A day at the footy has netted disability support groups more than $14,000 after Slater and Gordon teamed up with AFL clubs Western Bulldogs and Collingwood to promote equality for people of all abilities.
The law firm has signed on for three years as naming rights sponsor Robert Rose Cup, an annual clash between the two clubs, in a partnership that Slater and Gordon executive director Ken Fowlie said would help promote a better life for people living with disabilities.
Mr Fowlie hailed the first year of the alliance as a major success after Collingwood took home the cup in front of 32,000 footy fans in last Sunday’s round-12 encounter at Etihad Stadium.
“The vision was that this annual match would become a symbol of the fact that disability should never be a barrier to equality and inclusion and, suffice to say, it is off to a flying start,” Mr Fowlie said.
Among the notable talking points around the match was that Magpies President Eddie McGuire and Bulldogs President Peter Gordon handed over their reigns to Anthony Bartl and Lynette Rowe for the day.
Mr Bartl, who was left quadriplegic after being struck by a car at the aged 6, took Eddie’s throne in the Presidents Lunch while Ms Rowe, a survivor of the morning sickness drug Thalidomide who was born without limbs, held court over the Bulldogs.
“These are two inspirational Victorians who have remained positive in the face of unthinkable personal tragedy and I can’t think of a more fitting symbol of what the Robert Rose Cup is all about than them being named presidents of their favourite footy clubs for the day,” Mr Fowlie said.
It was also a big day for Bulldogs fan Venice Kowalczyk, 9, and Pies supporter Zach Stephens, 13, who led their respective teams onto Etihad Stadium as their mascots for the day.
Venice lost a hand and both feet after doctors failed to diagnose a case of meningococcal disease in time when she was nine-months old but she didn’t let that stop her from trotting out onto the stadium in front of the roaring crowd. Zach, who made headlines in 2010 when he refused to let paramedics cut off his signed Magpies jumper as he lay after being hit by a car, received a similar reception.
Earlier in the week, members of disability education service Annecto joined Bulldogs star midfielder Ryan Griffen and the the Bulldogs cheer squad to help make the club’s banner, emblazoned with the slogan: “Footy fans support equality & inclusion for people of all abilities”.
Also in keeping with the disability theme, former race driver Lucas Dumbrell, who is quadriplegic following a race crash, tossed the coin and presented the cup at the end of the day.
“The whole day was a terrific expression of the support Australians have for people who have difficulties looking after themselves and those who continue to contribute to the community despite the odds being stacked against them,” Mr Fowlie said.“
Australian rules football has a terrific way of bringing people together for great causes and it was great to see the game playing a really positive role in highlighting the important issue of disability care.”
The game also provided a windfall for various disability support groups, with Slater and Gordon presenting a cheque for nearly $11,000 to the Robert Rose Foundation, including a $5000 donation from the firm and a further $5900 raised in an auction at the Collingwood Presidents Lunch.
Outside the ground, staff from Slater and Gordon raised more than $3000 for Melbourne-based charityIndependence Australia, helping people with disabilities to regain, retain and extend their independence.
“It was great to see the staff getting behind Independence Australia, with a significant amount of the funds raised coming from their own pockets and the rest from community-minded footy fans,” Mr Fowlie said.
“Slater and Gordon has a long and proud history of advocating for Australians with disabilities and that spirit was clearly evident at the Robert Rose Cup.”
The Robert Rose Cup honours the son of Collingwood legend Bob Rose. Robert Rose played for both the Bulldogs and Collingwood before a car crash left him quadriplegic in 1979. He died in 1999.
The Robert Rose Foundation supports a range of charities helping Australians with disabilities.