On Friday night, Brisbane Roar goalkeeper Macklin Freke was a hero for more reasons than one.

With his side leading 2-1 on the road against Western Sydney Wanderers, Freke made a match-winning save to deny Marcus Antonsson a last minute equaliser from the penalty spot, thus keeping Brisbane’s finals hopes alive.

Moments later, as interim Brisbane coach Ruben Zadkovich conducted his post-game interview with Paramount +, the Roar keeper was spotted cleaning up the benches at CommBank Stadium.

“We have a respect culture at our club. Whenever we play at any change room, whether it’s home or away, or venue or stadium we make sure that we leave it in exactly the same way we found it,” his teammate Scott Neville told the PFA. “That sums up Macklin’s character as well. He made the save that won us the game in the last minute, then five minutes later he’s picking up rubbish.

“He does that normally. He does a lot of fishing and even when we’re out fishing, if there’s like plastic or a plastic bag or container in the water. He’ll go out of his way and pick it up and that’s just the type of character he is.

“If we can influence a few more people to be like that. That’d be really good.”

It’s apt timing given Brisbane will host the second A-Leagues Green Game on Saturday evening, when Roar welcome Newcastle Jets to Suncorp Stadium.

The Green Games are player-driven initiatives to introduce new sustainable practices into A-League clubs and to raise awareness for the impact of the climate on competition, and were devised by the PFA’s Our Greener Pitch player group.

This weekend’s Green Game will have a focus on reducing carbon pollution, offsetting unavoidable emissions, introducing new sustainable practices at clubs, and will raise awareness about the relationship between climate change and football. It follows along from the inaugural Green Game between Canberra United and Wellington Phoenix last month at McKellar Park.

While Freke will be hoping to have another match winning impact as they look to secure a place in the finals, Neville will unfortunately be sitting out as he continues to rehabilitate a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The 35-year-old, instead, will be looking to make an impact off the field, something he has already done through his work with Our Greener Pitch.

“I’ll personally be doing a little bit of work around the ground on game-day to try and influence as many people as possible and then spread the word,” he said.

Neville praised the Brisbane leadership for their open minded nature towards the Green Game, with a number of strategies already implemented within the club’s four walls.

“I think that shows the open mind set of Zac (Anderson) and Kaz (Patafta) at Brisbane,” he said.

“They were very open to it, and they were open to Pride Round. They jumped on board and that’s good for not only the community but good for the planet.

“At training, we have separate bins now that we recycle properly. We’re looking at installing some filtered waters and getting on board with a company that would give us water bottles, and that’s just a small change, so if we can save as much plastic as possible and leading up to this game [that would be great].”

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Neville’s journey to get to this point started a few years ago, when he was playing with Perth Glory.

It was there where he learned a number of lessons from a good friend of his and former teammate Chris Harold, that he’s taken with him and implemented in a number of different ways.

“I think when I was at Perth, with my good friend Chris Harold… we kind of joined forces and he knows a lot more about it. He kind of influenced me and educated me a lot,” he said.

“I just made some small changes whether it was a Keep Cup or not using single use plastic, which I have now implemented into the coffee shop that I own where we use biodegradable cups, and we use the coffee grounds for compost, so it’s just the small things that are taken on board and I’ve still got a long way to go.

“If I can leave the world in a better place than I found it would be great for the next generation because as we know, with climate change and global warming… there’s a lot going on in the world, I think we can leave a good imprint then that would be a good first step.”

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Neville is among a group of players from across the Matildas, Socceroos and A-Leagues who are part of Our Greener Pitch, which was launched in April 2021.

The group helps to encourage players, clubs and the football community to take individual and collective action to mitigate the effects of climate change. The cornerstone of the policy is a commitment to reducing and offsetting the organisation’s carbon emissions.

“It was obviously an initiative brought up by the playing group, the men’s and women’s teams in the A-League, and it just kind of developed on there,” Neville said about the Green Games.

“It’s obviously in its infancy stage and a lot of growth to do and it’s just basically creating the awareness around the Green Game and what people can do within football but also, if we can get into the heads of the fans and the younger generation, then I think it’s a good stepping stone…

He added: “Obviously, we can’t change the way we travel domestically [for games]. Obviously, we have to fly by plane but the choices that you make, do make a difference.”

But they’re not satisfied with just two Green Games.

“We’d love to have a Green Round next season, where we can move on from that,” he said.

“We really do want to build on each year and the awareness grows greater and greater but it’s a good starting point and then hopefully we can grow it from there.

“There’s a lot of companies out there, but I think if we could partner with these companies [that make] reusable bottles and Unwanted FC do a great job recycling kids for boot bags, or kits of other generations.

“I think if we could, as an industry, not just throw out old balls and not just throw out old kits… whether that’s to communities in rural communities or remote areas. I think that’s what we could do a lot better.

“Obviously, financially, it’s a little bit harder, but Manchester City have a report on all the carbon emissions that they offset and it’s a Green Report. If we could get to a stage where that was kind of judged by every club and then we can have a ladder of who’s the best, [create] a bit of competition around it, that might drive standards even higher.”

And Neville has a simple message for those in the community.

“I think the big message to take is that, everyone thinks they won’t make a difference,” he said.

“‘That one plastic cup won’t make a difference. I won’t recycle’. But I think it’s the small things that can make a difference. If everyone just has a bit more awareness around it and just makes a change and I think that’s what I took out of it all, just make the changes just adapt a little bit it would be really good.”

The PFA have released a climate report titled ‘Stoppage Time: A PFA Report on the A-Leagues and Climate Change‘, that explored the impact of climate on Australia and New Zealand’s professional domestic football competitions, the A-Leagues, examining the impact of extreme heat, bushfires, flooding and rain.

It also provided solutions for clubs and the league to mitigate the impact of climate change. You can read the Stoppage Time report here