Home » Meet the ‘old fellas’ travelling hundreds of kilometres for footy where everyone wins

Meet the ‘old fellas’ travelling hundreds of kilometres for footy where everyone wins

As the sun sets on the country town of Kojonup, old farmers, wearing old guernseys clamber out of their old utes at the local oval.

Some have come from down the road, while others have driven over an hour from their farms in neighbouring towns for a run in the Old Fellas Football League.

The weather is warm, the sky is golden, and the boys are keen for a kick — even if the accuracy is wanting.

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

“I’m not a champion by any means.”

David Lee said the OFFL helps connect farmers.(ABC Great Southern: Andrew Chounding)

Turn up and have a go

In his youth the grain grower from South Kojonup played B-grade footy, but these days the weekly OFFL training session is more than enough.

“I used to play half-back flank years ago, but with the OFFL it’s just turn up and have a go,” Mr Lee said.

a  group of men playing footy

OFFL fosters friendship and fitness among men isolated by distance.(ABC Great Southern: Andrew Chounding)

Unlike the league players training one field over, 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’s 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 rely.

“It gets fellas off their farms for an hour with a bit of a chat, a kick-around, a beer afterwards, and a safe drive home,” Mr Lee said.

“[Farming] is quite a singular business for most of us, so getting to see 10-15 people in the evening for a bit of a run around with a bit of a chat and a bit of exercise is well worth the trip.”

League almost lost 

An older man on a football field.

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

The OFFL was formed in Tambellup in 2011 by Merino farmer Justin Taylor with farmers from a dozen towns, some as far as 70 kilometres away, regularly attending training sessions.

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

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

“The feet were starting to speak. We weren’t getting the same numbers. So it was a good time to go out while there was still a bit left in the tank, rather than just flog it till it’s dead.”

old men stretching

The OFFL has 65 members on a WhatsApp group. (ABC Great Southern: Andrew Chounding)

But only a few weeks after calling it a day, the OFFL had been resurrected and found a new home and some old faces.

“These lads from Koji who had been coming to OFFL regularly decided they’d like to have a crack here,” he said.

“It makes me feel fantastic. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t and can’t keep going. I’m just stoked.”

Before its first training session, a WhatsApp group set up for the Kojonup OFFL had already amassed 65 members.

a man catching a football

The OFFL was almost cancelled before being moved to Kojonup.(ABC Great Southern: Andrew Chounding )

A game everybody wins 

Kojonup local Cameron Grace, also president of the local junior footy club, said the first training session brought in about 15 men from across the region, with the club looking to grow that number.

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

“The importance of mental health is what got me to go ‘right, okay, for a night a week to get the guys together and create a good headspace and get together — that’s worth doing’.”

A man in a striped jumper.

David Lee says at the end of the day everyone wins.(ABC Great Southern: Andrew Chounding)

As the sun drops below the horizon and the boys make their way to the bar, there are no trophies, flags or pennants to collect.

But Mr Lee says that doesn’t mean there are no winners.

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

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

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