What you’re about to hear is not a pitch for a film, even if it reads like one.
On Saturday, 1,029 days after their last win, the Nhill Tigers senior football side won a match in the Wimmera Football League.
With a northerly wind howling down the ground to the silo end, Nhill led at quarter time, conceded four goals to none against the wind in the second, kicked five goals to none in the third, and held on to win by two points as their opposition — the Southern Mallee Giants — missed their last three shots in the fourth.
And they had former Collingwood premiership player Dale Thomas lining up for them just for that match.
The town, population 2,000, is now hoping the win can be a clean break from the challenging recent past — on and off the field.
times of trial
In the past year, Nhill has considered merging with nearby Kaniva due to a lack of junior players.
At the same time, the ground at which Saturday’s match was played, Davis Park, missed out on much-needed funding for a new grandstand for the third time. The Coalition promised $1.64 million for the project but was voted out in last month’s federal election.
In the rooms following the win, Tigers coach Trevor ‘Space’ Albrecht was full of praise and optimism that this was not a one-off.
“We’ve rebounded back from having talks with Kaniva about coming together and going into a different league,” he said.
“We’ve now got large numbers coming to training here and we’ll stand up within our right from here on. Most of the lads out there were 16 to 21 years of age.
“A lot of these lads are local traditions or work on farms, and we’re lucky because in previous years a lot of lads have gone off to uni and we’ve lost them, but we’re lucky right now.
“We think there are a lot of sides we can be competitive with from here on in and these boys with knowledge now after a win, I think, will take a couple of those sides to task in the second half of the season.”
Dale Thomas was one of eight ex-AFL footballers allocated to play a match with a struggling regional Victorian club to boost their gate takings post-COVID.
Thomas said he was impressed by the young brigade.
“I’m not the player I once was, turning 35 in a couple of weeks now, so to come out there and try to encourage the young boys, pass on a bit of knowledge, and try and get the win, really, that was the main point of getting up here.”
While Thomas was not among the team’s best by his own admission, Mr Albrecht said the team learned a lot from him.
“The input he’s had to the group will flow on for a couple of years. The advice he’s given to players and the way he dropped back into the back line to help save that game,” he said.
more than a game
Mr Albrecht said the win would reverberate through the entire town.
“It’s massive. We’re not just the Nhill football club, we’re the Nhill and District Sporting Club, so we have netball, hockey and cricket,” he said.
“We have nearly 500 to 1,000 members and it’s the only major club in the town.
Aside from the gate takings from nearly 1,000 attendees, the club received about $15,000 in checks from a beer manufacturer sponsoring Thomas’s appearance and a post-match auction of the boots and jumper he wore while playing for Nhill.
Kat Colbert, part of Nhill Sporting Club’s steering committee, told the ABC they had not yet decided how to use the windfall.
“We are looking at setting up a dedicated fundraising committee for the new clubrooms at Davis Park, so that might help kick off that but I don’t know,” she said.
Regarding Mr Albrecht’s desire not to merge with Kaniva, Ms Colbert said the clubs would be issuing a joint statement in the coming weeks.
Kaniva’s football and netball clubs merged earlier this year.