Nhill football club records first win in three years in much-needed boost for struggling club

What you’re about to hear isn’t a pitch for a movie, even if it reads that way.

On Saturday, 1029 days after their last win, the senior football team of Nhill Tigers won a game in the Wimmera Football League.

With a north wind howling across the ground to the end of the silo, Nhill led in the quarter, conceded four goals against the wind in the second, kicked five goals to none in the third and held on to the win by two points as their opposition – the Southern Mallee Giants – missed their last three shots in the fourth.

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And for that match, former Collingwood Prime Minister Dale Thomas lined up in front of them.

The city, of 2,000, now hopes the win can be a clear break from its challenging recent past – on and off the pitch.

Times of process

In the past year, Nhill has considered merging with nearby Kaniva due to a lack of youth players.

At the same time, the ground on which Saturday’s game was played, Davis Park, for a third time, lacked much-needed funding for a new stand. The coalition pledged $1.64 million for the project but was voted out in last month’s federal election.

In the post-victory rooms, Tigers coach Trevor “Space” Albrecht was full of praise and optimism that this was not a one-off.

“We have returned from talks with Kaniva about getting together and moving to another league,” he said.

“We now have large numbers coming to train here and we will be within our rights from now on. Most of the guys were between 16 and 21 years old.

“A lot of these guys are local crafts or working on farms, and we’re lucky because in previous years, a lot of guys went to college and we lost them, but we’re lucky now.

“We think there are a lot of sides that we can be competitive with from now on and these guys with knowledge of now after a win I think will put some of those teams to the test in the second half of the season.”

Dale Thomas was one of eight ex-AFL footballers assigned to play a game with a struggling Victorian regional club to boost their gate earnings after COVID.

Thomas said he was impressed with the young brigade.

“I’m not the player I once was, I’m turning 35 in a few weeks, so to come out and encourage the young guys, pass on some knowledge and try to get the win, really, that was the main point to get here.”

Although Thomas said he was not one of the best on the team, Mr Albrecht said the team learned a lot from him.

“The input he’s had to the group will last for a few years. The advice he’s given to players and the way he fell back into the rear to save that game,” he said.

More than a game

Mr. Albrecht said that victory would reverberate throughout the city.

“It’s huge. We’re not just the Nhill football club, we’re the Nhill and District Sporting Club, so we have netball, hockey and cricket,” he said.

“We have almost 500 to 1,000 members and it’s the only big club in town.

In addition to the entry fees of nearly 1,000 attendees, the club received about $15,000 in checks from a beer manufacturer that sponsored Thomas’s gig and a post-match auction of the boots and jersey he wore when he played for Nhill.

Kat Colbert, part of the Nhill Sporting Club’s steering committee, told the ABC they hadn’t yet decided how to use the windfall.

“We’re looking at setting up a special fundraising committee for the new clubrooms at Davis Park, so that might help get that going, but I don’t know,” she said.

Regarding Mr Albrecht’s wish not to merge with Kaniva, Ms Colbert said the clubs will issue a joint statement in the coming weeks.

Kaniva’s football and korfball clubs merged earlier this year.