Aussie football comedy scores political goals

Rafferty Grierson and Damian Callinan in The Merger (IMDB)

The Merger refers not only to the merging of football teams to make one that might succeed, but also of asylum-seekers and refugees trying to find a place in Australian society. Source: ACOFB.

Beyond the city of Wagga Wagga, there is the town of Bodgy Creek, which is in decline. The mill has been closed by campaigns from greenies, the football club buildings need to be demolished because of asbestos and the football club itself is near collapse. And, not only that, a number of migrants are arriving in the town with some of the diehards of Bodgy Creek against them and the threat of their taking jobs.

We meet some of the migrants, who are trying find jobs, settle in and make friends in their new country – not always easy.

The migrants are persuaded to play football and, gradually, they all combine with the locals to form a team – as well as contribute to business development in the town.

The film is the work of comedian Damian Callinan. It began as a theatre monologue with the actor speaking his lines. Now it has been amplified, taken outside, onto the football fields, throughout the town, homes and shops.

Callinan play the central role of Troy Carrington, a former footballer who takes on the task of building up a new team and – we and they hope – to a premiership.

Central to the film is a young boy, Neil (Rafferty Grierson), whose father has been killed in a motorbike accident. He is making his own documentary film, focusing on Troy with a touch of hero-worship and searching for a father-figure, along with his strong-minded mother, Angie (Kate Mulvany). The dead father’s own father, Bull (played with force by John Howard) leads the reactionary group in the town.

In one sense, The Merger is preaching to the converted – those who want to welcome the newcomers to the land and help them find a place and a refuge. One is not too sure how those who share the opinions of the film’s diehards, those with a One Nationish-type policies, would respond to the comic touches with which have political point.

– Reviewed by Fr Peter Malone MSC, ACOFB

The Merger: Starring Damian Callinan, Kate Mulvany, John Howard, Fayssal Bazzi, Rafferty Grierson, Josh McConville, Nick Cody, Penny Cook, Angus McLaren, Sahil Saluja, Harry Tseng, Ben Knight. Directed by Mark Grentell. 96 minutes. Rated M (Coarse Language).

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