Inspiring footy tale returns to the Potato Shed

Damian Callinan as Troy Carrington. (James Penlidis)

By Luke Voogt

A play-turned-film about a local footy club recruiting refugees in a fight to survive will return to Drysdale this month in its original onstage rendition.

Released in 2018, The Merger this January debuted on Netflix, which sent its audience numbers skyrocketing, according to creator Damian Callinan.

“Netflix is an incredibly powerful and accessible means of getting your story out there,” the comedian told the Independent, while on a drought-relief tour in country NSW.

“Netflix don’t give you the figures, but going anecdotally and on social media movement, I reckon 10 or 20 times more people have seen the film now.”

The film originated from Callinan’s one-man show featuring prodigal son and former footballer Troy Carrington – a long-time character in his repertoire.

“He’s the character I’ve been doing the longest,” Callinan said.

“Right from the very first night people were saying you should do a film.”

After retiring from his playing days, Carrington comes to Bodgy Creek, where the population is dwindling, the mill is closed and Tidy Town sign has fallen down.

The next victim of the town’s decline is the cash-strapped Roosters Football Club, where Carrington takes over as coach.

The struggling club is at risk of a merger, or as a character in the film puts: “when one s**t team joins up with another s**t team to make a slightly less s**t team.”

“The team’s a rabble, the club rooms are condemned and Troy can barely fill the side,” Callinan said.

So Carrington decides to recruit local refugees, many who have never seen a Sherrin, and teach them to play footy, with often hilarious results.

Callinan plays several characters, including sock puppets and radio commentators in the play.

“People who see the film say, ‘how do you do that as a one-man show?’ and people who see the show say, ‘how did you do the film?’”

Callinan returns to the Potato Shed, Drysdale, for the show beginning 8pm on Friday, April 30, following his tour of NSW.

The stand-up comedian has been going above and beyond on his journey throughout the drought-affected and now flood-stricken region.

“If you look at disasters on the map in the last couple of years all the red dots are in northern NSW,” he said.

Every day before his show in each town, he gets out and about to make a slideshow of all the quirky sights he can find in each location.

Then, in his gig, he questions why the town’s World War I cannon points at the local post office, or why the ‘cemetery’ sign sits directly beneath the ‘landfill’ sign.

“It’s quite delightful watching,” he said.

After wrapping up his What a Relief tour in NSW this weekend, he departs for a tour of The Merger beginning in Williamstown and stopping second at the Potato Shed.

He looked forward to having a laugh with locals and sharing a little of Carrington’s philosophy.

“Troy’s very much a country bloke and a competitive beast, but when push comes to shove he’s about caring for the person rather than the results of the match,” Callinan said.