Directed by: Brian Andrews, Jane Forrest
Written by:Matthew Nable
Starring: Matthew Nable, John Jarratt, Raelee Hill, Matthew Johns, Nathaniel Dean, Conrad Colby
Released: September 5, 2007
Grade: B+

As a child, I used to watch the local rugby league here in Brisbane.  I can remember the fierce duals between teams such as Brothers and Wynnum-Manly in the mid 1980s.  It was what many people did on a Sunday afternoon – they headed down to their local league club and watched a game of footy.  With the development of the national competition (which started with the introduction of the Broncos in 1988), interest in the Brisbane rugby league soon fell away.  I don’t think I’ve been to a local game since the 1987 grand final.

It’s a simple truth that sports change over time.  We may not like it but it cannot be helped.  No matter what the sport, you’ll always hear someone saying how much better it used to be in the “old days”.  This notion is explored The Final Winter, a great new Australian film from directors Brian Andrews and Jane Forrest.

Set in Sydney in the early 1980s, Grub Henderson (Nable) is a star player for the Newtown Jets.  He’s been part of the team for over a decade and is highly respected by his fellow team mates and coach Jack Cooper (Johns).  He’s at an age though that has some people talking retirement.  It’s a scary thought for Grub who doesn’t know what he’ll do without a football career.  It’s straining his relationship with his wife (Hill) and two young daughters.

Murray “Colgate” Perry (Jarratt) is a real estate agent who has just been appointed the new CEO of the Jets.  Colgate is part of a new breed.  He senses the game is becoming more professional and that the club should be run as a business.  He’s prepared to get rid of some of the loyal, long-serving players (who have been with the club since they were juniors) to bring in more high-profile talent.  It’s all about increasing crowds and boosting profit.

This doesn’t sit well with Grub and his frustrations come to a head in the penultimate game of the season.  He is sent off by the referee for a high shot on an opposition player (who just so happens to be his brother).  Grub has been asked to front the tribunal and many believe that he’ll get a lengthy suspension.  His troubles have gone from bad to worse.

The Final Winter is a tribute to rugby league in the 1980s.  You have to laugh when you see the players smoking at half time and enjoying a beer after training.  It will leave you thinking just how much has changed in the past 25 years.  The game has become more professional but has it come at a cost?  It’s an interesting question.

Writer Matt Nable came up with the idea for the film back in 1995.  It’s taken a long time and a lot of drafts to see his idea come to fruition.  I’m glad he stuck with it because this is a top movie that will appeal to a lot of people.  Like films such as The Castle and Kenny, it celebrates Aussie culture and our love for the game of rugby league.