Fields To Dream: inside the FFA Cup

George only sits on the finest Bunnings chairs.

George only sits on the finest Bunnings chairs.

By Ian Kerr

The 2015 FFA Cup kicked off last week, bringing lesser-known clubs – and old stagers – into the national spotlight. Clubs that are unknown outside their home states are competing on the national stage.

Making its national debut before kickoff on matchday 1 was “Fields To Dream”, a behind-the-scenes look at the clubs competing in the FFA Cup, hosted by TV legend George Donikian.

The genesis of the programme can be traced back to the Money In Sport conference, where George met with football historian Les Street and Tribal Sports Group Managing Director Lou Sticca.

“We said, why don’t we do the back stories to all the clubs in the FFA Cup that people don’t know about? Even the ones people already know about, give them a slightly different flavour. Not the same story that everyone already knows, but talk to the fans, the sponsors, and the players.

“I helped put together the story of South Melbourne FC, knowing that they would be a key player in the first round of the FFA Cup. At that stage, we didn’t know that they would be featured on matchday 1.”

Fox Sports liked the concept and “Fields To Dream” was off and running.

“For each episode, we look at the back-stories of each of the featured clubs on each matchday. So for match day one it was NSL powerhouse South Melbourne taking on Queensland NPL Champions Palm Beach Sharks. And what a match it was – extra time followed by penalties!”

The first episode attracted praise from across the Twittersphere. And since proper newspapers just quote from Twitter these days, passing it off as news, we’ll do the same:

“Fields To Dream” returns to our screens on Tuesday night to coincide with FFA Cup matchday 2.

“On Tuesday night, it’s the fourth-tier club, Balmain Tigers up against the best unit in Australia today, Melbourne Victory. It won’t be a David vs Goliath contest…unless Balmain wins!”

Behind the scenes

George is Executive Producer for the series, with Les and Lou making up the other two members of 3 Nerds Productions. Being EP isn’t all glamour, awards ceremonies and interviews with football culture magazines. It also means lining up interviews and flights and a world of logistical considerations – but through it all George has gained a first-hand feel for clubs’ excitement to not just meet Les Street but to be featured on national TV.

“They’re all excited – even the A-League clubs. They’re all able to tell the stories behind their clubs. And now that clubs have seen the first episode, all the clubs are keen to get involved.”

“Fields To Dream” isn’t just about the players and the coaches. The stories of the people behind the scenes are told as well.

“Jannelle Jorgensen has a great story. She’s from Melbourne, an AFL girl, she answered an ad in the paper for a job in Sydney for a soon-to-be A-League club that didn’t even have a name. She was part of that original team at Western Sydney Wanderers. She’s not at the club any more, but she talked about how it wasn’t just a job, it was about building a legacy. It was all new for them – first the domestic league, and then the Asian Champions League, playing and winning away from home… It was amazing.”

Players from clubs outside the A-League haven’t been drilled in media training, giving viewers a blessed relief from bland “full credit to the boys / we respect our opponents” statements.

“Some of the people we’ve talked to are natural story tellers,” says George. “Tom Hyde the captain of Balmain tells how he arrived at the club on the Wednesday, trained on the Thursday, and played on the Saturday!”

Football historian Les Street is well-known not just for contributing to Thin White Line, but for being the man that has visited every football pitch in Australia. Well, almost every one of them.

“Les gives us access to a host of real fans. He helped us talk to fans from Sydney FC’s Cove – in fact we got one of the members of the Cove to sing on camera.”

Those waiting to see Les sing on camera may have to wait a while longer.

“Fields To Dream” is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and next week prior to matchday 4.

“We’ve been on a tight schedule to get the first four episodes done. Then once the next round’s draw is done, we’ll be able to plan the next batch of episodes. We have to make sure we keep finding the right support to keep telling these stories.”

“Fields To Dream” features Balmain Tigers FC and Melbourne Victory on Tuesday, then on Wednesday Sorrento Seagulls and Sydney FC are the feature clubs. Fox Sports channel 505. Check local guides for details. (Don’t bother with the Scouts, they don’t know anything.)

3 Nerds Productions