Trying to get Michael Meeng to give himself a pat on the back is proving as difficult as trying to drag himself away from his beloved junior and senior football clubs at Officer.
Meeng, who began his involved at Starling Road in 1990, was acknowledged for his outstanding contribution to football by claiming the 2018 WorkSafe AFL Victoria Country Volunteer of the Year Award at the Community Football Awards held at the Docklands on Friday night.
Meeng was chosen from a group of 24 nominees, selected from more than 78,000 volunteers from around Victoria.
As part of his prize he enjoyed an AFL experience of a lifetime, being part of the Toyota Grand Final Parade on Friday September 28, before heading to the MCG to watch the 2018 Toyota AFL Grand Final between Collingwood and West Coast.
“I knew nothing about it until about two weeks before the AFL Grand Final,” Meeng said.
“I got a call from the AFL saying I had won the award and I told them they had the wrong number – and then nearly drove off the road. I had to pull over and compose myself, I was over the moon to receive an award like this after 28 years at the club.”
The affable Meeng said he saw himself as no different to the thousands of other volunteers who give their heart and soul to their clubs on a daily basis.
“There are a million people like me with similar reasons for being involved in sport at a community level, we all love it and simply know that the jobs are there and have to get done,” he said.
“Some people like to sit back and criticise and never get their hands dirty, but being involved as a volunteer is a very rewarding experience.”
Meeng, who was awarded life membership of the Officer Senior Football Club – formerly Rythdale/Officer/Cardinia (ROC) – in late September, played a key role in the formation of the Officer Kangaroos Junior Football Club in 2001.
He was also involved in the development of Officer Auskick a year later and now plays an important role in liaising for the junior club between the seniors and local council.
The well-respected Meeng said there was a simple reason why he still commits so much of his time and effort to Officer.
“I always have, and always will, get a buzz out of being involved, and it all comes down to the kids and seeing the smiles on their faces,” he said.
“I helped start the Officer Kangaroos Junior Football Club and then Auskick the following year – just to see the way things have developed, and how people have grown and moved on gives you a really warm feeling inside.”
Meeng said the development of people who had started their careers at Officer/ROC, such as Essendon development coaches Mark and Paul Corrigan and former Richmond star Greg Tivendale, made the experience all worthwhile.
He also acknowledged that his contribution to local sport was not all of his own doing.
“My family has been so supportive over the years, especially my wife Kayleen who has been by my side since the beginning of the Officer Kangaroos,” he said.
“But, over such a long journey, there are many people that you get to know and work with and they have all played significant roles as well. As I said earlier, there a million people like me who love getting involved and making a difference.”
AFL South East clubs provided five of the 24 nominees, with Meeng joined by Ella Angarane from Bass Coast Breakers, Michael Odgers from Hampton Park JFC, Chris Brown from Narre South Lions and Terry O’Connor from Edithvale-Aspendale.