This small town football club became the face of regional decline last month. But it had one last legacy

Man in muddied football uniform stands pensive under a dark sky

Last weekend, AFL fans nationwide salivated over the quality of competition during the first round of finals.

But it’s possible the best game played that weekend wasn’t at the MCG or the Gabba or Perth Stadium, but in the hamlet of Wandella — and a small rural football league four hours north of Melbourne.

In a match that brought new meaning to the sporting cliché “do or die”, the Quambatook Football Club played its final game ever.

In April, the club announced it would fold at season’s end for lack of juniors.

This set off a scintillating, emotional run of form that even saw Quambatook beat top side Nullawill.

But on Saturday it all came to an end.

The Saints got within one week of the Golden Rivers Football Netball League grand final, but Moulamein ended its fairytale run 10.15.75 to 10.8.68 in a contest of superb goals, controversial decisions and multiple lead changes.

The B-Grade Netball also made it to the finals but got knocked out in the first round.

Quambatook Senior Coach Tim Free addresses the club and supporters after Saturday’s loss.(ABC Wimmera:Alexander Darling)

Eulogy for a sports club

Former club president Rhys Carmichael said he was proud of how far the club had come, but also devastated.

“It’s really starting to hit home for a lot of people,” he said.

“We’ve got our presentations day this Sunday, I think that will be an emotional day for quite a few. I don’t know what will happen after that. It will be pretty upsetting.

“It was [a tough decision to make], but in another way it wasn’t, we really have struggled with volunteers. We haven’t had any kids around the club for a while. It got to a point where we just couldn’t really see a future for the club.

“It’s a weight off the shoulders that it’s finished. It’s been a bloody big year organising everything.”

Man in muddied football uniform stands pensive under a dark sky
Former president Rhys Carmichael says it is still sinking in Quambatook no longer has a team.(ABC News: Jeremy Story Carter)

And that big year was set to continue for Mr Carmichael.

Like a person, the club’s death involved answering some tough questions: What happens to the ground they played at? What will the town do now for fun? Where will the men and women play next year?

At a meeting on Tuesday night, locals threw around a bunch of ideas about how the Saints’ home ground could be used in the future.

The oval sits on a committee-owned reserve that also includes a golf course, netball and tennis courts.

A country football ground with a tin shed on the side
The community met on Tuesday night to hear ideas for future uses of the oval.(ABC News: Jeremy Story Carter)

“We are planning to turn it into a community centre but we’ve got to keep paying amenities and keep the ground in a respectful look,” Mr Carmichael said.

“We’ve got to keep trying to raise money to keep paying the bills, it’s going to be a drawn-out process, but we knew that when we came to this decision.

“[Selling it] is not something I think we would consider, the community needs a place to meet.”

Author: Ivan Robinson