Tuesday, 22 July 2008
INSIDE AUSTRALIA: ALIVE AND KICKING
New four-part documentary series
Begins Wednesday, 27 August 8.00pm
Australian country football. It’s been called a morality play; community theatre in a paddock. The football clubs have always been the heartbeat of rural communities - a barometer of social well-being. If the local club is going well, everyone in town walks that little bit taller and no matter where you finish on the ladder, the beginning of each new season brings fresh hopes and dreams.
Beginning at 8pm on Wednesday August 27, in the Inside Australia timeslot, SBS will screen Alive and Kicking. This four part series looks at how four rural communities are keeping Australian football alive and kicking in the bush.
Despite drought, apathy and economic rationalism, today’s footy clubs continue to use inventive ways of fielding teams, finding supporters and raising funds. Whether it be buying pubs and farms, running ‘panther hunts’, ‘iron man’ contests and talent quests, or importing players and committee members - it seems there’s nothing these rural communities won’t do for the sake of the game.
Every episode of Alive and Kicking focuses on a separate town, each with one thing in common – a deep love of Australian football. A mining town with a gravel oval and an independent spirit; a windswept island with two towns and three football teams; a football club in a sheep paddock and a town that became the focus of world attention when two miners were trapped for two weeks in 2006. Queenstown, King Island, Woodsdale and Beaconsfield in the Tamar Valley.
Directed by Steve Thomas and produced by Kath Symmons, Alive and Kicking beautifully captures the community spirit of each town, and provides a glimpse into some of the lives of the people who live there.
Episode One: Woodsdale
Wednesday August 27, 8pm
Woodsdale isn’t a town, just a rag tag collection of small farms and a quaint 1940s hall.
It’s sheep and turnip country, cold in winter and hot and dry in summer.
The Woodsdale football ground is known by opposition teams as the ‘sheep paddock’.
It consists of a couple of corrugated iron buildings and an old scoreboard. The main
feature of the clubrooms is a huge wood furnace with a gaping mouth that can
accommodate fence-post sized firewood.
The heart of Woodsdale is Andrew ‘Gus’ Dean. A big, strong country boy with a quick
wit and ready smile, ‘Gus’ was the driving force behind re-forming the club after it
folded in the late 90s. Gus has been playing football for 28 years in Tasmania’s
toughest leagues and it’s starting to take a toll on him. In the film we follow Gus as he
decides whether or not to call it a day.
Kaye Rowlands is the club secretary and treasurer as well as looking after catering. Her
association with Woodsdale goes right back to the early days of the club. We follow
Kaye as she organises, bakes and fundraises her way through yet another winter. For
Kaye, the footy club has ‘given the place a name’.
Episode Two: King Island
Wednesday September 3, 8pm
King Island is situated at the western end of Bass Strait in the teeth of the Roaring
Forties. Renowned for its monster crayfish and fine dairy produce, this small island also
produces a peculiarly hardy breed of footballer. But even in its heyday the King Island
Football Association only had five teams and, these days, three is all it can muster.
Fishermen, farmers, cheese factory workers, meatworkers, kelpers and high school
teachers and students make up the bulk of the three teams; Grassy, Currie and North.
In order to keep their football competition healthy, the King Islanders have developed a
fierce competition that has fuelled the island’s media contingent. Geoff French has been
writing about King Island football since the 1970s, Kathleen Hunter is the dynamo editor
of the King Island Courier and Jan Van Ruiswyk films each match for the King Island
We follow the King Island Association through a year that sees the revival of the
representative competition between King Island and Circular Head, and a form reversal
by the previous year’s bottom of the ladder team.
Episode Three: Tamar Cats
Wednesday September 10, 8pm
The Tamar Cats were born out of the amalgamation between arch rivals, Beaconsfield
and Beauty Point, two towns separated by five kilometres and a world of tradition. The
club’s fortunes over the past few years have not been good and this has led to a
decline in both attendances and the amenities.
We follow a new committee led by President Paul Filgate and Vice Presidents Chris
Love and Daryl Murfett as they attempt to revive the Cats as a force in the competition.
Victor Marshall is the new coach appointed to lead the team’s on-field revival. His
efforts go unrewarded as the team struggles to meet his demands early in the season.
Eventually his persistence pays off and the team ‘clicks’, stringing together six wins in a
row. Things are looking good but there’s trouble behind the scenes - Victor’s
aggressive style of coaching is becoming a problem.
This episode brings us face to face with a clash between family values and on-field
aggression. It’s a fascinating dilemma resolved by a bloodless coaching coup.
Episode Four: Queenstown
Wednesday September 17, 8pm
The Queenstown Crows represent over one hundred years of economic rationalisation
that has seen them become the ‘last team’ in a town that once boasted ten clubs. They
play on a unique gravel surfaced oval, that nestles in the midst of a range of barren,
blighted hills, the result of deforestation and localised acid rain - more than 300cm of it
per year. They’re proud of the oval but their pride is not shared by opposition teams.
The locals boast that it is the most feared football ground in Australia.
The town depends heavily on its copper mine, which only twenty years ago employed
over 1500 miners. Modernisation has seen this number drop to less than 300 and the
new shift rosters have made it difficult for some of those men to find time for the football
club. As the ranks of the men around the club have thinned out, the brunt of work
around the club has fallen on the women. In this film we will meet Crows secretary,
Cheryl Gamble, and club trainer Robyn Faulds. Along with senior coach, Brett Schultze,
these two women form the backbone of this tough and proud club.
We follow their fortunes as they strive for the club’s first premiership since 1994.
Director’s Statement – Steve Thomas
My fascination with country football began as child in Gippsland in 1959 watching the
Yallourn Blues conquering all before them in the Latrobe Valley League. To a young kid
in the late sixties, watching the coach rant and rave during the three quarter time huddle
was like peering into of the ‘valley of the giants’. For the next thirty odd years, until my
final year playing for Avoca in Tasmania’s Fingal Valley League in the mid-eighties, my
enthusiasm never waned. This was a world that needed to be documented.
In order to make these films we first had to convince each of the communities that we
weren’t setting them up for ridicule. We worked hard to gain their trust and our efforts
were rewarded with unprecedented access to the behind-the-scenes workings of
country football. We were welcomed into change-rooms and on-field huddles, into the
clubs themselves and into the homes, pubs and workplaces of our protagonists; the
players, supporters and the committee members. What we found was a generous
world rich in characters and drama.
Shot over 50 days in 2007, Alive and Kicking looks at four unique communities in and
around Tasmania. Although they share similarities, each of our chosen locations has an
entirely different set of issues. For Queenstown it’s about dealing with issues of a one
employer town; for Woodsdale it’s about keeping the club as the centre of the
community; for the Tamar Cats it’s all about revival and for King Island it’s about
keeping three teams going. And just as the issues are different, so too is the landscape.
Our camera team led by Matt Newton did a superb job of capturing these marvellous
and strange locations in a whole range of conditions.
Alive and Kicking is a celebration of the world of country football; a world rarely seen in
the inner suburbs of our big cities. It is a world where people wear their hearts on their
sleeves; where they show their love of community through friendly combat with likeminded
communities. It’s world where people give their time without question or
complaint. As Cheryl Gamble, secretary of the Queenstown Crows succinctly puts it…
‘It’s in your blood.’
Beginning at 8pm on Wednesday August 27, in the Inside Australia timeslot, SBS will screen Alive and Kicking. This four part series looks at how four rural communities are keeping Australian football alive and kicking in the bush. A mining town with a gravel oval and an independent spirit; a windswept island with two towns and three football teams; a football club in a sheep paddock and a town that became the focus of world attention when two miners were trapped for two weeks in 2006. Queenstown, King Island, Woodsdale and Beaconsfield in the Tamar Valley.