Morgan Turkovic says that “the anticipation and excitement of the very first bounce” sits atop his list of what he most looks forward to being a part of when the community football is back up and running.
Like thousands of Victorians, he has missed being able to spend time around his best mates every weekend and enjoying a meal at the club on team selection nights, with the postponement of the 2020 season and social distancing measures leaving a Dragon-sized hole in his life.
For 15 years now, Morgan has spent most of his winter weekends at Ainsworth Reserve supporting his local heroes from the Sunshine Heights Football Club as they compete in Melbourne’s Western Region Football League.
The Dragons “number one supporter” according to club captain Justin Zahra, Morgan lives with Cerebral Palsy and had been feeling down in recent weeks without being able to enjoy his usual social life and attend the footy.
“Morgan is a long-serving club loyalist, our football club’s strongest supporter,” Zahra said.
“He is consistently present and involved with the club, always watching training on a cold Tuesday & Thursday night throughout the winter, at all club functions (and usually last to leave the dance floor), and even attended our end of season trip to Adelaide – which was actually his first trip away from his mother Cindy.”
“Morgan is front and centre at every Sunshine Heights game home or away, and the club song after a win doesn’t start unless he is in the middle of the circle…. He is truly an inspiration to not only the playing group but to our entire football community.”
Such is the affection at the football club for Morgan, that when word reached the clubs leadership group that their biggest fan had been doing it tough during the COVID-19 lockdown, they were quick to respond, creating a video dedication which became not only an online hit, but a poignant reminder of what football means to Victorian communities everywhere.
“Martha Weston – who is the true heartbeat of our football club and has volunteered her time at Sunshine Heights all of her life – reached out to our leadership group to say that Morgan was feeling down during isolation,” Zahra said.
“The leadership group reached out internally to the wider playing group with the news, and we instantly received numerous video messages sending well wishes and support to Morgan.
“The videos we received were emotionally moving and gave an overwhelming sense of pride for what our football club stands for – family, unity & togetherness.”
“To Sunshine Heights number one fan – Morgan – a video message to check in on you mate. I hope you are keeping strong and I hope you’re looking after yourself. Always remember, regardless of the distance that the boys have got your back,
“We really miss seeing you on the track on Tuesday and Thursday, keeping a watchful eye on us to make sure we’re not playing up too much, but bigger than that, we miss singing the song with you… look after yourself, stay strong and look forward to seeing you soon.”
Skipper Zahra said he was “blessed to be able to say that our football club is a real family.”
“Unfortunately, our football club has struggled with on-field performances for the past decade… we are unfortunately not in a financial position to incentivise players financially, but it is our bond and commitment to each other over the journey that has created a safe family environment for all to enjoy.
“We are a football club that turns total strangers into best mates; that’s Sunshine Heights FC.”
The Dragons have identified a number of key targets moving forward as a club, which include the creation of a junior football-netball program for girls and boys, as well as establishing the inaugural first senior women’s football and netball side which Zahra says would be a “thrilling step to securing our clubs future.”
“We would love to give our Greater Sunshine West community a safe and friendly environment for our next generation to get active.
“Securing and growing our future for the next generation through financial stability is a high priority for our club… we are consistently on the search for local business leaders within Sunshine West and neighbouring areas who are willing and open to sponsoring our football club.
“It would be great to continue to provide platforms for all members to grow and learn skills that they can take with them through life… we want the next generation to enjoy the happiness that the club and all its members have given for many years to come.”
– Riley Brettell
How does $5,000 for your club sound?
We have teamed up with SEN & the TAC to provide four weekly $5,000 cash prizes for clubs who can show us how they are staying connected and motivated during this time. Simply nominate your club and upload a 60-second video here to be in the running!