Back in the 1980’s I played a season for Chewton Football Club in their U16’s. A de facto suburb of Castlemaine in central Victoria, its population was in the low hundreds and its glory days in the previous century.
It was a sleepy little place and apart from a working gold mine and a pub, the footy club was pretty much the main thing in town.
The club played in the local Maryborough Castlemaine League, having crossed over in the mid ‘70’s from the stronger Golden City League in Bendigo. It had not tasted much success over its existence and when our batch of juniors arrived in ‘83 it coincided with a resurgent senior team that would ultimately win the flag in ‘86. Sadly a few short years later the whole club was gone, never to return.
But in ‘83 Chewton had a bit going for it. For starters there was the club song. It included the following verse:
“we put water in our petrol, and sand in our beer, we haven’t seen a garage for 80 f#cken years…
Are we good, are we good, are we any f#cken’ good? … We are the boys from Chewton town”.
That’s the only bit of the song I can recall and I suspect it’s the only bit our parents remembered when our team sung it for the first time too.
The club had a unique home ground also - perhaps the only one in Australia with a power line arcing across it that regularly came into play.
Running parallel with the half forward line at the clubrooms end and maybe 25 metres above the ground, it was the provider of much mirth for the home supporters, as time and again it would thwart promising forward entries from unsuspecting opposition teams.
The rule dictated there would be a ball up if and when it was hit and this enabled napping defenders to recover their direct opponent, thus doubling the perceived penalty for the errant kick.
But the song and the ground weren’t the only things going for the Tigers. Not too many clubs before or since would have had the backing of one of the most powerful and feared unions in the country at the time, but back in ‘83 Chewton somehow did.
Whilst rival clubs had the local pub as its major sponsor these guys had The Painters and Dockers Union.
After the triumphant ‘86 season Chewton was competitive for a few more seasons, but by the time the 1990 season came about the writing was on the wall. Playing numbers had dwindled and with no obvious merger partner the club had little choice but to fold. Overnight a community organisation that had provided tens of thousands of hours of entertainment and social interaction for local families was gone.
In the immediate aftermath people went their separate ways, some to rekindle their love of the game and it’s people elsewhere and others left with a permanent void.
Today a local soccer club uses their oval and there is little sign of the football club’s former occupation of the ground. The goal posts and the scoreboard are long gone, the clubrooms hidden from view by a new pavilion and amazingly even the power line has now disappeared.
Fortuitously some years ago an old Chewton U16 jumper came into my possession. It’s a great old jumper; unusually it’s yellow with a black yoke rather than the traditional black with yellow sash. I’m told it replaced that design to avoid a clash in the mid 70’s when it entered the local league. I’m glad they did because each time I look at the jumper I think immediately of no club other than Chewton. I think of our experiences and of those that came before us. And I wonder what all those people do each Saturday in winter now.