The Club: The end of Ted Parker
Club president Ted Parker (Graham Kennedy) is under pressure to resign, following allegations that he beat up a stripper at a club function. In the committee room, ex-coach Jock Riley (Frank Wilson) and administrator Gerry Cooper (Alan Cassell) engineer his departure, watched by the coach (Jack Thompson). Summary by Paul Byrnes.
A statement of the new realities: Ted has helped create a business without loyalty, which brings about his own demise. His sexual misconduct seems to be largely forgotten, as he becomes a victim. In fact, he’s brought down in a traditional way – betrayed by his so-called 'friends’.
The Club synopsis
Laurie Holden (Jack Thompson) is coach of a Victorian Football League (VFL) team that hasn’t won a premiership for 19 years. Club president Ted Parker (Graham Kennedy) brings in a star recruit at great expense, but youngster Geoff Hayward (John Howard) is a major disappointment. As the club loses a string of games, the coach, president, committee members and players start to tear each other apart.
The Club curator's notes
The Club is based on one of David Williamson’s most popular plays of the 1970s, but its adaptation to the screen is not entirely successful. Enjoyable as the film is as a satire on Australian sporting tribalism, the film remains stagy, and the performances unmodulated. The aggressive dialogue that worked so well in a theatre becomes a bit more like a shouting match on film, and some of the comedy disappears.
The play was set in an unnamed club that was obviously Collingwood, the team that Williamson grew up supporting (before he switched to the Sydney Swans). The film was largely shot in Collingwood’s old headquarters at Victoria Park, and clearly identifies the team as Collingwood.
Although its characters are fictional, the types are instantly recognisable to audiences: the self-made Ted Parker, a meat pie millionaire; the scheming Jock, a drunken buffoon with a mean streak (Frank Wilson); the oily administrator (Alan Cassell), plotting the demise of both Parker and the coach (Jack Thompson). The less familiar character – and the least believable – is the Tasmanian star played by John Howard, who arrives at the club as the most expensive recruit in league history and then refuses to play, because he’s having an existential crisis.
The play was written at a specific time, when professionalism was taking over the game and changing the idea of club loyalty among players and coaches. It was intended as a satire, not just on sport, but society in general, and masculine codes of behaviour in particular. While some of it is now less potent, much still resonates.
Notes by Paul Byrnes
This clip shows the ruthless internal politics of a fictional Australian Rules football club. Club president Ted Parker (Graham Kennedy) is put under pressure to resign after allegations of sexual misconduct have surfaced in the press. Ted vigorously defends his position to the committee and reveals his determination to survive the media onslaught. The guarded comments of ex-coach Jock Riley (Frank Wilson) and administrator Gerry Cooper (Alan Cassell) develop into open attacks on Ted. Ted’s fate is sealed when current coach Laurie Holden (Jack Thompson) suggests that Ted should bow out gracefully.
Educational value points
- The clip explores a transitional phase in Australian Rules Football. Often referred to as 'Aussie Rules’, the first Australian Rules competition was played in Melbourne in 1866. The Victorian Football League (VFL) was established in 1896 and by 1925 it comprised 12 clubs. By the end of the 20th century, many clubs had merged in order to survive financially and, as a reflection of its national focus, the VFL expanded into the Australian Football League (AFL) and set about relocating Victorian clubs and developing new clubs interstate.
- Inspired by the internal politics of the Collingwood Football Club, The Club was filmed in 1980 when football was changing from a game played between local clubs into a highly professional corporatised national sport in which administrators were increasingly driven by the corporate dollar.
- Before the emergence of the commercialised sports culture, clubs were based on distinct regions, with a sense of community that was inseparable from locality. Competition often developed into a fierce tribalism, reflecting the socioeconomic and political leanings of each area. However, the establishment of a national administration, as well as changing employment patterns and demographics and the effect of mass media on the viewing audience, brought about the breakdown of many traditional locality-based clubs and the grassroots communities that supported them.
- The clip raises issues about the changing nature of sports communities that continue to be relevant into the 21st century. The role of television (live-to-air and pay TV) in providing national and international coverage of sport, and the increasing importance of the Internet, have created new ways of experiencing and engaging in sporting culture and new ways of linking diverse groups of people beyond the traditional confines of geography and local patriotism.
- Dynamic editing is used to create a sense of intrigue and tension. The rhythm of the editing, and the sequencing of wide shots with dramatic close-ups, produces an increasingly tense atmosphere as the committee members play out their agendas and Ted is forced to stand down.
- Australian actor Jack Thompson is shown in an early performance. Thompson achieved wide recognition during the 1970s for his performances in films such as Sunday Too Far Away and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith and he gained international acclaim with Breaker Morant. Since the 1980s, Thompson has enjoyed an international career with films such as Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Black Rainbow, The Wind, Broken Arrow, Excess Baggage and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
- The focus of the clip is club president Ted Parker, played by legendary Australian entertainer Graham Kennedy in one of his early film roles. Known as 'the king of comedy’ for his comic genius in radio, television and film, Kennedy established his career in radio and then branched into television in 1957 as host of In Melbourne Tonight, followed by The Graham Kennedy Show. By the mid-1970s he had moved into acting, and his films included Don’s Party, The Club, Travelling North and The Odd Angry Shot. Kennedy continued to work in television, on Blankety Blanks, Coast to Coast and Graham Kennedy’s Funniest Home Video Show. Despite his fame, he was an intensely private man and, in his later years, became almost reclusive. He died in 2005.
- The film is an adaptation of his own work by one of Australia’s best-known playwrights, David Williamson. Since the 1970s, Williamson has written prolifically for theatre, film and television. His plays include The Removalists, Don’s Party, The Club, Travelling North, Celluloid Heroes, The Perfectionist, Emerald City, Top Silk and Brilliant Lies. Along with The Club, Williamson’s screen adaptations of his plays include The Removalists, Don’s Party, Travelling North and Brilliant Lies. His original screenplays for feature films include Gallipoli, Phar Lap and The Year of Living Dangerously. In 1971, he became the first person outside Britain to receive the George Devine Award (for The Removalists). Williamson has been named one of Australia’s Living National Treasures.
- The Club is an early feature film by renowned Australian director Bruce Beresford, who worked as a film editor before turning his hand to filmmaking. His first feature was The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, and he became part of the 'new wave’ Australian cinema period that emerged due to funding initiatives under Prime Ministers Gorton and Whitlam during the 1970s. His international career was launched in 1980 with the acclaimed Breaker Morant. His film credits also include Don’s Party, The Getting of Wisdom, Puberty Blues, Tender Mercies, The Fringe Dwellers, Driving Miss Daisy and Paradise Road.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia
This clip starts approximately 1 hour 4 minutes into the feature.
We see men standing tensely around the committee room.
Coach Exactly how badly was she hurt?
Ted Parker I hardly touched her. By the time the press have got through with it, it will sound like we went 15 rounds.
Coach Well, who told the press?
Jock Riley God knows we did everything possible to keep it quiet at this end.
Ted You need me around here, Gerry. I’ve fought a pitched battle against the entrenched forces of conservatism and won! In fact, I’ve been so bloody successful those very same forces have turned around and adopted my ideas as if they were their own!
Gerry Cooper Are you referring to me?
Ted Yes, I am referring to you! Because of what I’ve done, we’re going to have the greatest years we’ve ever had. We’re going to have a triumph that will make the famous years of the ‘20s look pale by comparison, and I’m going to be here while it’s happening. No little trollop’s going to deprive me of that. The committee will stick by me to a man.
Gerry Wanna bet?
Ted Stake my life on it.
Gerry Then you’re a dead man. I’m going to move that you stand down.
Ted You won’t get it seconded.
Gerry Wanna bet?
Ted You’ll never get the numbers. Ian and Kevin and Jeff are my personal friends.
There is silence in the room.
Jock If the feeling around the committee is that you should resign, Ted, it’s not necessarily that we don’t believe you’re innocent, or we’re not your friends. It’s just that the committee, unfortunately, has to face realities. The reality is that we can’t afford to jeopardise the credibility of the club by retaining a president who’s… erred in the way the public is going to… (coughs) …think you’ve erred.
Ted What kind of logic is that?
Jock Business logic, Ted. You brought it to this club. And you were right. Loyalty to any one individual is a luxury we can’t afford in a business with a multimillion-dollar turnover. You’ll get my vote to retain you, of course. But if the consensus goes the other way, I hope you’ll understand their viewpoint.
Coach They’re going to get you, Ted. Give up gracefully.
Ted I’ve had my differences with you, Laurie, but I’ve been a good president. Not a – not a great one, but a good one. They won’t throw me out if I lay my record on the line.
Coach You’ve served your purpose, Ted. They don’t need you anymore. If they didn’t need me, they’d sack me too.
Ted Well… no-one’s going to sack me. I’ve just resigned.
Jock Oh, I’m sorry this has happened, Ted. You have been a good president. You certainly won’t be forgotten. You fought to get me my job here.