The Nadir Of Their Fortunes

?If I saw him on the road, I?d run the bastard over?

A worrying comment worthy of concern, but given the atmosphere at the recent Brothers-Valleys Annual General Meeting, you could almost allow it to go through to the keeper. Plenty of expletives were delivered as the once proud entities plunged to their lowest depth.

Formed as a joint venture in 2002, the Brothers and Valleys clubs have long histories in the old Brisbane Rugby League competition. In 2004, ?Brothers Diehards? finished with one point and last on the QRL ladder. They hit the wall this month when the QRL withdrew their invitation to the 2005 Queensland Cup.

It?s hard not to feel compassion for the old guard.

As matter of course, I made the 1? hour drive from the Gold Coast to Brisbane to see about 15 people meet out back of a clubhouse in a dignified but slightly run down BBQ area. Some sitting on rustic benches and others on upturned garbage bins? the rest standing in the sun.

It remains a mystery as to why the meeting took place exposed to the elements, given the nice view of an air-conditioned and empty clubhouse only a few feet away. Nevertheless, this was the Diehards in their darkest hour, and I was there to observe proceedings.

The board members who showed up fronted the cold BBQ and called order. A fight over money followed for an hour? the club is in some debt.

In what was a volatile meeting, one worried looking bloke, let?s call him Big Thommo, read out several letters of correspondence between himself and the Confraternity, a co-operation who support League development in Queensland. It seems the Confraternity are owed $5,000. In simple terms, they wanted their money back and Big Thommo questioned their rights in calling in the debt. The final letter he read was disturbing but hardly surprising? the Confraternity withdrew their support.

This was crucial because without the Confraternity, the club found themselves without QRL support and without support from guarantors, the rich St George Leagues club in Sydney.

Obviously there's more to it than that. Talks of rescue packages were looked upon with suspicion and a $35,000 debt to the players must be a huge factor amongst the in-fighting which has swamped club politics. Nevertheless, I find it extraordinary that a club could squabble to their own detriment over an amount of just $5,000.

During proceedings I took notes and at one point I was approached by Big Col, one of the many former board members. Wearing trousers, we were without a doubt the two best dressed men on the concrete.

"Are you a member? Who are you?"

"No? I'm little Willow... how are things?"

"What are you doing here?"

"Umm Big Gazza, said it was OK to come along."

"Where you from???"

"Leagueunlimited... here's my card."

Big Col looked at my business card.

A pregnant pause followed and being the opportunist, I went on the front foot: "I'd really like to talk about what's happening. Can I ask you a few questions later?"

"Oh no?no. I have somewhere to go..."

Big Col then retreated, sat back down on his upturned garbage bin in the shade. Moments later he interjected and proceeded to launch an attack on those opponents not in attendance, referring to them as ?gutless maggots". I figured he wanted to see that in print, so there you are Col.

A pause in proceedings allowed time for a new president to be elected. Big Thommo stepped down and asked for someone to take over this shemozzle. He made the call for nominations... and as they say in the classics, the arena fell dead silent.

Big Thommo asked again.

Big Stizza, a robust looking fella with a Bert Reynolds moustache was then elected unopposed. I say 'elected' but the truth is, no one voted so this was seen as being unanimous.

Big Thommo then moved away from the BBQ and sat on a step in front of the dunny door. Big Stizza took up position in front of the barbie, at which point I left.

All in all, a real mess and a club that has hit rock bottom. Good luck Stizza.

To put this in perspective, not all clubs are in such despair. This week I?m talking to current QRL champions, the Burleigh Bears. With any luck, I?ll be able to tell their story in the next instalment?

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