Home Australia Meet the ‘old friends’ who travel hundreds of kilometers to play football where everyone wins

Meet the ‘old friends’ who travel hundreds of kilometers to play football where everyone wins

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A man playing handball

As the sun sets on the country town of Kojonup, old farmers, dressed in old guernseys, step out of their old utes on the local oval.

Some come from the same road, while others have driven more than an hour from their farms in neighboring towns to race in the Old Fellas Football League.

The weather is warm, the sky is golden, and the kids are eager to kick, even if precision is lacking.

“I’m pretty defiant with any ball,” David Lee said.

“I’m not a champion by any means.”

David Lee said OFFL helps connect farmers.(ABC Great South: Andrew Choding)

Come up and try it

In his youth, the South Kojonup farmer played B football, but today weekly OFFL training is more than enough.

“I used to play flanker years ago, but with the OFFL you just have to show up and try,” Lee said.

a group of men playing football

OFFL encourages friendship and fitness between men isolated by distance.(ABC Great South: Andrew Choding)

Unlike league players who train on a field, the OFFL (which stands for Old Fellers Fun and Leisure, Fun and Laughter or Football League, depending on who you ask) is not a competition.

It is a social event intended to foster friendship and fitness among a group of men often isolated by the nature of their work and the land on which they depend.

“This allows the guys to get off their farms for an hour with a bit of a chat, a chat, a beer afterwards and a safe trip home,” Lee said.

“[Farming] “It’s a pretty unique business for most of us, so it’s worth the trip to see 10 or 15 people in the evening to run a little, chat a little, and get a little exercise.”

Almost lost league

An older man on a soccer field.

The OFFL was formed in Tambellup in 2011 by Merino farmer Justin Taylor.(ABC Great South: Andrew Choding)

OFFL was founded in Tambellup in 2011 by Merino farmer Justin Taylor and farmers from a dozen towns, some up to 70 kilometers away, regularly attended training sessions.

But after 13 years of fun and laughter, Taylor said the weekly event that once attracted 25 to 30 members has almost come to an end.

“Nothing lasts forever and I think we would probably run our race in Tambellup,” he said.

“The feet were starting to talk. We weren’t getting the same numbers. So it was a good time to get out while there was still a little bit left in the tank, rather than just whipping it until it was gone.”

elderly stretching

The OFFL has 65 members in a WhatsApp group. (ABC Great South: Andrew Choding)

But just a few weeks after calling it a day, the OFFL was resurrected, finding a new home and some old faces.

“These guys from Koji, who came regularly to the OFFL, decided they would like to have a chance here,” he said.

“It makes me feel fantastic. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t or can’t continue. I’m excited.”

Before their first training session, a WhatsApp group created for Kojonup OFFL had already amassed 65 members.

a man catching a soccer ball

The OFFL was almost canceled before moving to Kojonup.(ABC Great South: Andrew Choding )

A game that everyone wins.

Kojonup local Cameron Grace, also president of the local youth football club, said the first training session attracted about 15 men from across the region, and the club is looking to increase that number.

“It really helps guys get some things off their chest and talk to people who are in the same situation, whether it’s a dry year or anything else,” he said.

“The importance of mental health is what made me say, ‘okay, okay, spending one night a week to get the guys together and create a good mental space and get together, that’s worth doing.'”

A man in a striped sweater.

David Lee says everyone wins in the end.(ABC Great South: Andrew Choding)

When the sun sinks behind the horizon and the kids head to the bar, there are no trophies, flags or pennants to collect.

But Lee says that doesn’t mean there aren’t winners.

“It’s just a little bit of physical health and a little bit of mental health. There’s no prize in the end,” he said.

“We are the real winners here, we love it.”

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