WORDS: Celia Drummond
PICTURES: Adam Cornell
PRODUCER: Sarah Morton
WHEN shooting the action for the Ballarat Football League, budding sports photographer Adam Cornell finds the biggest challenge is being in the right place at the right time to capture the special moments.
"Usually, you only get one chance, and you need to be prepared to make sure you get the shot," he says.
During this year's season opener between Bacchus Marsh and Ballarat, Cornell had the opportunity to do just that.
Not only was it the first game back for the league, but it was also Bacchus Marsh favourite Daniel Velden's 300th match.
"There was a real family feel to the day, and the match itself between the sides was one of the best games of football I have seen. The match was played in great spirits," Cornell recalled.
"I felt so privileged to be in the Bacchus Marsh rooms to cover the scenes around Daniel's milestone before and after the game."
These wonderful images that celebrate local footy at its best are Adam's entries into the 2022 AFL Footy Focus competition, thanks to Toyota.
As for the subject of the photos, Daniel Velden never envisaged racking up 300 games for Bacchus Marsh when he started playing for the club in their under 16s. Fast forward to today, the local teacher and father of two has played his entire career with the Cobras and is integral to the community spirit the club has fostered.
The Bacchus Marsh Football Club has been affiliated with the Ballarat Football League since 1978, yet only won its first senior premiership in 2016. Along with both men's and women's senior sides, the club boasts eight junior boys teams, under-14 and under-16 girls teams, as well as multiple netball teams. It has been the breeding ground for AFL senior players such as Geelong's Fred Wooller and more recently, Fremantle's Nick Suban and West Coast's Liam Duggan.
For such a proud club, Velden's 300th wasn't ever going to go unnoticed. His milestone match was due to be played in 2020 and almost looked out of reach after two disrupted seasons. Thankfully, in the first game of the 2022 season, Velden and the Cobras finally had a chance to celebrate.
"Daniel is a clean-living individual of the highest character with tremendous integrity. He's never been reported in his wonderful career and has stayed true to our club even during the darkest years," Bacchus Marsh football director Chris Stuhldreier explained.
In the week leading up to the game, Bacchus Marsh held a testimonial night with past and present players, and other members of the Cobras community, all of whom played a part in Velden's journey to 300, paying tribute to the milestone man.
"The video put together by the club for that night caught me by surprise. It was amazing hearing the well wishes from everybody. This was something I hadn't expected," Velden said.
The club also organised a wall of honour and banner on the day. The game itself was one of those fourth-quarter nailbiters where either side could have come away with the points. The Cobras kicked the winning goal with moments to spare.
"The boys really dug deep to get over the line and start our season off with a win," Velden said.
"Ballarat was also amazing in their respect after the game. They all participated in the guard of honour for me and headed to the rooms to celebrate with us."
This will be Daniel's last year playing for the Cobras, and passing on his experiences and knowledge to the next generation of football stars is something very important to him. He loves this club.
"This will always be more than just a place to play football. My best man for my wedding plays here. These people have contributed to making me the man I am today," he said.
After hanging up the boots, Velden wants to focus on his own kids' sporting development so they too can enjoy what the club has afforded him.
"Everyone is welcome at the Cobras, and here they have a safe place to grow and learn. It is a true family," he said.
Stuhldreier is also a champion for community footy, and understands the importance of celebrating the connection between players, their teammates and their club.
"Establishing relationships and celebrating what's important both on and off the field like we were able to do with Daniel creates meaning. It is such a rewarding experience being involved and sharing experiences with friends from your local club."
#FootyFocus22, thanks to Toyota's Good For Footy program, is now open for entries! Here's your chance to shadow and shoot with Michael Willson and Dylan Burns at a game in 2023. We want to see your photos that capture the essence of our great game at a grassroots level. To enter, upload your best community footy photos taken during 2022 to: http://footyfocus22.afl/