This weekend sees the 21st edition of the EJ Whitten Legends Game, named in honour of Footscray and Australian Football legend, the late EJ Whitten. While it is a great chance to see the footballing greats of yesteryear plying their trade once again, the primary role this game serves is to raise awareness and funds into prostate cancer via the EJ Whitten Foundation, and to date more than $9.5 million has been raised for this valuable cause.
Unfortunately, it was prostate cancer that took the life of EJ back in 1995, at the age of 62. No doubt, if EJ was still around today, he would have offered so much more to the game of football through his commentary, media work, not to mention his love of State Footy and his beloved Bulldogs.
Each year, a host of former players, some in better physical shape than others, take the field and showcase their skills, in a defacto State-Of-Origin concept, between Victoria and the All-Stars.
Of course this concept is fitting, given Ted Whitten and State footy go hand in hand, and any football fan that has seen the vision of EJ's last lap of the MCG before the 1995 Victoria v South Australia State game will know just how much impact he had on the footballing world.
Back in 1996, the first edition of the Legends Game was staged, and fittingly it was at EJ's old stamping ground, the Western Oval in Footscray. By then the ground had been renamed EJ Whitten Oval in honour of EJ, and many fans turned out to see what this ragtag mix of former players could produce on a cold winters evening.
I was among them, though as a 14-year-old back then, I really can't remember much of the game, if at all, except for the mandatory kick-to-kick session afterwards, under the Western Oval lights.
From the beginning the Nine Network has broadcast the match, and gradually it became more and more popular with the fans to the point where it has been held at Etihad Stadium for the last decade. However, in that time, seemingly the game become less and less about the players and more abut the celebrity cameos with the likes of Hamish and Andy, Craig Hutchison and even Strauchanie taking the field.
This is fine for a bit of fun but I'm sure many fans, with me among them, would much rather see just the pure footballing ability of the former champions on the field, rather than some sideshow of celebrities.
While this years game has a new home on Channel Seven, let's hope that the game rather than the comedy takes centre stage and that people are able to give generously to the EJ Whitten Foundation, helping them to raise funds that hopefully can one day put an end to prostate cancer forever.
If you do wish to help, here is the link to donate to the foundation http://www.ejwhittenfoundation.com.au/donations/make-a-donation/