Interview: The Reclink Community Cup 2018

When you think of Melbourne it’s possible that images of laneway cafes spring to mind, or perhaps it’s the river, the trams, Formula One, or the oft-cited statistics that place the city as the world’s most livable. But for anyone with a passing interest in one of Melbourne’s most vital pillars – in terms of culture, identity, international reputation and economics – which is its thriving music scene, there is a single annual event that represents it at its best. The Reclink Community Cup combines many of our obsessions into a day full of music, AFL, booze, dogs, family, friendly competition – and it’s all in the name of charity.

“It’s the whole of Melbourne coming together and realising that one, we love footy,” says Rosco Elliot of the Rockdogs, and who plays music under the moniker Spike the River. “And two, there’s so many people involved in this – the volunteers, Reclink – that it means so much to so many people. I think everyone forgets everything for one day and comes together and sinks tinnies. It’s just such a beautiful thing.”

The game pits the same two sides against one another each year – musicians form the Rockdogs, while the Megahertz are made up of the city’s music media – specifically announcers from PBS FM and Triple R. It’s a faux-rivalry to stand the test of time and one that’s indicative of the positive spirits surrounding the event.

“I think how you actually look at it is, the Rockdogs are the devil,” jokes this year’s Megahertz captain, Ruby Koomen. “There’s that big drinking culture and all that stuff. Then the Megahertz, obviously they’re massive rock’n’rollers as well, but there seems to be something angelic about them. Definitely the dark and the light side.”

Koomen is in a position of authority to speak on the matter. As both the presenter of PBS’ Garageland show and the guitarist in rock band Bitch Diesel, she has fought on both sides. This year marks her return to the Megahertz after three years. Although both sides like to give each other stick, the genuine affection is evident, as it is for the event itself.

“There’s been quite a bit of rivalry over the years and we’re trying to bring it back to the community vibe,” says Koomen. “Last year, I had a moment in my last quarter, I ended up getting a jersey made that was half/half and ended up playing the joker card and running around with the half/half jersey on.”

Having initially been held on the south side, last year’s inaugural northern match sold out the 12,000 capacity Victoria Park, and with weekly training having begun in March, a certain amount of pressure felt by the amateur players is understandable. However, both teams are determined to not let the excitement of the atmosphere distract them from what the day is all about. “It is a game of footy, but to me it’s really easy to play hard, competitive footy and not be a dickhead,” says Elliot.

“I think it’s so much more important for everyone to be coming together and showing that footy and music can go together in a really beautiful way. It shows what the AFL could really be if it really tried. So go for the ball, do everything you can to win, but at the same time you’ve really got to understand that this is all for charity, all for fun, and we all want to put a show on for the crowd as well.”

The charity in question is Reclink, and every year the match raises funds for at-risk youth, people experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, substance or gambling addictions and those with mental illness or disabilities. Since the inaugural Cup in 1993, the match raises $200,000 each year, a monumental figure. The event has been so successful that the past six years has seen it expand to include games in Brisbane, Hobart, Adelaide, Sydney, Fremantle and Canberra, with some players making the trek to represent their side interstate.

“Two years ago was my first year and I played in Adelaide and Sydney and Brisbane,” says Elliot. “It’s still in the very early stages. They’re trying to grow it bigger and bigger, but Adelaide was an absolute dream, I had the best time ever. Tim Rogers was our coach there, and he’s actually just agreed to come back in the room and do his thing for our game, so that’s very exciting.”

With live music on the day being provided by Hiatus Kaiyote, Cable Ties, The Aints, Kutcha Edwards, The Cartridge Family and Rudely Interrupted, the $20 entry guarantees a great show – even for those decidedly uninterested in football. “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who wins, everyone in the community is a winner,” says Koomen.

“Just going and watching the shittest game of football but having a really good time and having a laugh that your favourite radio presenters or your favourite musicians are out there. I had to give a speech the other day and I was like ‘Look guys, if you want to tackle, that’s fine but make sure you give everyone a pash on the way down.’ That’s what it’s about, it’s a love revolution.”

Originally published in Beat Magazine. Photograph by Jay Hynes.

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