By: Daniel Cencic
Good Friday football has arrived.
The rejuvenated Blackburn hosts juggernaut reigning premier Balwyn at Morton Park in the inaugural Good Friday clash in the Eastern Football League.
For former Blackburn president James MacLeod, today a vision of many years becomes a reality.
“It had gone to the (EFL) board on a previous occasion and been unsuccessful,” MacLeod said.
“Off the back of the AFL approving a Good Friday game this year, we approached the EFL once again and based our approach largely around it being a Christian holiday and being mindful of that.”
On a day as important as Good Friday, MacLeod knows the enormity of the event and the respect the occasion commands.
In keeping with Christianity, Blackburn Football Club has partnered with the Salvation Army, and will have Major Brendan Nottle in attendance as a special guest.
“The Salvos have partnered with us, given it’s a Christian holiday,” MacLeod said.
“Major Brendan Nottle from the Salvation Army who runs the city mission is coming out to be a speaker at the lunch and in the ceremony before the main game.
“It was really important that we partnered with an organisation to acknowledge the significance of Good Friday.”
The Panthers are no strangers to playing footy on landmark days on the calendar.
MacLeod also led the charge for an annual ANZAC Day clash which has since grown into a successful yearly fixture against South Croydon.
“When I was president I approached the-then (EFL) CEO Rob Sharpe about an ANZAC Day game,” MacLeod said.
“We wanted to play on that day, and previously, we’d made it compulsory for our players to attend the Blackburn dawn service.
“It’s important that we do mark these significant days on our calendar and do them well and show the respect that is due.”
For MacLeod and the Blackburn Football Club, Balwyn were always the logical choice of opponent for such a significant occasion.
“We’ve got a very good relationship with the Balwyn Football Club and (Balwyn president) Richard Wilson and I are close friends,” MacLeod said.
“Over the journey, Balwyn and Blackburn have had some real arm-wrestles.
“Two of our life members and former presidents in Paul Molan and Michael Tuminello are life members of Balwyn and life members of Blackburn.
“There’s a lot of ties there and I knew that it was something we could work well with Balwyn on.”
MacLeod says in playing the benchmark side in the competition, he hopes the event becomes an annual tradition with a bumper crowd expected at Morton Park.
“You want to be playing the best side in the competition and they’ve proven that over recent years,” he said.
“Hopefully we kick the EFL season off at Balwyn with a Good Friday game next year.
“Balwyn are coming off a loss, they’ll be hungry (and) we had a good win (in Round 1) so there’ll be no-one left wondering when the ball’s bounced at two o’ clock.”