Match Report: Reclink Community Cup
Long lines stretch out under a grand row of Plane trees, who cling stubbornly to their last golden leaves. The air is brisk and still but the line moves steadily as the warm synth grooves of Harvey Sutherland’s set emanate from the open-air stage. On the sodden field a crowd has gathered to catch Harvey’s tight set while thick, misty cloud holds the sun at bay. Harvey’s hands glide effortlessly over his array of synths and keyboards while the bass and drummer keep perfect time. A short but energetic set pleases the growing crowd. Earlier in the day DJ Jnett, RVG and The Burnt Sausages had entertained initial arrivals to the event.
The day for the big game had finally arrived and hordes of rugged up punters and their largely well behaved dogs streamed into Victoria Park; the spiritual home of Collingwood Football Club. The Reclink Community Cup, now officially enjoying its 25th anniversary, is a stalwart of Melbourne’s cultural calendar, bringing together a who’s who of the Melbourne music and community radio scene. The event raises much needed money for the vital work of Reclink Australia who provides sport and arts programs to disadvantaged Australians to foster social inclusion and wellbeing. Over the years they have both changed and indeed saved many lives and continue to increase their reach across Australia.
The annual match pits the Megahertz (who are represented mainly by community radio hosts) against the Espy Rockdogs (a team of musicians and performers) in an extremely low quality game of football. Before the game kicked off, local Member of Parliament Richard Wynne, the leader of the opposition Anthony Albanese and Greens senator Janet Rice took to the stage to address the 11,000 plus strong crowd. Senator Rice memorably declared she was “Looking forward to some Biff!” much to the crowd’s delight, while Mr. Albanese praised the work of Reclink and the community cup bringing people together.
As the game commenced, host of ‘The Get Down’ and owner of Northside Records Chris Gill (captaining the Megahertz) snapped an incredible shot which sailed through the goals early in the first quarter. This was soon answered by fantastic goal from Tim Rogers (playing in the community cup for the last year), which was followed by a barrage of goals for the Rockdogs who had firmly established their dominance by quarter time. The beers were ice cold and mercifully cheap while the mercury hovered in single digits for much of the half. As the second half drew to a close the sun broke free from the mist and bathed the packed crowd in golden light.
Half time entertainment was provided by the incredibly talented Baker Boy (Danzal Baker) whose meteoric rise has taken the Yolngu artist around the country. He punched through an energetic bilingual set which switched between English and his mother tongue Yolngu Matha. The set carried sequences of quick-fire rapping with a smooth flow and numerous catchy pop hooks. Wearing a matching green and white Adidas tracksuit, Danzal punctuates the set with bursts on the Yidaki (didgeridoo) while dancers surrounded him in frenetic motion. “How’s that?” He asks, as he smiles at the crowd. “Bloody good!” I hear a silver-haired lady beside me call back.
As the second half got underway a sea of striped beanies and colourful football scarves made their way back into the grandstand. After being comprehensively outplayed, the Megahertz showed signs of mounting a comeback, kicking an early goal. After a brief hint of warmth, the mercury again began to dip and extra layers were added by many people in the crowd. In contrast, the action on the field began to heat up as the red and white donning Megahertz piled on several quick goals.
I began to scan the crowd surrounding the ground, anticipating the emergence of streakers as the game drew closer to its end, as has been tradition over the many years of the cup. Late in the last quarter two brave women sprinted out to the center of the field in little more than boots and socks. Fluoro clad security pursued them as they fled across the ground. In what must surely be regarded as an act of clever planning and execution, members of the crowd quickly removed temporary fence barriers allowing the escape of the two streakers, much to the chagrin of the security. Coats were placed on their chilled bodies as they evaded certain capture. There would likely be no arrests and fines this year, much to the crowd’s delight.
With minutes to go the Megahertz pulled into the lead with a stunning goal that brought the grandstand into rapturous applause. They held on for a stunning one point win, capping off a remarkable come-back for the largely unfavoured team. The crowd streamed onto the pitch for a final kick to kick as the cup was presented to the deserving winners. Shortly after, the powerful voice of Dan Sultan rung out across the field as he was accompanied by Paul Kelly for a short but memorable set. The highlight being the crowd enthusiastically singing along to “From little things big things grow”.
Last up on the stage was Magic Dirt, who are experiencing somewhat of a resurgence after several high profile performances over the previous summer. Adalita took to the stage wearing a thick checkered coat, steam rising from her breath, with a guitar in hand ready to fire up the crowd. Working their way through their most familiar hits before delving into their heavier back catalog, they kept the dedicated crowd bobbing their heads enthusiastically. While lacking the heights of their stunning set at Golden Plains, the set was solid and the crowd left the field pleased that they had stayed to the very end.
For those seeking immediate warmth, the nearby Yarra Hotel, Retreat hotel and Park Hotel provided much needed respite, and quickly received an influx of shivering bodies ready for a final drink or two.
Solid as always, the community cup provides a beacon of community togetherness in the depths of the Melbourne winter. Long may it continue!
Words: David Minett