Footy keeps home fires burning

By Pamela Sherpa

Timing is everything they say.  A visit home to Gunbower in northern Victoria luckily coincides with a “home” footy match against the nearest rival.

Leitchville-Gunbower v Cohuna Kangas, Round 2, Central Murray Football League.

Two teams that used to be four. It’s a situation that typifies country football. Effectively half the district has combined and is playing at Leitchville today.

Arriving at the ground with cousins during the first quarter of the seconds, the records are already sold out. All parking spots on the fence are taken but we join three carloads of our clan spanning three generations who have fence spots.

The weather is a beautiful, warm 24 degrees. A slight breeze blows down the ground but it’s not enough to blow away the flies, which are abundant. Somebody suggests they are bad because of the lack of rain.

I sit inside the fence on a fold-out chair near two male relatives who’ve spent their lifetimes serving and following the local footy club. An aunt points out the six relatives we need to watch in this game. I also try to connect the other familiar local family names.

Despite the drought, the ground looks to be in beautiful condition. Green and no patches.

Cohuna and Union were once fierce rivals within the town of Cohuna. The smaller towns of Leitchville and Gunbower had their own teams and identities.

For those who bemoan the much-maligned Freo jumper, rest assured it is serving a purpose in country Victoria. When the Cohuna teams merged so did their jumper colours. Cohuna formerly wore red and white and Union green and gold. The Freo guernsey is a compromise.

Leitchville wore maroon and gold and Gunbower red and blue. They chose the independent colours of red and black when they merged.

Sadly, just as many clubs have gone, many unique club jumpers across the land are no longer worn.

The Cohuna reserves side is dominant. An uncle wonders if some of our (Gunbower) rather solid blokes train enough. Another claims that high kicks are made for backmen.

After a couple of quarters of watching the seconds the female brigade wanders across to the netball and it’s much the same there: try to work out who belongs to who.

Once again there are relatives and familiar names on both teams to track. It’s so warm we seek the shade of the gum trees to watch the netball. There is a big crowd here today and we wonder how much is taken at the gate.

Watching good crisp passes and players moving well into space is enjoyable to watch in any sport, anywhere, at any level.

After a dose of netball it’s back to the footy ground, where the firsts have started.
(The seconds ended with Cohuna Kangas winning easily, 17.6 to 6.1.)

Another sign of the times is the unfamiliar names of new recruits. Some from as far away as Darwin. Strangely they seem to be the easiest to identify.

The old-timers again declare that high kicks are no good and are made for backmen. They are proved right as the opposition gains possession and goals. “Kicks should be low and sharp,” they agree.

I ask them if the rules here are the same as the interpretations followed at AFL level. The answer is yes but there’s no kerfuffle as the game is played seriously but fairly. A far cry from the old clashes I remember when growing up. Altercations back then were what you’d call serious stoushes when Union played Gunbower.

At half-time the scores are level, 8.4 each.

We have afternoon tea from the boot of the car. A time-honoured tradition at country footy grounds.

The scoreboard is rather hard to read. A friend who hasn’t been to a game for a while says that the regulars would know the score or be writing it down.

An uncle who used to timekeep thinks they’ve missed a behind. By the time the second half begins the scores have been corrected. It’s Leitchville-Gunbower 8.5 to Cohuna Kangas 8.3.

My uncle declares that the wind (an ever-so-light breeze) is worth six goals. By three-quarter-time he’s proved right. Leitchville-Gunbower have put on seven goals and the opposition none. Scores are 15.11 to 8.8.

At the beginning of the last quarter Cohuna Kangas get three quick goals. Then they add another four. Yes, there is definitely a scoring end today.


Letchville-Gunbower manage only three goals against the wind but maintain their lead to emerge winners. Final scores are 18.12 (120) to 15.11 (101). A good win for Leitchville-Gunbower.

The old stalwarts declare that goals were scored too easily today.

Cousins who played against each other in the seconds drift back to the cars and joke. A bigger, older cousin enjoys laughing about tackling and squashing his younger, smaller cousin.

A netball relative talks about playing against a friend who’s coming round to her place for dinner tonight.

It’s been a pleasant day at the footy combined with a fair bit of catching up, but there’s still no sign of rain to wash away those pesky flies.


  1. pauldaffey says

    Beautiful, Pamela. It gave me warm memories to read about you working out who belongs to who. That’s exactly what happens at the country footy. Well, it is when you sit with three generations of relatives.

  2. Damian O'Donnell says

    Nice one Pamela – really liked the short detour across to the netball whilst waiting for the firsts to start. Pre-game entertainment. Remember that?

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