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The Ultimate Underdogs | Ardmona Cats battle for survival after five years winless | Sunday Night


That’ll, fair dinkum, do me. You’ve actually got coin-operated
lighting for the ground. Yeah, yeah. It costs about
20 bucks every training night. These look like proper sports lights. These, I don’t know
where you’ve got them. They just look like
regular kitchen lights, so… You’ve gotta be kidding me.
Kitchen lights? Yeah, well…
what can you do about it? It is what it is.
Yeah, that’s right. You can, at least, see the ball.
That’s something. Yeah, that’s it. MAN: Listen up, listen up! We’ll just go out there
and enjoy ourselves, yeah? Just get ourselves prepared
for this weekend. They won their last game
five years ago. Alright, let’s go. (CHEERING) (STIRRING GUITAR MUSIC CONTINUES) We got it! You’re looking
at the inimitable Ardmona Cats – perhaps among the worst
football sides in the cosmos. MAN: Neater! Neater! (CROW CAWS) Winless. Undisciplined. Capable of a decent bar tab and… MAN: I think I’ve just done more
running than I do in a game. ..maybe even a little out of shape. (GENTLE GUITAR STRUMMING) But in the tiny town of Ardmona, wedged between
the apple and pear orchards of central Victoria’s
Goulburn Valley, they’re a bunch of dead-set legends. MAN: Good warm-up, boys. Ardmona, the town, I mean,
I’ve had a drive through the place. Beautiful!
Yep. You got a post office, a mechanic.
Yep. Not much else.
No. Orchards. Orchards?
A lot of orchards. There’s not even a pub. No, there’s no pub, no. This is the Cats’ fearless leader, 38-year-old player, coach, husband,
and father of seven, Tim Keegan. You’ve got, I reckon, the toughest job, the toughest coaching role
in football at the moment. Yeah, it’s pretty taxing. We go to war every week. We’re in the depths of,
you know, the depths of hell of what we’re going through. Does it feel like the depths of hell? It does sometimes. What do people say? You’re a rabble? You’re no good?
Why don’t you fold? Yeah. The worst football club in the land.
Yeah. Sack the coach. He’s shit. Are you the worst football club
in the land? No, not really.
We’re just down on our luck. (STIRRING INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC) Keegan’s great-grandfather
helped launch the club back in 1920. Now, on the eve
of their 100-year anniversary, the club owes the local league
tens of thousands of dollars, and the powers that be want them booted from the competition for good. How would you describe
the Ardmona Cats? What’s…what is this club? It means everything to me. Family. It’s been my life. I grew up here. I can see, talking to you,
it’s much more than football. (STIRRING GUITAR MUSIC CONTINUES) Yeah, you could say that. What is it that stirs
that emotion in you, Tim? I don’t know, just… ..probably just the history. You know, no-one ever wants
to see a club go down. That’s what probably,
you know, hurts me the most. 100 years of history to this place
comes to an end. Yeah, or just becomes a memory. Ardmona Cats’ president,
Tim ‘Plugga’ Magann, is also shouldering
a heavy burden. After almost 100 straight losses
since 2014, he’s, well, well beyond
breaking point… (LAUGHTER) Get it, Plugga! ..and still, like every one
of his much-maligned teammates… PLUGGA: The outdoor gym
is broken, boys. (LAUGHTER) ..he endures. They breed ’em tough out here,
’cause it’s just finished hailing. They were, fair dinkum,
the size of cantaloupes. You’re wearing…you’ve got the arms
out. I’ve got 15 layers on. What’s going on here? Oh, well…
it’s not raining now, so… (LAUGHS) ..that’s a positive. You really have to love the game! Oh, yeah. Well, we come out every
week and get absolutely smashed. So, we’re just goers, we just… ..like, we’re not
the best footballers. We have some good footballers, but it’s just, you know,
we never give up. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 250 – you had the big 250 recently. Yeah, yep. The lads didn’t carry you off
for that one. No, no, no.
Why not? No, no, ’cause…
we had an incident at the 200th. So, I just wanted to just keep… (LAUGHS) What was the incident
at the 200th? Oh, there was a picture.
It went viral. So, I just sort of wanted to keep it
low-key for my 250th. Funny you should mention that,
actually. It wouldn’t be this one, would it?
Yeah. Plugga, then well north of 150kg, was mortified to discover
the picture of his teammates hoisting him from the field had been posted online, quickly amassing
half a million views. Talk me through it. Yeah, it makes it look bad,
’cause they had me… (LAUGHS) ..they had me up…they had me up, and then this clown
just come underneath me… No… ..and just tried
to tip me backwards. ..mate, while I do
admire your ability to try and talk your way
through this, I think that there’s… (LAUGHS) ..I think that you could have
got that from a few angles and it might have looked just as bad,
or not? Yeah, it would’ve.
Yeah, it would’ve. (LAUGHS) Teammate Josh Catalano,
better known in the club as ‘Mini’, has tasted some
infamy of his own. He loves a feed. A McDonald’s meal
en route to training? Yeah, Mini.
Mini! That’s Tuesday night special. (LAUGHS) Thursdays, you got your KFC. I mean, it’s ambitious,
it’s enterprising. I’m not mad at it. That’s his excuse
every night he’s late. “Sorry, I was stuck
at the drive-through.” I simply had to investigate. (CAR HORN BEEPS) There’s the beep right on cue. We’re gonna head off to training. Here we go.
Hello, mate! I love the ride.
Any danger of you opening the door? There we go. How are you?
Yeah, not bad. Good to see you.
You too. Are you pumped for training? It’s about eight or nine degrees
out there. I don’t know where
you get the motivation. Yeah, I’m not really
motivated tonight. (FUNKY MUSIC) This is actually happening.
This is actually happening. (LAUGHS) I’m fascinated by the order.
What are we gonna go for? WOMAN: Hi. What can I get you? Can I please get 24 nuggets? Sweet and sour sauce? Yes, please. No worries. Anything else? Would you like anything? Oh, mate, throw in
a harmless cheeseburger. Yeah, we’ll grab
a cheeseburger too, please. One?
Yep. But back at home base, Ardmona Cats fans
have lost their appetite. What they are hungry for is success. (FUNKY MUSIC) I’m sure that scoreboard’s wrong. 373 points? Oh! Anyway, whoo! Here we go! With just two games
left in the season and the Cats desperate for a win, we brought in AFL legend
Robert DiPierdomenico to whip the boys into shape. We’re bringing you in
as Deputy Dipper to try and knock some sense
into this mob, which haven’t won in five years,
right? Just say that again.
Deputy Dipper. No, no, five years. Five years.
Yeah, five years. You’re gonna strip it back to basics. You wanna see them toughen it out. Yeah, tonight’s
all about confidence. How do you do that? Well, firstly
I’m gonna get their jumpers off. Have a look at it. (LAUGHS) You can’t change the jumper! I’m gonna have to change… ..well, I’m gonna put a moustache
under every one of those cat faces. OK, right. Instead of whiskers…
Yeah? ..they’re gonna have a little
moustache in here, right? I like it. A little drawing.
I’m around it. I’ve kept the secret weapon
under wraps until now. Five-time premiership player. COMMENTATOR: Watch Dippy go now! Here’s a chance for a goal. He fires,
and he’s put it through, Dippy. He’s a Brownlow medallist. MAN: DiPierdomenico! One of the hardest
to probably play AFL, I’d say. Oh, and got one from DiPierdomenico! That was a nasty one! And of course, on top of that, he’s got arguably
the best moustache in the business. Dipper, where are you, mate?
Here he is! (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) Come on, gather round! Alright, boys, OK. Hey, listen. Firstly, thank you very much for
allowing me to come to your club. I love the game of footy. The one thing that I can’t do
anymore is play the game, right? I remember my coach,
Allan Jeans, saying, “Fill your boots. Fill your boots.” What does that mean? That means that, you know, get as many kicks as you can
right here and right now, ’cause one day,
the game is gonna stop. Here we go! Come on, go, go, go! Their skills mightn’t be top-notch… Watch your aim! ..but between the fumbles… Going well, boys! Jump! Yes! ..there’s a fighting spirit. Go! Come on, push! Push! Loving this. I’m loving it! The boys are putting in!
I’m loving it! The push and the shove. It’s not just about
kicking and marking. It’s about what this is all about. Here we go! Go! Get on him! Come on, get on him! (MEN EXCLAIM)
Go! Go! Come on! Whoo-hoo! Yahoo! It was all going so well until Dipper discovered
Mini’s McSecret. Hey, uh, I smell food. Has someone got food here? Yeah, Mini. TEAM: Mini! Mini!
Yeah, I do. What have you got?
Some nuggets in here. You what?!
Got chicken nuggets in my pocket. Chicken nuggets?
Yeah. You want one? No, no, I don’t (BLEEP) want one.
Come here. (LAUGHTER) Is that it?
Yeah, that’s it. Oh, one more. One more? That’s it?
That’s it. Because of that, you have to watch all your teammates
now do five push-ups. Off you go! How do you feel?
(TEAM EXCLAIMS) Yeah, good.
You feel good, do you? Yep. There you go, boys. Here we go!
All together! TEAM: One! Two! Three! Four! Five! OK, boys, I’ll leave you from here, but, boys, I’ll be here Saturday. I’ll be here Saturday
to watch the gameplay. I’d love to have
a beer with you after. Oh, yeah! We’ll have a bonfire after,
and we’ll have the best time. Ready? Alright?
Put your hands in. Here we go. Alright, you ready to go?
Ardmona Cats. One, two, three! ALL: Ardmona Cats! How are you holding up, mate?
He really thrashed you! No, it was a good session.
Yeah? Yeah. Boys enjoyed it anyway. You are, head to toe,
covered in true Ardmona mud. Yeah.
Yeah? Mum’s not gonna be happy.
She just washed this jumper, so… Is it mum’s job to wash the jumper? She washes everyone’s jumpers.
What do you mean? The whole footy club’s. Mum washes
the whole footy club’s jumpers? I haven’t had them this bad before. (COUNTRY GUITAR RHYTHMS) MAN: Yeah, I usually get out there
on the day before a home game about 9:00, 9:30. I have a look at the ground, and hopefully
it’s been mowed by the council. And then, yeah,
I get the line marker out and I mark all my lines. (COUNTRY GUITAR CONTINUES) MATT: Groundsman and caretaker
Les Gibson is about as heart and soul as a country
footy club gets. I have a ritual of how I do everything
for the day, setting everything up. I get there and park the car. I work my way through the buildings,
unlocking the doors. Problem is the Ardmona Cats need a lot more maintenance
than the grounds. Les’s beloved team is considered among the worst footy clubs
in existence – at least,
if success is the barometer. They haven’t won a game
in five years – not that winning is everything. Ardmona is in the blood. So, it doesn’t matter
whether they’re winning or losing. It’s part of me. It’s become part of my family,
part of my life. If the club ever folded,
that’d be it for me for football. I’d just give football away.
What do you mean? I’d stay at home, basically,
on Saturdays, Tuesday nights, Thursday nights. Find other things to do,
but just not football. Because I love the club so much,
if it’s not there, football is not there. That prospect is frighteningly real. The club is deep in debt, struggling to field a full team, and making history
for all the wrong reasons. Well, if you’re an Ardmona Cats
supporter, there are few places on Planet Earth that are more terrifying
than right here – this rickety old structure which serves
as the home ground scoreboard. Invariably,
the bloke manning this scoreboard is flat out like a lizard drinking,
trying to keep up, and just a few weeks ago, the club recorded its worst loss
in its 99-year history. Ardmona managed
one solitary, lonely behind. Stanhope, well, they savaged ’em! 62 goals 30
for a total of 402 points. That amounts
to a 401-point thrashing. The guy who kicked the point,
I think, should have the night off. He’s the hero of the town. We’ve enlisted five-time
AFL premiership hero Robert DiPierdomenico
as assistant coach for this weekend’s game against
fellow cellar-dwellers Violet Town. Imagine the win here. Imagine the win here,
alright at the end of the week. This place will just go off. They said they’d have to cancel
next week as a bye because they’d celebrate too hard. Yeah, well…hey, I’ve done that
before too, no worries at all. No, but on a serious note, you know, we want footy clubs to survive. We want football clubs to be around
for the next generation, because we want
the kids to play sport, because sport opens so many doors. You know, it gave me an opportunity
to do what I’m doing today. Back in the day,
I had a very bad stutter. I was a pain in the backside,
but these days they call it ADHD. I had a long name – DiPierdomenico. So, I got picked on a fair bit, but sport gave me the opportunity
to, you know, make my mark. (MOMENTOUS MUSIC BUILDS) Now Dipper’s aiming to help Ardmona
take a few marks. (MOMENTOUS MUSIC CONTINUES) It’s game day. Manning the front gate
is back man Cam Grogan. Yeah, 10 to get in, mate,
for an adult. No-one gets past? No, no-one gets past, mate.
Not at all. For most of the season,
Cam’s been playing injured after stabbing himself in the leg
in a farming accident. And how soon after that
were you playing? Oh, about two weeks later.
(LAUGHTER) There’s a wound there, though.
I want some evidence. Can we have a look?
Oh, yeah. Why not? Come on, mate. Show us. And we put a viewer discretion
warning on here. Righto. OK. That’s a reason…
and that’s a reasonable scar. You’ve had how many stitches? Oh, 17 or 18, I think there was
there, yeah. I lost count. How on earth do you play out a game
of footy with an injury like that? Oh, you just do it, mate. Yeah, just for the love
of the club. Just…yeah, and people like Tim,
they don’t give up. So, why should we give up? (DRIVING GUITAR RHYTHMS) Tim Keegan is Ardmona’s coach
and on-field leader. For him, footy is a family affair. On the sidelines, his wife, Sadia,
and their seven children. On duty in the canteen,
Tim’s mum and dad, club vice president, Greg, and treasurer,
Rhonda. Son.
Mother. How you going, Tim?
How are you? Rhonda and Greg
have spent over ten years volunteering in the Ardmona canteen. Did you get my Sunkist? No, I got the other two
you asked me for, but you didn’t ask me for Sunkist. Oh, really?
You didn’t… Never send a man
to do a woman’s job! I’ve been trying for the last
few minutes, Rhonda and Greg, to establish
who’s the boss in the canteen. Help me out. (LAUGHS) Well answered, Greg. Rhonda. She who must be obeyed. She who must be obeyed? You betcha. That’s it. Get those rolls, cut the hotdogs.
Yep. They are quite evidently
deep in the throes of 44 years of wedded bliss –
to each other and the footy team. We have a part-time
cleaning business at night, and then we come out here and we do
about 11 hours here on a Saturday. OK. You must really love the club. Well…yeah, it’s been around
a long time now. Been around for
a fair amount of time. I have a lot of respect for them
for coming, and they know what’s gonna happen
every week, and they do it, and maybe sometimes just think,
“Maybe today’s the day.” With my boy leading. (LAUGHS) In the changerooms, her boy,
coach, Tim, is doing just that. Boys, I reckon we’ve got probably
a big chance this week, yeah? To get a win. I’m pretty confident. And who better to help guide them
than Dipper? It might take you two quarters,
might take you three quarters. It might take you
to the last kick of the day. You are never, ever, ever
out of a game of footy, ever. Words mean a lot, right? Have a look at this! “We are close.
That’s what will win us matches. “This is how we succeed. “That’s why we will be remembered.” (DRIVING ROCK RHYTHMS) Come on, boys! ALL: One, two, three! Oi! What way are we going? (DRIVING ROCK RHYTHMS) With assistant coach Dipper
looking on, the game is under way. Very nice, Timmy! Bounce! Come on, boys!
Give him something! As a huge AFL fan, I can’t help but get fired up
for the underdog. Oh, beautiful! Very nice! My own team, the Melbourne Demons, hasn’t won a premiership since 1964! That’s in the back! Course it is! Stop cheating, Violet Town! It’s a competitive start,
but quickly a sense of deja vu. Come on, boys! Give him something! Hold it! Oh! What sort of kick? While there are flashes
of improvement… Oh, that’s awesome!
That’s great stuff! You’re in it! You’re in this game! (BUZZER SOUNDS, WHISTLE TOOTS) ..they go into quarter time goalless. Good quarter, boys! But Dipper has found reason for hope
in the youngest player on the field. Now, that Tyler, this young kid,
14 years of age, has done… (TEAM CHEERS AND WHOOPS)
Well done, Tyler! I counted ten tackles,
and ten tackles – not bullshit tackles,
they are fair dinkum tackles. He just keeps going,
keeps going, keeps going. Keep it up, young man.
You remind me of me. Well done. (TEAM CHEERS AND WHOOPS) One, two, three! Oi! The next quarter starts
with more of the same. Here we go.
Here we go. This could be us! This could be us! This is it! This is it! Sit for it! Oh! I thought he was gonna
run around it. Oh! (LAUGHS) Then a piece of magic. Come on, boys! This is it! Off the ground!
Off the ground! Come on! Come on!
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Oh, yes! You beauty!
(CHEERING) You little ripper, Dipper!
Whoo! Whoo-hoo! Yes! (HALF TIME HOOTER) MATT: At halftime we’re still not
totally out of it. And Dipper makes some moves. DIPPER: Gilby is playing
a really good game. Tyler is playing a good game. But the desperation is showing. I need you to kick me a goal,
alright? Come on. Alright, boys get the ball
in the middle. Let’s go! In the second half the Cats did
kick two more goals. One of them by captain Tim. (CHEERING) Trouble is, Violet Town kicked
plenty more. Starting to rain goals, Dip. Yeah. It’s just disappointing for them because it’s a lack of fitness,
obviously. (FULL-TIME HOOTER) Ardmona went down by 125 points. Well done, fellas. (CLAPPING) In the change room,
Tim tries to find the positives. Best player, thanks for doubling up. Shane, Bedford, Coots, Brody, Dita. I think there’s a massive
improvement that we’ve made, yeah? But then, after 304 games, he breaks the news
he’s hanging up the boots. It’s probably my second last game
playing footy. (APPLAUSE) Boys, as Tim said, you really
held your head up high today. Ardmona Cats are going to be part of
my life now and that flag is flying. Let’s make sure this flag flies
for another hundred years. But that’s anything but certain. Unless the team can raise at least
20,000 in a matter of days, they will be forced to shut
their doors forever. But they’re not giving up. In fact, they’re brushing up on
the club’s song which they haven’t sung
since their last win five years ago. Just a quiet rendition. Go. Oh!
You’ve put me on the spot, now. What was it? I can’t do it. You can’t say what is it? I know it.
It starts off, “Are we good… “Are we good?
Are we any bloody good? “We are the boys from
Ardmona land…” I’ve got to put my eyes on.
Here we go. Righto. Take your time, Les. Sorry.
No. You’re fine. Here we go. “It is no illusion,
nor is it a dream. We are the boys
that play as a team. “There’s a track winding back
to the Ardmona shack “We are the boys
from Ardmona land.” If we win we shit it in
but we do it easy. (LAUGHS) DIPPER: You do what you can
for your footy team. You’ve gotta work it and you gotta make sure that you
come off with your teammates, win, lose, or draw. ALL: Save our club! MATT: It’s been a week
since the Ardmona Cats’ disappointing end of season clash
with Violet Town. Well done, fellas. But the club has an even bigger fight
ahead of it tonight. This is… To me… This is everything to me. President, Plugga, is about to meet
with League bosses to beg for the Cats’ survival. All we’re asking for is just
one more chance. Just one more chance to
prove ourselves. The club has racked up debts
to businesses across the district but a massive fundraising campaign
has raised 20,000 already. Plugga and teammate Cam just need to
convince the League the Cats are back on track. Fellas, how are you feeling? A bit nervous.
Real nervous, mate. So, in that building
just behind us there is where the fate of this club is
going to be decided. Ninety-nine years. Do you have a gut feeling? Well, I’m confident in what we’ve
done but you can never be too sure. It looks like you haven’t slept
in two weeks, fellas. You’re shaking. Yeah, real nervous, mate. I can see you don’t want to be here,
fellas. You want to get in there
and fight for the club. I’ll let you go and do that. I wish you the best of luck and hopefully when I see you next
you’ll have a big smile on the face and some good news. Cheers, guys. Thank you. Good luck, mate. (TENSE MUSIC) The team that they’ve put together and with a couple of blokes
coming on-board, we think that we can certainly be
a force in the next couple of years. Phil Serra was once a top
player for the club. He is certain the Cats’ glory days
aren’t all behind them. My parents came to this area
when they first came to Australia. It means a lot.
It means a hell of a lot. As Plugga and Cam plead Ardmona’s
case at the League, back at the clubhouse,
it’s an anxious wait. After two hours they return
to the club, ready to deliver
the League’s verdict. (APPLAUSE) Righto, guys. Yeah, no, we’ve just come from
the meeting. We pled our case to them. You know, we’ve just got to
wait for their response. Hopefully next year we’ll be there. So, fellas, it’s not as bad
as it could have been. They could have given you
the death knell tonight. Oh, yeah.
But they didn’t. Yeah, it was definitely positive. And I think what we presented
to them was pretty spot on. So it’s a credit to
all the guys here as well. Still alive. Keep fighting, guys.
(APPLAUSE) (‘CLAIR DE LUNE’ BY CLAUDE DEBUSSY
PLAYS) Go on the Catos! The Ardmona Cats are by
no means in the clear but at least now they have a chance. So a big sigh?
Yes. A bit of relief?
Yep. Well, it’s a lifeline, isn’t it? We’ve got a week, maybe two weeks
to get some more dollars in. Yeah. It is a lifeline.
It is, yeah. And we’ve got a couple more weeks where we can keep
getting money together. You’re an intuitive person, Rhonda.
A mother always knows. Will the Ardmona Cats
be around next year? Yes. You’ve called it.
I have. Just like I called Collingwood
will win. Yes. Oh, no, this interview is over. (‘CLAIR DE LUNE’
BY CLAUDE DEBUSSY ENDS)

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