‘It’s more than a sport. It’s more than a game’: Why heaven is a country footy grand final

The end of September is well and truly grand final season and all the nation’s teams are locking horns for their version of rugby league’s ultimate prize.

By the time Penrith meet Brisbane on Sunday night, most of those battles will have been fought and won.

Nowhere are the victories and defeats more keenly felt than in country areas, where football can be the lifeblood of a town in the hardest of times, or a fierce and unique expression of pride in where you’re from, or the vehicle through which people find their best selves.

These are just three stories from the bush, but there are always more of them to be found any time two teams meet on a spring afternoon with it all on the line.

That feeling that comes after risking it all in a game where winning feels like you’re touching a bit of paradise, is why heaven must be a country footy grand final win.

The club that wouldn’t die

There is being up against it and there is whatever the hell Cudgen Hornets had done to piss off the universe.

It was the last round of the Northern Rivers Regional comp on the far north coast of New South Wales and the Hornets were struggling to get a buzz going. In a game they had to win to make the finals, they were down 13-0 to Tweed Coast Raiders at half-time.

Truth be told, being denied a finals spot in the last game of the season would still have been a fair achievement for Cudgen – it’s taken a lot of hard work and plenty of elbow grease just to keep the club going since their clubhouse burned down in 2020.

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