Footy: The Community Cup

(Inebriated) State vs (No Fit) State – The Community Cup 2015, Sunday 21 June, Elsternwick Park

I think it was Wilde who first noted: ‘Drinking to improve the lot of the disadvantaged is like *#%@ing for peace.’ Be that as it may, the Community Cup has long ignored that particular truism and is much the stronger for it.

For those not yet in the know, the Community Cup is a charity footy match, with added music, held in the deepest depths of Melbourne’s winter every year for the past 21 years. (Although it is now going national, with teams forming in Sydney, Adelaide and Perth.) Every cent raised, from beer sales to gate receipts, food and beer, goes to Reclink, a great not-for-profit that uses the power of sport and art to help out the disadvantaged (

In the traditional style, the match is played between two teams. The Rockdogs are a rough and tumble collection of dirty bums in bands (they make music), while the Megahertz represent those slightly cleaner bums at Melbourne’s two major community radio stations (they play music). The key thing to note before you attend your first match, though – and with apologies to Bill Woodfull – is that neither of them are trying to play football.

At least you’d hope not. Several years ago as coach of the Rockdogs Paul Kelly relied solely on the chaos theory for his tactics. When Tex Perkins took over the role from Kelly he ruled that the only requirement at training was to give every player a nickname. It’s safe to say stats on inside-50s don’t feature overly during preparation for the big one. (Paul Kelly wasn’t absent from the day, though, delivering this year’s ‘national anthem’, Dave Graney’s ‘Feelin’ Kinda Sporty’. Past anthems include Tim Rogers ripping through the Cosmic Psychos classic, ‘Pub’, and David Bridie reworking Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ to stick the knife into Australia’s asylum seeker policy.)

This year’s match saw over 10,000 people pack Elsternwick Park, which is quite something, especially when you consider the standard of sport on offer. The first game 21 years ago, held at Junction Oval, kicked off in front of about three drunks, two of them dogs, all of them disgusted by the fare on offer. The footy is generally considered to have gone downhill since then. Indeed, one of the best matches of the past couple of years was a 28–28 draw.

So how much beer can 10,000 people (including the players) drink? It’s hard to say, but according to experts who don’t really exist it involves a non-existent formula that sees the number of cans increase in inverse proportion to the quality of play all multiplied by the feel good factor – i.e. (alcohol + missed sitters) x good cause = quite a lot!

If it’s not the actual footy, maybe it’s the bands that draw the crowd. This year’s line-up was typically diverse and fantastic. Pearls and Adalita were first to warm up the temporary grandstand stage, before the awesome Public Opinion Afro Orchestra’s half-time show took everyone on a quick journey into afro-funk land. Horror country aficionados Graveyard Train wrapped up the day post-match with a suitably Melbournian set of dark tunes.

(Memo AFL: just have a think about the number of fantastic acts in your own backyard before you blow millions on your next Grand Final disaster. The Community Cup gets four or five brilliant bands every year. You struggle to manage one.)

Or maybe it’s the weather that encourages that many people to head outdoors in mid-winter. Famously, the FA Cup Final is known for its warm May blue skies high above Wembley Stadium. The Community Cup is a bit more, well, brisk shall we say, albeit usually free of the ‘r’ word no-one is allowed to mention. This year’s match was no different, held under a beautiful blue winter’s sky with the sun piercing in from that low angle that, combined with the fourth beer, starts to gives everything a softer, less distinct outline.

Even the streakers aren’t as shocking as they probably should be, considering they’re the kinds of bodies that are more likely to just watch those late night ads for ab crunch machines than buy them. Perhaps it’s the impending winter solstice that makes people lose their minds and their clothes, but it’s a Cup tradition that everyone in the crowd demands be kept alive.

And that’s the funny thing about tradition and the Community Cup. It’s now a family event – the music kicked off at noon with the very fun Ally Spazzy’s Kiddyrock and the Cool Bananas, and Paul Kelly was joined by his nephew and two daughters on stage – albeit no less raucous for the fact, with Baudelairian mothers and fathers having gone full circle, from outer suburban childhoods playing footy, to inner-city adulthood playing music, and back to the outer suburbs to raise the next generation. How relieved they were to be able to take their kids to a footy match and not be assaulted by a single gambling ad or ugly crowd behaviour. (Apart from the streakers …)

Though the Cup may well thrive on an abstract nostalgia for times and ideas that maybe only ever existed in the minds of the crowd its values are clear. It somehow picks a bit of tradition from here, a bit of tradition from there and for that one day in June chucks them all into a winter-warming gumbo pot. This is the kind of crowd that would very much welcome Adam Goodes and it was interesting that Anthony Albanese spoke briefly before the match, perhaps sensing that our community may be more splintered and less vocal than it once was, but its strength has not been diminished. No doubt the local constabulary would also prefer more easy days like this in their sporting calendar, what with the average number of arrests each year hovering around the zero mark.

Essentially, all it boils down to is that this is our day. Long may it prosper.

Oh, the result. Can’t say I was paying that much attention. Let’s just say I was wearing a Rockdogs scarf and you can all get stuffed and look up the result yourselves. Besides, the scoreboard was broken, so it doesn’t count.


  1. Rick Kane says

    Dear Mr O’Brien

    Now this is a footy match and what a report! Love the CC. You have captured its spirit beautifully.

    Haven’t been the last couple of years but you brought the memories flooding back. Sitting on the grass slope behind the goals, drinking stubbies and having a hoot.


  2. yep my mate was there and the Paul Kelly Tex Albo vibe was fantastic.

    Coming to Henson Park in Sydney in early August. Be great to see you all there, at least fellow Sydneysiders.

  3. Parsimony says

    Loved the report and the spirit of the Community Cup.
    Is there a game scheduled for Queensland?

  4. Dennis Gedling says

    Can’t wait for the first edition of the Perth version coming up at the end of August.

  5. Patrick O'Brien says

    “Is there a game scheduled for Queensland?”

    Not that I’m aware of, although I reckon a combined Custard / Regurgitator team could take on the Zeds. My hazy memory of Brisbands is that Powerderfinger were more your thwack of leather on willow in the warmer months types.

    Thanks Rick, it’s always a great day.

  6. jason evans says

    Yes, we are planning a Brisbane-SEQ-NNSW Cup for winter of 2016 The Rockinghorses (bands) v the Brisbane Lines ( Media)

  7. Dennis Gedling says

    Patrick, I have seen the lead singer of Powderfinger do a droppy with a football off the stage at a big day out many years ago. They also did go to South Africa to play at a Fanatics thing and attended the Socceroos game v Germany in Durban for the 2010 WC. This may have been because the Fanatics paid them a truckload of money rather than because they loved the world game.

  8. I don’t get this streaking tradition. Everyone knows that being seen naked is deeply embarrassing and being naked in public is a worst nightmare to to everyone. So then why does everyone want someone to run out on the field naked infront of over 10,000 people, get on tv naked and have naked photos of them posted online for all the world to see, when it’s something that EVERYONE knows would be an extremely humiliating and terrifying thing to do? Why does everyone want people to be publicly humiliated infront of tens of thousands of people and how is that fun for anyone involved? Really doesn’t make any sense. You wouldn’t encourage someone to post nudes online because you know it would humiliate them and ruin their life. If someone is in the shower or getting dressed you don’t just barge in on them because you respect their privacy and the fact they’ll feel embarrassed if you see them naked. So then why would you encourage someone to expose themself naked at a football game to tens of thousands of people? Like If you’re at a football game and had a few drinks with your mates all of a sudden naked public humiliation is fun. Imagine how much they end up regretting it in the future and imagine all the embarassment it puts their families through. It’s just disrespectful to people’s privacy and dignity to highly encourage them to humiliate themself naked infront of tens of thousands of people and on tv, and to hold this up as a yearly tradition which everyone expects someone to do every year orelse they’ll be disappointed. Weather or not they agree to streak it’s such a dirty thing to do to even suggest it to anyone, and if you honestly want your own friends to be humiliated infront of tens of thousands of people as well as on national television and online then you’re a fucking asshole and not their true friend. Honestly, this is just a cruel and humiliating tradition and it’s got to stop being encouraged

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