Go on, help a battling club

July 04, 2017

After being refused a bite of a supporter's hotdog I had to turn my attention back to what was happening on the field.

Ray did not have the crop the ball out of this shot, it was still nowhere near the frame. The tremor from my return to the ground was reportedly felt in Seymour.

Bolt-like: The camera was lucky to focus on me here, such was the speed I was running at.

I needed the support of the boundary fence after some very aptly named 'gut-running'.

It was almost as if the ball had been struck with a pitching wedge, such was the elevation it found.

As it reached the apex of its course and began to descend from the heavens, the voice in the back of my head whispered ‘‘do it for the picture’’.

Even in my fitter days I was never a chance to take a hanger on the football field, with fast-twitch fibres few and far between.

But this opportunity presented itself too neatly wrapped in a bow — fly for the mark and hope my personal photographer Ray had not lost interest in the game just yet — and in the process secure myself the best photo I would ever feature in.

So fly I did and, as you can see it looks like I got some air, but while a picture might be able to tell 1000 words, this one is lying.

By the time the ball actually reached my vicinity I was already back on the ground and watching my direct opponent take an uncontested grab.

It proved to be the theme of the day, with my mind telling me I could do things, while my body screamed otherwise.

Like when, in the final throes of the game with my right hamstring tighter than my jumper was around my waist, I decided to run from the forward pocket to the back pocket to try and stop another Rennie goal.

By the time I got there I was already far too late to do anything, even though the Grasshoppers kept me going with a few fumbles, and all I had accomplished was giving Ray another great picture of me looking to the boundary fence for support.

It is certainly a weird feeling to know your every move will be caught on camera and broadcast to hundreds and I cannot imagine being comfortable (especially with my unique running style) on the national stage.

In the end though, this venture was not so much about me performing well on the field as it was helping a struggling club out.

And what a club I found.

The Katamatite Tigers welcomed me in with open arms, making me feel at home from the time I pulled into the gate 20 minutes late for Tuesday night training until the moment I left the club in the late hours of Saturday night.

They also accommodated fellow sports journalist Lauren Bordin and Shepp News Footy Show favourite Grace Holland on the netball court, despite the distinct lack of training from both of them and, from all reports, the girls had as much fun as I did in the yellow and black.

However, the plight of the Tigers is one that resonates across the region.

A brilliant club, filled with amazing people, which by way of geography and a host of other factors is struggling to attract players to the club and keep them there.

When I began this exercise on Monday night, I had absolutely no idea the amount of responses I would get.

Conservatively, close to 20 clubs made a plea for my underwhelming services in a short amount of time, with little warning and almost no chance of me training both nights during the week.

Now, I would like to think the offer of some coverage in this column piqued the interest of many, but in reality it was the thought of a warm body during the cold winter months that was most enticing.

It definitely brings to light a dark undercurrent to this tale of merriment.

Almost every club in the region is struggling to fill all of their teams and it is not just down to a significant amount of injuries or unavailability.

Numbers are low across the board, be it juniors, reserves or even seniors in some cases, and like the Murray Football League did last week, a discussion must start as to how each league can secure its future health.

By the time the season finishes it will be too late, as everyone disperses for the summer and forgets their football club woes for a while.

Begin the talks while you still can or face the dire consequences of clubs folding in the near future.

But back to my time at the Tigers.

When it boils down to it, the reason I chose Katamatite as my destination can be summed up in two simple words.

Casey Brown.

Legitimately one of the most genuine blokes I have ever met (he even offered to wash Grace’s car on Sunday), Brown made a passionate plea for my help via email on Tuesday.

Among his points were the fact Katamatite’s farms are going the way of its pub, with young players a rarity because of the number of clubs closer to major hubs such as Shepparton, Cobram and Yarrawonga than the Tigers.

Brown grew up in Invergordon and lives in Melbourne (and has for five years), but still travels back to play football and cricket every week.

His commitment and passion for the club is second to none, but it was a rhetorical question he proposed that got me across the line.

Is this just another bump in the road for the Katamatite Tigers or will the club be just a name in the history books in a decade’s time?

It is a question that could probably be asked about 15 to 20 clubs in the region and the fact is something must be done to fix it.

The easiest solution, one many people overlook, is to take matters into your own hands.

I have written almost every week that one team or another is struggling for numbers, let alone victories, and felt it was time I put my boots where my mouth was and actually helped the issue.

You do not have to be a star footballer or netballer, or even one at all, to help your local team survive, so I implore you to follow the glow of a light tower this week and get down to your local club.

Even if you do not play a game for them, just buy a meal on a Thursday or a beer on a Saturday — every little bit counts and makes a mountain of difference.

I thoroughly enjoyed my week at the Katamatite Tigers and I promise you your local team will appreciate any newcomers to the club, no matter how much you bring in terms of sporting talent.

Because country football clubs are not just about winning, they are about community, family, commitment and most of all having a great time.

And you never know, you might just fall in love with your new club like I seem to have done with the Tigers.

So see you next week boys, keep the beers cold for me.

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