A COUNTRY town’s story can often be told by that of its football club’s.
And the man tasked with pulling that story together to ensure good times and bad remain accessible to future generations is Darren Lewis (pictured above).
Lewis, who trained as a librarian, has written books detailing the history of 12 clubs.
His 13th — 50 years of football in Heathcote — will be released in the next few weeks following the club’s ball next weekend.
The 14th is already on the drawing board to wrap up 100 years of Lockington football.
With many clubs struggling to keep their stories and pictures in one place, Lewis is working towards building Australia’s largest country football database, trawling through thousands of newspapers and other documents.
‘‘It’s just graft; you go through every paper of every year until you get everything,’’ he said.
‘‘Especially with the country clubs, they’re very big on things like social events. So if you look only in the sports section, you miss out on various bits of information.
‘‘The first thing you do is realise how little each club has (about its own history). Over the years a lot of stuff goes missing or is not collected.’’
He had always been passionate about football clubs and their impact on country towns, particularly those no longer in existence.
‘‘I’ve always been interested in footy history, but when I’ve been working in other fields, I guess you don’t have the time to enjoy it because you’re reading for a living,’’ Lewis said.
‘‘People bring books to you and you’re really interested and engaged, but you’re not able to actually do it.
‘‘Everyone’s interested in doing it but people think it’s such a scary project, whereas I think you can just produce what you can produce. Mine are all full colour, but there’s nothing wrong with a little black and white book with a couple of photos.’’
Spending many days in the Riverine Herald office in Echuca to research Lockington-Bamawm United for their centenary book, Lewis looks for scores, stories, pictures and various quirks with which to tell the history of the club.
And despite digital technology making it far easier for clubs to document their history, he said clubs aren’t doing enough.
‘‘I get really angry with clubs that are really slack about their history; society is changing, you ring up people and they’ve thrown things out,’’ he said.
‘‘My aim is to have the largest country football database. I think I’m 10 years too late for a lot of clubs, but I’m still rescuing a lot of stuff.’’
Important to him not simply in a sporting sense, Lewis said a club’s history tells its town’s story.
‘‘When you talk to people, you see immediately footy is a sport, but a footy club is so much more,’’ he said.
‘‘I think it gets sold short a bit by the corporate gurus in Melbourne; the fact is every time a town loses a sporting club, it loses its soul.
‘‘When a club is struggling often the town is too. It’s very rarely a mistake, it often correlates.’’
Lewis said merging hadn’t always worked with clubs, LBU’s four premierships since the merger in 1989 perhaps evidence of this after 17 premierships in the previous 55 years.
‘‘What happens is a combination doesn’t translate into support,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m from Benalla and there’s two clubs there; if they combined I would not go to the footy. In small towns, it’s your whole identity.’’
He said LBU’s long family history had revealed some great characters.
‘‘I like quirky, so if I hear things about an old character, I might do a feature on them,’’ Lewis said.
‘‘Especially with country footy, it’s all about families. You can put in all the money you want, but in the end the same names are there; at Lockington for more than 60 or 70 years.
Lewis’ work can be viewed at www.AussieRulesVault.com