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Theatre / The Club

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The Club is a satirical play by the Australian playwright David Williamson. It follows the fortunes of an Australian rules football club as the boardroom becomes a battleground when the purchase of a new recruit pits the disgruntled head coach against the club President. In the heat of battle, the players threaten a team wide strike and a club legend will use the opportunity to usurp the presidency for himself. Whilst the men each fight for power and control of the club’s on and off field destiny, the game’s best administrator watches his Machiavellian scheme unfold. It was inspired by the backroom dealings and antics of the Victorian Football League's Collingwood Football Club. The play was made into a film in 1980, directed by Bruce Beresford.

The plot revolves around six central characters:

  • Geoff Hayward – a new recruit with a huge reputation lured to the club with big money in an attempt to haul the team up the ladder. Hayward resents that the club sees him as a commodity to be bought and sold. Played in the film by John Howard.
  • Laurie Holden – the respected and earnest coach of the club whose champion playing career was ended by injury just short of the record number of games played for the club. Holden's credo is honesty and discipline, but the team has struggled to find success under his coaching and he knows that he is under pressure to avoid the sack. Holden is generally regarded as the second best coach in the league behind Hawthorn's "Rostoff", who was also the coach the clubs board wish to replace him with. Played in the film by Jack Thompson.
  • Ted Parker – club president and owner of a pie factory named "Parker's Pies". Parker is just a fan with a lot of money that the club want a share of. Although his knowledge of the game's intricacies is limited, he has watched virtually every game played by the club since he was a small boy. When Hayward demands an extra $10,000 to join the club, Parker puts up the money himself. Played in the film by Graham Kennedy.
  • Jock Riley – ex-champion player from an earlier era, the successful coaching predecessor to Laurie and now an influential committeeman. Jock has a finger on the pulse of everything that happens around the club and he regularly meddles when he thinks it necessary. He wants to get rid of Holden so that his most games coached record with the club remains unbeaten. Played in the film by Frank Wilson.
  • Gerry Cooper – a new breed administrator recently hired to drag the club into a more professional era. Gerry sees the club as a business, his appointment as merely a job and eschews emotion in his decision making. He is in it more for personal gain than for the benefit of the club. Played in the film by Alan Cassel.
  • Danny Rowe – player and captain of the team. His career is almost finished and the club consider trading him. Played in the film by Harold Hopkins.

No relation to the Third-Person Shooter from 2008, or a wrestling Power Stable.

The Club includes examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: In The Film of the Play, there are some scenes that take place outside the club's hallowed halls. In the play, all of the scenes are inside the club and are acted out in Real Time, whereas the film takes place over a season. The film also shows several events, such as the attack on the stripper, that are only alluded to in the play.
  • Always Someone Better: Laurie is widely regarded as the second best coach in the league. The best is the unseen Rostoff and the board is threatening to fire Laurie and hire Rostoff to replace him.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Ted is a lifelong fan of the club who is now club president.
  • Ass Shove: One of the tips Jock gives Geoff for distracting an opposition player is to jam your thumb up his bum as he's going for a mark.
  • Chromosome Casting: The cast consists of six men (typical for professional sports in Australia in the late 70s). The Film of the Play adds a few female characters, but none in a major role. Some modern revivals have reversed this by making it about women's football, and staging it with all female cast.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: There is an infamous level of casual violence discussed among the cast, particularly against women. Even knowing the story is a deliberate satire of macho club culture, many modern-day viewers find it very uncomfortable seeing the characters talking about punching their wives or eighteen-year-old strippers like it's nothing more than a minor character flaw.
  • Drinking on Duty: It is revealed that Jock cost the club a grand final when he was coach because of poor decisions he made while under the influence of alcohol. For his part, Jock denies that he was over the limit and admits that he may simply have been past his prime as coach, claiming that if someone had told him directly that it was time to step down he probably would have agreed. Instead, Laurie informed the board of his drinking and Jock was sacked as a result. This is why Jock has a grudge against Laurie.
  • The Ghost: Rostoff, the coach of Hawthorn, is discussed a lot but never appears.
  • Glory Days: Jock spends a lot of time reliving his time as a star player, and wants the club to be run the way it was in the old days. He also wants Laurie ousted as coach so that he can maintain the club record for most games coached.
  • Market-Based Title: In its 1978 Broadway run, the play was called Players.
  • Only in It for the Money: Geoff is primarily motivated by the monetary incentive for playing, rather than old fashioned ideas of club loyalty.
  • Real Time: Like many of Williamson's plays, the events of The Club unfold in real time: covering approximately two very eventful hours in the club meeting rooms.