AFL great Jonathan Brown says it's vital staff, volunteers and coaches feel supported as grassroots football navigates the post-COVID-19 pandemic era and has thrown his support behind interleague's revival.
The South Warrnambool export, home in the south-west as part of his ambassadorial role with Dairy Australia, said he would love to see the AFL Victoria country championships return.
Brown gave back to the Hampden league as its interleague coach prior to the pandemic.
AFL Victoria scrapped the inter-association competition - once a staple on the country football calendar - in November 2019.
The system worked on a rankings system with leagues playing one-off matches each season for a chance to climb up the ranks and earn the mantle as Victoria's number one country league.
Brown coached Hampden for three years for three wins, taking it to number six in the standings.
"It would be great to see interleague revived and I would love to see the great rivalry between the regions as a regular again," he said.
The former Coleman Medallist said it was crucial help was on hand to help clubs following the pandemic.
"Country football will always be vibrant, however we can't be complacent," the three-time Brisbane premiership-winning forward said. "There needs to be focus on the breeding grounds of football and the Western District is crucial for developing men and women in footy. As long as we make sure the competition is out in the communities it will always be vibrant and well supported."
Brown said having people to guide the next generation was important though as children had a broad range of extra-curricular options to choose from.
The Fox Footy commentator visited West Warrnambool Primary School on Friday as part of Dairy Australia's Picasso Cows initiative. The free program is being rolled out in schools as a way of promoting the health benefits to students.
"Sixty per cent of school aged kids aren't getting enough dairy during this critical time for bone growth," he said. "It is important to teach kids about the health benefits of dairy foods such as strong bones, teeth and muscles, how much they need each day and about the amazing variety of Australian dairy products available.
"It's also important to educate children about how dairy is produced and create awareness of the many job opportunities available in the dairy industry."
Brown is passionate about the dairy industry due to strong family links.
"Both sides of my family are dairy farmers, so dairy is in my blood," he said.
"We grew up helping on my grandfather and uncles' farms and I have many fond memories from those days.
"My connection and passion for dairy also comes from seeing the passion and commitment it takes to get quality dairy on supermarket shelves. Dairy is at the heart of regional communities and considered the centrepiece of local economies."
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