2015 Theatre Footy Day wrap up: Matt McFarlane

Matt McFarlane brings you a special wrap up of the 5th Annual Theatre Footy Day in Melbourne!

A note from Matt

Three things I have learnt this week: Jellicles can and do, white men can actually jump, and theatre people can play footy! So the next person who tells you these statements are inaccurate, I offer you my full and unequivocal support to slander them into next week. I saw things take place on Monday August 3 at Peanut Farm Reserve in St Kilda that defy belief. In the remaining sentences, I will attempt to tell the tale of Sweeney… Sorry, the 5th Annual Theatre Footy Day!

Matt McFarlane
Matt McFarlane

For those of you requiring some catch-up, the Theatre Footy Day is a fun AFL scratch match that myself, Josh Piterman, Tod Strike and Josh Robson have organised over the past five years in Melbourne. The day celebrates a love of AFL football and mateship.

During its conception, we agreed that we wanted to offer a social occasion for performers that was outside the normal sphere of communication; that being the theatre, auditions or Thirsty Thursdays. A day where there is no mention of upcoming auditions, who’s been pre-cast as who and what shows might or might not come to Australia.

It is decidedly “anti-industry”.

We prefer to encourage an occasion where one’s CV has nothing to do with them as a person, and we delight in offering a day for people to get to know people, not the performer!

For the past two years, the day has had the added feature of raising money for beyondblue, a charity fighting a condition which plagues many in the performance and arts industries.

The Game

The game is made up of willing male and female performers from all areas of our wonderfully diverse industry, keen to have a laugh and remember their former glory days when they were considerably fitter and more agile. Deano, our regular umpire, made his fifth appearance this year, ensuring the game remained fair and had minimal impact!

2015 was our biggest and best year so far! A record turnout of twenty-six players meant we were able to field two teams of thirteen players. (The event has come a considerable way since the first match, which had two teams of seven, and we were only able to use half of the ground!)

After assembling the players in the centre of the ground, the rules are outlined, introductions are encouraged and teams are selected. This time it was the Black singlets/t-shirts vs the football jumpers. Team huddles and strategies were quickly shared and then came the all-important Australian anthem.

I say “all-important” because let’s face it, there is nothing more that singers enjoy doing than singing, and a crack at the anthem is met with a fervor not unlike a live audience member on the Ellen Show when told they are going home with a $500 voucher to Target. Excitement gave way to a collective inhalation and an anthem sung with pride, gusto and impeccable pitch and annunciation.

The first quarter saw explosive speed, energy and some special ball skills. A strong southerly breeze gave the All Stars (the football jumpers) an edge, and they lurched four goals clear going into the break. After a reshuffle of key positions in the All Blacks (black singlets/t-shirts), the second quarter saw a much more even affair, with outstanding moments from Luigi Lucente, Ben Nicholas, Andrew Broadbent, Anthony Pepe, Alex Lewis and Gareth Keegan. Mid-quarter, a questionable tackle from Ben Clark on Adam Stafford could have been season ending, with the key forward showing courage to return after a brief spell crying in the club rooms. The half-time break had the All Stars leading by three goals.

The players from the 2015 Theatre Footy Day!

The change rooms buzzed with tall tales from the first half, while Alinta Chidzey and Angela Scundi got stuck into the oranges. After a timely reminder from Ben Clark that our bodies would start seizing up, the half-time break was cut shorter than most would have liked and the third quarter was underway. The wind had now subsided, and the sun was breaking through the clouds, almost willing the All Blacks to a late surge – and surge they did! Three un-answered goals from Steve Danielsen and Stevie Lopez gave the All Blacks a sniff at glory, but the silky skills of Josh Piterman steadied the All Stars, bringing the margin back to one point at the final break.

The rain began to lightly fall, and the final quarter was hard fought, with highlights coming from Josh Ellwood, James Coley, Karlis Zaid, Andrew Doyle and the cool-under-pressure Ashlee Rigg. Minor injury concerns for the star backman Josh Robson early in the final term disrupted the All Star’s momentum and the All Blacks found themselves two goals clear deep in the final quarter. Late goals from James Coley ad David Studley leveled the score, with the final siren seeing a mark taken on the 50 metre arc by Josh Piterman. Starting his approach from the wing, and thoughts of Malcolm Blight’s heroic drop-punt in the late 70s, Josh looked every bit the match-winner. The crowd held their breath as the kick left his boot, and everyone quickly realized that the ball was sailing closer to Acland street than it was to the goal posts. Unfortunately, an ability to sing high notes wasn’t enough to win his team the game and the match ended in a draw. A fitting conclusion to a hard-fought battle.

After the Battle

The regular awards ceremony took place in the clubrooms after the match, with everything from dog-acts to wizard acts acknowledged and applauded. After consulting the match panel, it was determined that Ben Nicholas was the deserving winner of the highly prestigious “Matt McFarlane Award for the best player upon the field”.

So, another year has come and gone, and the stories and laughs from this day will live on. New friends have been made and existing friendships were strengthened. Next year will bring another opportunity to get involved, and a new opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. In an industry full of pressure, expectation and two-dimensional friendships, it is so exciting to have social events outside the workplace. Thank-you to everyone who came down to watch the game and for donating to beyondblue!

This year we raised $209! It’s a small amount, yes, but something we are proud to contribute yearly to a very worthy cause!

Next year will be bigger again, of that we are sure! Maybe we will see you there?

In 2014 the beyondblue Support Service helped over 110,000 people seek help for depression and anxiety. To donate to beyondblue or to find out more about this wonderful organisation, visit their website beyondblue.org.au

Matt McFarlane

MATTHEW MCFARLANE graduated from WAAPA in 2007 and is set to appear as Munkustrap for the upcoming Australian and New Zealand tour of CATS.

Recently, he was cast alongside some of Australia’s most profiled artists in the highly anticipated new TV contemporary comedic opera The Divorce for the ABC. His stage credits include; True Minds for the Melbourne Theatre Company; Danny in Grease for The Court Theatre, NZ; Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf in the Victorian Opera’s production of Into The Woods, directed by Stuart Maunder; Nanki-Poo in The Mikado for the Court Theatre, NZ; Sunday in the Park with George for the Victorian Opera; understudy for Phantom and Raoul in the premiere Australian production of Love Never Dies; Priscilla – Queen of the Desert the Musical; The Production Company’s Damn Yankees; the Sydney season of Guys and Dolls; and FAME -The Musical. Matthew’s TV credits include; The Dr Blake Mysteries; Blue Heelers; Neighbours; various television commercials and training videos.

He is also a regular voice over artist.

Follow him on Twitter and Instagram

Erin James

Erin James is AussieTheatre.com's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *