PATRICK Dangerfield and fellow superstars like Dustin Martin, Nic Naitanui and Max Gawn are expected to headline the AFL’s charity exhibition match to raise funds for communities ravaged by the bushfire crisis.
The league confirmed on Thursday that it would stage a match between Victoria and an All-Stars side at Marvel Stadium on the evening of Friday, February 28, with a $2.5 million donation also announced.
The fixture will be a double-header with the AFLW match between Collingwood and Melbourne, scheduled for the same day, moved from Victoria Park to Marvel Stadium.
The proceeds will be split between the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund and a Community Relief Fund set up the AFL to help rebuild football facilities destroyed by bushfires.
The AFL, the clubs and AFL Players Association combined to get the ball rolling with the $2.5 million donation.
The last time the AFL staged a similar representative game was in 2008 when Victoria played the Dream Team in the Hall of Fame Tribute match at the MCG.
Before that the increasing reluctance of players and clubs to take part in State of Origin fearing injury ultimately saw the concept shelved in 1999.
But AFL chief Gillon McLachlan and Dangerfield, the AFLPA president, have no doubt the competition’s best players will be on hand for the bushfire match.
“Any opportunity to help those in need, I think our players have always been really good at putting their hands up,” Dangerfield said.
“So I’ve got no doubt we’ll have the best players in the competition playing in this game.”
Those players who do take part will most likely do so instead of playing in their club’s second pre-season series game.
“This is no different to playing a (pre-season) game and it will happen around the same time,” Dangerfield said.
“Injury is just a part of our game but I think what we’re seeing around Australia is far more significant than a player doing a hamstring.
“If we have players that are injured then they’ll deal with it but we go in with our eyes well and truly open and understanding that it’s for something far greater than ourselves.”
Richmond premiership coach Damien Hardwick will guide the Victorians and Sydney’s John Longmire will coach the All-Stars.
All clubs will be asked to make at least three players available for the match, with the selection process still to be determined.
West Coast’s pre-season series clash with Essendon at Lathlain Park scheduled on the same date as the charity match has been moved to the previous day.
McLachlan said the exhibition match and the initial donation were at the forefront of what would be ongoing support for bushfire-affected communities.
“The reality is that before the end of the summer there may be more communities that need our help,” McLachlan said.
“The message is clear to all of those people in communities impacted; ‘Football stands with you as you deal with the present danger and we will stand with you as you undertake the job of rebuilding.
“‘We will work hand-in-hand with you and we are here to help’.”
In 2009, the AFL played a fundraising match between Essendon and Western Bulldogs to support victims of the Black Saturday bushfires, raising $1.2 million.
© AAP 2019