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Australia 2007
Directed by
Jane Forrest / Brian Andrews
96 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Final Winter

The writer and star of this film, Matthew Nable, is a former professional Rugby League footballer who, with the help of directors Jane Forrest and Brian Andrews, has used his grass-roots experiences to give us a powerful drama and one of the best Australian football films made to date

Set in early 1980s, Nable plays Grub Henderson, the aging captain of Sydney’s Newtown Jets.  He is coming to the end of his use-by date not only physically but in his old-school rough-head playing style. His team is flagging in the competition and the club CEO Murray "Colgate" Perry (John Jarratt) wants to modernize the team which means putting bruisers like Matt out to pasture and bringing in younger, more appealing players like Grub’s younger brother, Trent (Nathaniel Dean) who is playing for the opposing team in the match that opens the film.  Matt's vindictive tackle of Trent establishes the levels of conflict that drive the film – between Grub and his brother (who appears to have had at some distant stage an affair with Grub’s wife played by Raelee Hill), and between the working class roots of the game and its rapidly burgeoning corporatization.

In the latter respect the film will readily bring comparisons with the 1980 David Williamson/Bruce Beresford classic The Club which is no bad thing as this film is a worthy companion piece.  In its case the personal dramas are a stronger component with Grub’s belligerence comprehensively estranging him from his supporters including his support coach Jack, played by another League player turned actor. Matthew Johns.  In this respect Nable’s script is brutally candid and his performance is true to it, as are those of the entire cast (despite John's evidently fake paunch) giving the film an impressive sense of verismilitude (in real life Nable’s brother, Adam was also a pro player).

The Final Winter did not do well at the box office but it is a remarkable film and a real credit to all involved in its making. Rarely does an Australian film deliver such a sense of emotional immediacy and fidelity to its subject matter.




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