Almanac Book Review: The Maffra Football Story – A Sequel by Bill Traill


Maffra Past Players & Officials, Maffra. 2017
By Bill Traill
ISBN 978-0-9593397-1-0




By Rod Gillett


Paul Daffey, the famed chronicler of country football stories, rates the Maffra Football Club Story as the best book on a country football club. That book was published in 2008 and was widely acclaimed.


It documented the early history of football in Gippsland from the 1880s through until the re-emergence of the Maffra footy club as a powerhouse in the region in the early 21st century.


Since that book’s publication the Maffra footy club have kept on winning premierships!


This prompted the author Bill ‘Tracker’ Traill to bring the story of the club up to date and to reset the social context of football in Gippsland. The result is a remarkable story of a close community that prides itself on the performance of its football club.


As the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack wrote in The Australian (19 June 2019) in an article for the 125th anniversary of the Coolamon Rovers Football Club in his electorate of Riverina in southern NSW:


‘Football clubs are more than just a weekend recreational outlet in regional areas. Indeed, they are often the very essence of the particular community they represent … the heartbeat of the local town … a barometer as to how the district is faring’.


The Maffra Football Netball Club has won eight senior flags since 2002 and the netball teams have won an aggregate of 10 premierships. ‘Tracker’ pays tribute to the ‘social entrepreneurs’ for ‘working to accumulate the social capital which in turn is reinvested in the football club’ (p.95).


As Traill further notes, ‘In the successful years it returns the invaluable dividend of injecting vibrancy to town life’ (p.95).


Maffra endured a 54-year senior football drought before its break-through premiership in 2002. But as the author informs us, Maffra had been extraordinarily successful a century earlier, when the club won eight of the seventeen grand finals it contested in the original Gippsland Football League up until 1921.


Traill attributes the re-emergence of Maffra as a football force to the decision in 1997 under club president Jack Vardy to re-develop the facility housing the club into a broader community purpose. Vardy and his leadership team were able to persuade the influential townspeople that Maffra needed a community sports club with state-of-the-art facilities.


According to ‘Tracker’, “The impact on the morale of the football community was sensational. Everyone was happy”.


But as he points the renaissance was more than bricks and mortar, and the appointment of local 200 game player Wayne Butcher as coach was critical to the Eagles resurgence. The coach gathered a football operations team around him which possessed fine insights into the modern game.


Maffra went on a winning spree of three premierships in row, 2002-2004, including an unbeaten streak of 45 games that only ended with a shock loss in the wet on grand final day by Traralgon at the Traralgon Recreation Reserve.


The Eagles returned to their winning ways with further premierships in 2006 & 2007, both at the expense of Sale, with made it even sweeter, under another local coach Hayden Burgiel.


Traill documents all the seasons since 2008 in the Sequel  with a major focus on the three premierships – 2009, 2010 and 2016, not just the results of games, but graphic accounts of the club rivalries, game strategies, star players and the politics.


The sweetest victory was the ‘727’ flag in 2010 when the Eagles beat nemesis Traralgon  with a goal kicked after the siren from 40 metres out by burly forward Nick Horsford. Maffra kicked 7.27. 69 to beat Traralgon 9.12.66. The Maroons led for more than three quarters of the game; a lead they held even after the final siren.


Traralgon, and Leongatha, in more recent grand finals aside, the real rivalry is reserved for near neighbours, Sale. Maffra have been playing Sale since 1889. The win/loss record up until the end of season 2018 is 136-140 since records were kept from 1901.


The statistical collection in the Appendices are the best tabulation I have seen in a country club history. It includes Maffra’s win/loss record against all opponents since 1901, as well as finals standings, premiership tables, player performances, and winning and losing streaks for  Gippsland football.


The recent phenomenon in country football has been the incredible success of the smaller town football teams in their respective major country leagues in Victoria, namely Koroit (six premierships 2014-2019), Nathalia (five in a row 2015-2019), Kyabram (won 81 out of 82 games and three flags 2016-17 & 2019), and Maffra.


The success of Kyabram and Nathalia along with the Koroit coach Adam Dowie (2014-2016) is being recounted by Paul Daffey in his forthcoming title On the Premiership Trail: Travels in Victorian Country Football(to be released in October). Bill Traill has adroitly told the story of the success of the Maffra Football Club in the Sequel.


As Bill Traill wrote to me in a recent email, ‘It seems that the old-fashioned tribal affiliations are best practised in the smaller centres. Footy is embedded in those cultures’.


The book is available for $25 (including postage) from the author[email protected]


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  1. A very nice book, thank you for the benefit

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