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Footy – a Legendairy game for Catani

At Catani Football Club, Australia’s legendary game is forever linked to Legendairy farmers.

The proud footy club, near Pakenham on the eastern outskirts of Melbourne, has a rich history that belies its small population.

One of the keys to the Blues’ ongoing success has been the contribution of the local dairy industry, which has been the lifeblood of the Catani community for over a century.

Col Hobson, who still milks a small herd at an age when most of his old teammates would be retired from work, said dairy farmers were once the dominant players in the Catani team.

“On my little square which I grew up on, which is basically a square mile, there were eleven footballers,” he said.

“They were a huge part of the team every season.”

Col, who played for the Blues before “doing a knee” in the mid-1960s, can still be found turning a sausage at the barbecue or helping clean up after training.

For many at the club – and at sports clubs around the country – the urge to be involved stays with them long after they pull off the footy boots for the last time.

Dairy farmer Grant Williams is another former Catani player who is still contributing to the club by coaching the Under 18s.

With dodgy knees and a large farm, Grant could probably find other ways to fill his time, but recognises the vital role the club plays in the community.

“It’s very important, not only for the social side, but for the fitness side,” he said.

“It’s a place where neighbours can get together and share a common goal.”

Caldermeade dairy farmer John Gillan has been around the Blues for a while too, experiencing moments when being at the club meant much more than just watching a game of footy.

“Back when we had the drought on and everyone was depressed, we’d all come here and we’d be able to talk about it,” he said.

“We could have a chat and a couple of beers. It just meant so much.”

The dairy industry’s links to the club may be strengthened even further with a proposed program connecting footy to Asia.

Club vice president Darrell Egan helped to start China’s first Australian Rules school team when he lived in the Chinese region of Macau in 2011.

Now he sees an opportunity to use football to strengthen the bonds between the two countries.

“We’ve signed a free trade agreement with China, so we can use these social links to help make that agreement work,” he said.

To that end, Darrell has already hosted Chinese junior players, who have come to Catani to train with the club.

With exports to China an increasingly important part of the success of the Australian dairy industry, local farmers like Grant Williams can see the benefits of forging stronger cultural links with the economic giant to our north.

“The Chinese market is very important to us. We’re linked together,” Grant said.

“It’s good for us to understand a different culture and a different farming culture as well.”

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