Despite Australia's passionate love affair with all forms of sport, we don't seem to make all that many movies about sport - presumably because in Australia culture you either love one or the other. That's their loss: rough around the edges The Final Winter may be, and with it's fair share of clumsy scenes and two-d characters, this still manages to be one of the more down-to-earth entertaining local efforts of the year. It's the early 80's, and Sydney rugby league club The Jets is in turmoil: crowd numbers are down, the old style of bash-heavy play is out of favour, and new club CEO Murray 'Colgate' Perry (John Jarrat) thinks the only way to keep the club alive is to take it down a more professional path. One man who disagrees is Grub Henderson (writer Matt Nable), a 200 game man and old-school thug who solves his problems by hitting people or ignoring them until they go away. In the week that follows Grub will finally realise that his playing days are be behind him - but he's not going to bow out without a fight. Stories about the end of an era always have a resonance, and even though this is perhaps too heavily weighted in Grub's favour - Colgate is an a-grade creep, even though pretty much everything he says and does makes a lot more sense than Grub's stubborn bull-headedness - the rugby stuff turns out to be a lot more universal in terms of the global corporatisation of sport than you might think (and the games themselves are filmed with bone-jarring impact like a widescreen Nutra-grain commercial). Likewise, Grub himself isn't that likeable, but his slow realisation that time is passing him by is one that even non sports fans can identify with. The Final Winter isn't going to win any awards - but who goes to see the Australian films that do?
(this review appeared in Forte#410)