroots facilities.
The match – to be played during the second weekend of the pre-season March Community Series – will see players selected in a process still to be determined.
It is the first game of its kind since the 2008 Hall of Fame Tribute Match that saw Victoria beat the Dream Team by 17 points in front of a 69,294 fans at the MCG.
There will be a maximum of three players per AFL club eligible to take part in the match to ensure minimal disruption to club's pre-season plans just 20 days before round one.
The match will be broadcast on Channel Seven, Fox Footy, the AFL Live Official App, Kayo and various radio partners.
The AFLW match between Collingwood and Melbourne scheduled for Friday February 28 at Victoria Park will now be played at Marvel Stadium to create a double header.
AFLW clubs will also support the fundraising efforts by housing donation collecting points at matches in the upcoming season starting February 7.
Richmond players have come together through their own social media fundraising efforts to raise in excess of $40,000 for bushfire relief.
To donate to the Richmond players bushfire fund visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/richmond-football-club-bushfire-fundraiser