Home Australia ‘We did it!’: Country footy team famous for losing finally gets famous win

‘We did it!’: Country footy team famous for losing finally gets famous win

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Graphic reading We Did It on an image of soccer players in a locker room.

Wahgunyah, the national soccer team that became famous for losing, finally won a game.

The proud club from a small Victorian community on the banks of the Murray River made national headlines for defeats that almost defied mathematics.

But a renewed focus on its community core has revitalized the club and on Saturday, the Wahgunyah Lions Seniors recorded their first win in more than 1,000 days.

A post on the club’s Facebook read simply: “We did it!”

Wahgunyah recorded his first victory in over 1,000 days.(Supplied)

Trailing by one point at three-quarter time to Dederang Mt Beauty, the Lions mounted a stirring comeback for a thrilling nine-point victory, sparking wild celebrations and tears before the final siren.

“It was just chaos on the ground, it was fantastic,” said president Daryl Hore.

Hore, a central figure in the club’s fight for survival, couldn’t bear to watch the drama unfold and was instead found pacing in the parking lot during the fourth quarter.

An older man in a cap, t-shirt and shorts laughs while standing at the national football oval

President of the Wahgunyah Football and Netball Club, Daryl Hore.(ABC News: Jeremy Story Carter)

Even as he heard the roar of his community confirming victory, he stayed back and took a moment to reflect.

“It’s just a feeling we haven’t had in a long time,” he said.

Moment of pride for the community.

A large room filled with tables of young people in sportswear. The room is decorated with hanging buntings.

A presentation earlier this month for Wahgunyah soccer and netball players.(ABC News: Jeremy Story Carter)

The victory marks a significant moment for the Wahgunyah Lions, whose very existence has been threatened in recent years.

A painful 432-1 loss to Beechworth in 2022 attracted national attention, and years of heavy losses and a failed merger attempt left some doubt over whether the club could survive.

When ABC visited Wahgunyah this month on the eve of the season, there was a palpable sense of community and a celebration of the people who make the club special.

An all-level team had been created to drive inclusivity at the club, while a new “barbecue test” had focused more on the character of people recruited to the football team.

A banner had been erected on the ground that read: “It’s not over when you lose, it’s over when you quit.”

A sign hanging from a football stand reads:

A sign facing the ground reads: “It’s not over when you lose, it’s over when you quit.”(ABC News: Jeremy Story Carter)

Were there any extenuating circumstances in the victory? Maybe.

Dederang Mt Beauty themselves had suffered significant losses in the first two rounds.

Wahgunyah was also able to turn to none other than former AFL star and number two draft pick Harley Bennell.

The Gold Coast, Fremantle and Melbourne player had previously represented Wahgunyah in a one-off match and stayed in touch with the club, offering support and encouragement as the seniors endured two years of 200-plus point losses.

He starred on Saturday with six goals, but it was off the field where the club president was most impressed with Bennell.

“He went through the rooms, he went from table to table talking to fans, children and young people. He has been fantastic with everyone,” Hore said.

A group of men in football uniforms stand arm in arm signing in a concrete locker room

Celebrations in the Wahgunyah rooms after the game.(Supplied)

The victory coincided with a Wahgunyah premiership meeting in 2004 and was loudly applauded by former players who had traveled hundreds of kilometers to attend the match.

Several heart-stopping renditions of the club song, barely heard lately but not forgotten, were sung in the locker room.

The party, by all accounts, continued well into the night.

“It means a lot to them to show that we can fight,” Hore said.

“We can win a game. And we believe the club will survive.”

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