Western Magpies favourite son, dual Bill Peirce medallist and triple Premiership player Jimmy Rozynski is having a stint playing football in country Victoria this season and has the locals liking what they see from the Queensland hard nut.
After a few outings for the Woodsmen in 2014 and early 2015, Jimmy was convinced to play at Mitiamo in north central Victoria by a couple of old protagonists in ex-Palm Beach-Currumbin players Michael L'Anson and James Drake who had already joined the small town team. Also joining them is evergreen and prolific QAFL goalkicker Korey Fulton.
The Palm Beach boys were asked if they knew of any other players who may be interested in playing and they immediately nominated Rozynski who joined the club a couple of games into the season. This also shows the high regard he has amongst players he has played against i some tough battles over the years.
Rozynski saw this as an opportunity to be paid for his obvious football ability and he will use these funds for a planned overseas trip with his wife later in the year.
All four Queenslanders are FIFO players and it is a long day for them as Jim flies from Brisbane on Saturday morning, leaving his home west of Ipswich at 4am on Saturday morning to fly out of Brisbane to Melbourne where he coordinates with the other three who fly out of the Gold Coast.
They then pick up a hire car and drive the 2.5 hours north to play for the Mitiamo "Super Roos" in the Loddon Valley League which is comprised of 9 clubs from small towns/villages north and west of Bendigo.
After the matches they then jump in the car and drive back to Melbourne to catch flights back to Queensland - with Jimmy arriving home at about 1 am each Sunday morning.
Mitiamo is in a wheat and sheep growing area about 50 km north of Bendigo and has a population of about 150, yet fields 2 senior teams, an under 17 and Under 14 team and 6 netball teams. There is a gate at each match -about $10 entry (and a printed programme!!!) - and local farmers donate a truck load of wheat or some lambs to the footy club each year to help fund the club. Locals all purchase a membership package of between $100-200 per year to support the club as well.
Jim was an instant hit with the Mitiamo crowd as in his first match he managed to "run through" the opposition coach, ex Carlton and Richmond footballer Andrew Collins, placing him firmly on his backside, and as many Western Magpie fan will attest, with J-Roz puts a hit on, blokes stay hit! They loved him straight away as we at the Magpies have loved the hard and fair way Jimmy plays the game. He has been among the best players in each match he has played but has missed a few recent games due to a hip injury. He was among the best players on his return from injury in their loss Saturday week ago to the second placed team which has the side in fifth place on the ladder.
Jimmy was blown away by the support and the size of the crowds at each game as he soon realised that football is the life blood of many of these communities and is the glue that hold the towns together. In country Victoria netball has always been aligned with football and all clubs now are called "Football Netball" clubs and have combined committees. Netball is now as important as the football to these clubs. If you were a thief, then all you have to do is look at the footy draw, work out when the locals are playing away and got to work as most towns are deserted on Saturday afternoon as everyone goes to the footy and netball.
Once upon a time the farms were smaller and had plenty of farm workers but many footy clubs in the bush now rely on players travelling from bigger centres to play.
In addition to the Queensland connection there are 5 players from Melbourne also travelling to play at Mitiamo and several other players who are ex-locals travelling from Bendigo to play. This is a familiar story in many small Victorian country towns as jobs dry up, farms get bigger and populations move to the bigger centres.
The Loddon Valley League is one of 49 leagues in country Victoria and there are another 5 leagues in southern NSW who all have similar structures. This shows how much football and netball is part of the fabric of life in country communities but the clubs in the small towns and villages are all starting to struggle for numbers. Many small towns have amalgamated and leagues have been re-aligned in recent years and this is likely to continue. There is one club in West Gippsland that is now comprised of 5 small villages and are nicknamed "The Allies".
There is no doubt that Jimmy will make an indelible mark on one small country footy club and in the future Mitiamo supporters will recall the exploits of that "hard nut" from Queensland who came down for one year and could really play the game.
If you are interested in following Jim's footy exploits log onto the Loddon Valley league website and for a rundown of Victorian country footy log onto the "countryfootyscores" website.