When I heard the news of Phil Walsh’s tragic death I immediately felt compelled to text my three children, now in their early twenties, to remind them how thankful I was for the positive relationship we shared. A series of texts followed affirming how we felt, providing us with that rare opportunity to pause and gain perspective. The subsequent round of AFL football that evolved from such despair, including the shared silence post game as players came together, allowed players and the general public a moment to reflect.

In our Carey community we also have an opportunity for such a pause, and the establishment of clarity, at the annual JMB sports fixture that sees Carey First teams competing against Caulfield Grammar. 2008 marked the inaugural JMB fixture with the winner of the First Football game receiving the JMB perpetual trophy.

Whilst Netball, Soccer, and Hockey First team fixtures are also part of the day, James Macready-Bryan’s involvement as a dominant First XVIII player through his final years at school gives the football fixture an extra special significance. Yet the day inevitably becomes far more than sporting victory or defeat as the presence of James at Bulleen, as has been the case most years since that first game, means that the powerful message to step back and think transcends the scoreboard in any game. He is a visible reminder of the stupidity of violence as he captures the precious nature of life. Every year parents from both Carey and Caulfield are moved by James’s story as they are shown the reality of what can happen when an individual, often young and a male, does not step back and think as was the case with James’s attacker.

Nelson Mandela once noted of sport that it has the potential to ‘create hope from despair’. He was referring to the apartheid in South Africa and the possibilities he saw in the Rugby World Cup as a means of unifying, yet his words translate to the aftermath of the stupidity that left James a victim in 2006. A group of James’s peers at Carey assured hope would be borne from the despair through their vision in establishing the ‘Step Back Think’ campaign. Their initiative led to a powerful legacy that sits under the banner of the JMB Foundation that continues to grow. In future, the JMB sport fixture is one you should earmark on your calendar. In a world that often struggles to stop and see things with reason, and can be guilty of using sport as a release of violence, it is ironic that the often combative nature of sport has become the perfect avenue to create a message of awareness and respect.

Peter Robson
Director of Positive Education and Wellbeing