Secrets Of Bush Success
This little titbit is about to fall off the internet because the site has gone down. So I thought I would repost here to preserve it. The following passage is an excerpt from the book “Beyond The Big Sticks“, published in 2003.
IN 1988, players from Kukerin in the West Australian Wheatbelt acted with unprecedented goodwill when they organised a merger with Dumbleyung, a neighbouring club that had folded. Kukerin was a titan in the West and a peer of the best country footy clubs in Australia. Many Kukerin supporters failed to see why their club, with its storied history, should take on the undistinguished mob down the road. The players’ view was that all footballers need a home.
Kukerin-Dumbleyung ranks with any club in terms of outstripping its resources. Since 1989, the club of wheat farmers has played in every Upper Great Southern league grand final, despite facing opponents from large towns. Like most formidable country clubs, it is built on the rock of a few talented families. The most prominent in recent years is the Ditchburn family.
In 1981, Ross Ditchburn was coaching Kukerin and helping to run the family farm. Carlton coach David Parkin and recruiting manager Shane O’Sullivan tracked him down and asked him to play in attack. ‘Mum cooked them a few scones and they took off again,’ Ditchburn said. After an uncertain start with the Blues the next year, he kicked twelve goals in a match at Waverley Park, a record for that ground at the time. At the end of the season, he was a member of one of the most talented premiership teams in the game. One more season was enough. His father became sick and he returned to Western Australia to work on the farm and coach Kukerin. ‘I thought I’d better go home,’ he said.
Ditchburn coached for three years before stepping aside. He went on to kick hundreds of goals for another decade. His continued contribution indicates another reason behind the success of Kukerin-Dumbleyung. The club has a record of slotting senior players into the coaching role as seamlessly as a player might slip on a favourite pair of boots. In most seasons, the team contains two or three former coaches who take a backseat role. Strong leadership across the ground tends to draw the best from all players. ‘There’s always been good guidance, good coaches,’ Ditchburn said.
Another reason is the club’s refusal to pay. Every footballer to wear the Kukerin-Dumbleyung jumper does so at no cost. At one year’s final, all players turned up wearing T-shirts that proclaimed: ‘We breed ’em, don’t buy ’em.’ In recent years, more and more players have moved to Perth to work or study but still the club continues to shine because hometown sons drive more than three hours to pull on the cherished red, white and blue guernsey. It would be difficult to leave a club that is so accustomed to harmony and success.