Magpie Luke Ball has thrown his support behind febfast
THERE'S a pub not far from Melbourne's Etihad Stadium with a sign written in chalk on a board next to its front door: "It's febfast time. Why not celebrate with a beer?"
It's a sentiment with which many a football fan would empathise, but a group of prominent AFL players is tackling this alcohol-free month in the right spirit, if you would pardon the pun.
AFL Players' Association charity, Ladder, has linked with febfast to raise money for its usual work with vulnerable young people and to create a new program aimed at helping those most at risk of developing drug and alcohol problems.
The AFL Players' Challenge sees footballers from each club competing in a kind of month-long antidote to Mad Monday in a race to raise the most money for the campaign.
Among those taking part are Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich, Carlton's Marc Murphy, Hawthorn skipper Luke Hodge and Collingwood midfielder Luke Ball.
Ball, who is AFL Players' Association president and a Ladder ambassador, said players were passionate about taking a leadership role on the issue of alcohol awareness.
"febfast is a great concept and we are all very excited about participating and raising funds for Ladder," Ball said.
"In previous years there have been quite a few players who have got involved off their own bat, but with this new partnership it has certainly provided an extra incentive for players to throw their support behind the campaign.
"We are naturally competitive beasts, so the moment there is a competition element you can be sure that players from each team will be trying their hardest to raise the most money and win some bragging rights while helping a great cause."
Other players taking part are Patrick Dangerfield, Brent Staker, Michael Hurley, James Kelly, Campbell Brown, Jonathan Giles, James Frawley, Brent Harvey, Darren Pfeiffer, Ivan Maric, Lenny Hayes, Ted Richards and Beau Waters, and for good measure, both Bob Murphy and Will Minson from the Western Bulldogs.
The febfast challenge encourages people to take a break from alcohol for the month of February and in 2013 aims to raise more than $1 million for vulnerable young Australians tackling serious alcohol and drug problems.
Launched in 2007, it has raised more than $4.5 million to support 40 programs throughout Australia and inspired 700,000 drink-free days.
To support the players or learn more about the AFL Players' Challenge, go to www.febfast.org.au.