MICK Faneco has never played a game for the Ararat Rats but such is his connection to the club over more than 20 years he was awarded life membership following the 2017 season.
“I played all my football in the Ararat and District Football Association,” he said. “My girls started playing netball here in 1995 so I got involved and I haven’t left.
“I come to training a couple of nights a week, prep the barbecue and drink beer.”
Every home game Faneco can be found at Alexandra Park working the barbecue from early in the morning and he will not move far from it during the day.
From where he works he has a good view of the action but also enjoys travelling to the club’s away fixtures where he can take in even more of the action.
He said he could not imagine his winters without following the Rats around.
“My two daughter live in Ballarat and Geelong now and we’ve talked about shifting but then the question would be: how do I support Ararat from afar?” he said.
“I just enjoy it coming down here on a Tuesday night, on a Thursday night and on Saturdays.”
He said the amount of people that come down to support the club each week was evidence of how important community sport is to Ararat.
“At the last home game against Warrack Eagles I banked $1300 just off the barbecue and selling chips,” he said.
He said the club continued to be driven by its strong volunteer base.
“If you went around today there are the girls at the canteen, the guys on the gate, the bloke that marks the ground and so many more," he said. “You’d be amazed at how many people it takes to to run the club.”
He said being at the club when the senior footballers managed to snare the 1999 and 2001 premierships was a special memory but he also thought the club had never been better placed than this season.
“The juniors are well placed, the reserves are second on the ladder and financially we’ve never been better off,” he said.
“That’s not just because we’ve been going a little better this season but because things have become more professional at the club. I was on the committee for years and we would have only had one meeting a month, now they have meetings every week and it’s run more professionally.”
Ararat’s senior football side has already outperformed pre-season expectations and Faneco said new coach Shane Fisher had a lot to do with the turnaround.
“He’s a terrific coach and it helps that he was here last season as well in a different role,” he said.
“He already knew everybody and saw enough in the team to want to take over that role.”