Love the club that loves the game

Point Cook Football Club players at training

Point Cook Football Club players at training

By Tony Wilson

Point Cook Football Club is only 20 years old, but it’s already a hub for sport and community life for an expanding population in Melbourne’s west. There’s loyalty and love for the club from its hundreds of players, male and female, across seniors and all age levels.

Nick Buykx, 24, is captain of the seniors and played all his junior footy at Point Cook. A teacher by day, he also coaches the under-16 girls.

‘It's an awesome family club,’ he says. ‘My coaches have had a massive influence on me. They've made me the person that I am both on and off the field.’

Setting standards

Nathan Havard, 18, plays on the wing in the under-18s.

‘All my mates are here and the camaraderie is unmatched,’ he says. ‘Off the field, it's about who I actually am, my actual character itself.’

He’s experienced the club and coaches setting standards including staging gambling-related interventions in his friendship group.

‘I've had multiple conversations with mates where I've just gone, “Look, you've got to stop. It's getting a bit too far”. So, yeah, I'd like to say that we're actually more progressive in terms of supporting each other.’

‘… we understand the impact gambling can have on young people…’
Ivo Havard

This setting of community standards is why Point Cook recently chose not to renew a sponsorship with a sports betting company in favour of joining the Foundation’s Love the Game program. Member clubs – and there are now 735 of them – are taking a stand against sports betting sponsorship and helping juniors to love the game, not the odds. 

‘With the amount of kids we’ve got coming through, boys and girls, we understand the impact gambling can have on young people,’ explains club president and Nathan’s father Ivo Havard. ‘That was the main reason for our decision not to recontract with the sports betting agency.’

Friendly rivalry

The club’s move reflects that of the league it is a part of — the Western Region Football League – which has also signed up to Love the Game. In May 2022, neighbourhood rival Williamstown visited for the under-14 girls match during the Love the Game round, an annual campaign to raise awareness of the risks of sports betting for young people.

‘The camaraderie from it was the exciting part,’ Ivo recalls. ‘The after-match and celebration – caps were handed out and there was some spinoff from the game that we really enjoyed. The message was certainly there for Love the Game. And these under-14 girls are potentially the next generation of gamblers. We want to make sure that they don't consider it too much as an option.’

‘… it's hard-earned money you're putting on the line …’
Lachlan Couch

Lachlan Couch plays centre half-back and is also pleased his club has signed on to Love the Game.

‘I think it's important to understand the risks of sports betting because it's hard-earned money you're putting on the line,’ he says, ‘and you don’t know if you're going to win or lose.’

The data says that it’s 18-24-year-old young men like Nathan and Lachlan who place the most bets on sporting events although participation by women is on the rise.

‘It's probably had too much of an influence on my life,’ says Lachlan. ‘Especially between me and my mates. We are talking about it way too much.’

Saturation-level gambling advertising

One of the issues is gambling advertising which is at saturation levels. Nathan guesses there might be 12-14 gambling ads on free-to-air television on an average day and is stunned to learn the average is 948 gambling ads per day.

‘You’re kidding!’ says Nick Buykx when he hears that statistic.

The club captain says he loves watching footy on television but is sick of the endless gambling content. ‘I like watching the pre-game to hear some of the insights and unfortunately that's all that you hear; it’s all around who's going to kick the first goal and who's paying the best odds.

‘I like watching the pre-game to hear some of the insights.’
Nick Buykx

‘When I was growing up it wasn't like that. It was all about footy. And for the younger kids coming through, it's smacking them in the face every single day. So, yeah, it sucks, but hopefully it can change.’

Ivo thinks the Love the Game program can influence these changes.

‘Other clubs should join because it's a great message that we're trying to spread. The amount of advertising that goes on is just not healthy and unfortunately young people are subjected to it and influenced by it. The Love the Game, not the odds campaign is a terrific one to try. We want them to concentrate on the game and have fun.’

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