Gold Coast Suns dedicate AFL match against Fremantle to domestic violence survivors

The Suns are “drawing a line in the sand”, promising to lead the charge in helping stamp out domestic and family violence, not only on the Gold Coast but across Australia.

This week the state government announced it will legislate the criminalisation of coercive control by next year and the Suns players have never felt the weight of responsibility as role models more.

The team has called Sunday’s match against Fremantle the “Round to RizeUp”.

Players donated money to RizeUp, a charity established on the Gold Coast to help families and women fleeing violent households.

They also swapped Sherrins for hammers and screwdrivers, buying and building furniture to go into refuge accommodation.

Win or lose, it is the meaning behind the match which resonates deeply with the playing group.

Gold Coast Suns vice-captain Sam Collins puts together furniture donated for a domestic violence shelter.(ABC News: Steve Keen)

“I’m sure there are many players in the room who have been touched by domestic violence in some form, whether they know it or not, throughout their childhood in their life so far,” Suns vice-captain Sam Collins said.

“[We are] drawing a line in the sand, to make sure that we’re looking after what we can control, but also getting the message out there and making sure that the other people are becoming better people.

“We are role models for the community so we need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to lead the charge in helping stem out domestic violence.”

Gold Coast Suns players put together furniture they've donated for DV organisation RizeUp.
Gold Coast Suns players put together furniture they’ve donated for DV organisation RizeUp.(ABC News: Steve Keen)

RizeUp estimated that it cost $5,000 to set up one of the refuges.

Not only are the players physically helping, but they are committed to change, holding player education sessions with domestic violence survivors and members of Queensland’s domestic and family violence task force.

“When we’re able to see and hear stories of families who are able to get out of a really tough and inappropriate situation and find somewhere safe to go, that’s what we like hearing most.

“By building flat-pack furniture, we can really help someone tomorrow in terms of it’s a kitted-out home ready for them to move into, to be safe and restart their life.”

Gold Coast Suns vice-captain Sam Collins handing over a cheque from the players for RizeUp.
Gold Coast Suns vice-captain Sam Collins hands over a cheque from the players for RizeUp.(Supplied)

Suns chief executive Mark Evans said they wanted to be part of the community and “more than just a football club”.

“This is as a real issue for our community,” he said.

“We will never know who they are, but they’ll have a calling card to say that the Suns were here to help.”

RizeUp chief executive Nicolle Edwards said Southport, on the Gold Coast, was the busiest domestic violence court in Queensland.

The organisation supported between eight to 10 families af week in the south-east alone.

Ms Edwards said it would take three to four hours to furnish a home, with players often contacting the charity to see if they need help driving the furniture truck.

Players will wear blue socks for the 'Round to RizeUp' in their clash with Fremantle on Sunday at Carrara.
Players will wear blue socks for the ‘Round to RizeUp’ in their clash with Fremantle on Sunday at Carrara.(Supplied)

“It’s a big logistical beast behind the scenes and to have the team actually getting stuck in and helping buy the furniture, building it and then helping set-up the homes, it makes a huge difference,” she said.

“You know, they don’t just speak it, they do it.

“It might be a lounge or dining table, or some food in the pantry, but for the families that we’re working alongside, this means a lot more.

“These items are symbols of freedom, recovery, new beginnings, all of those amazing things.”

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