Scholarship applications open for junior footballers in need

February 10, 2024 BY

L-R: Mark West Foundation co-chairs Paul West and Tom Harriott line up at "Westy's Wing", a wing named in honour of Mark West on Elderslie Reserve's southern wing. Photo: VINNIE VAN OORSCHOT

A GEELONG-BASED charity organisation is celebrating 10 years assisting local junior footballers to realise their dream of playing Australian rules football.

The Mark West Foundation formally announced the opening of this year’s scholarship program, offering 100 scholarships to junior footballers across the region in need of financial assistance so they can play this year.

Foundation co-chair and brother of Mark, Paul West, said it had been positive seeing the response from the football community, spreading the word far and wide.

“The amount of shares we’ve had from the football community is a really good thing, it shows that clubs really see the benefit in what these scholarships can offer.

“We understand there are a lot of factors as to why some families can’t afford football memberships or footy boots. That’s where we step in to help make up those differences.

“There are so many positives to Aussie Rules. Kids fully immerse themselves in the game when they play it, because of that, it’s a place where they don’t have to worry about anything else.”

The foundation was established in October 2014 to try to help overcome the growing problem of disadvantaged children missing out on football opportunities as a result of their financial situations.

Mark West passed away at the age of 19 during an Anzac Day game in 1998 while playing for Newtown & Chilwell.

Paul West said one of Mark’s biggest passions was developing and assisting with junior football, and the opportunities it provided.

“All of this is because of Mark. His biggest thing was to just have fun, no matter the score; the main thing was always to have fun.

“The foundation and our family will continue trying to get Mark’s name and legacy out there into the community and for what he stood for, and we’re currently looking at a couple returning community events as well to help assist that.”

The foundation raises funds each year through grant funding, corporate and private donations, as well as fundraisers.

The funds are then used to provide up to 100 scholarships each year to children who qualify for assistance (applying families must have a Healthcare Card or Pension card).

Co-chair Tom Harriott said his favourite part of the year was the collection day, held on the Friday before Labour Day (March 8) at GMHBA Stadium.

“Seeing a 12-year-old kid arrive to collect their first pair of footy boots is a wonderful thing. It’s like all their Christmases come at once, but it’s also a great feeling for us as a foundation.

“Some of the kids just put the boots on as soon as they have them and wear them on the way to the car – that’s what it’s all about.”

To date, the foundation has awarded 795 scholarships to junior footballers, 769 of which have involved paid memberships and 434 pairs of donated boots.

Mr Harriott confirmed over $150,000 had been paid out to facilitate the scholarship program since its inception, with $130,000 donated directly back into local clubs.

To apply for this year’s scholarships before the February 18 deadline, click HERE

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