Book Review; Footrot Flats Sports Collection
Very popular in Australasia and in the UK, Footrot Flats was a comic strip devised by Kiwi Murray Ball which was printed in newspapers for close to 30 years. I remember reading it every day in the Christchurch Press and also owned a few of the 20-odd volumes that came out, almost yearly. It was turned into a movie (with a hit title song, personally Dave Dobbyn does my head in, but this a classic tune) in the 80s but it all came to an end when the muse for the main character, The Dog, died.
This volume is a collection of sports anecdotes which are so funny as they are so easily related to, especially by those of us who were week-day farmers and weekend warriors on local sports fields.
If those of you around the world can get your hands on any Footrot Flats, I recommend you do so although some of it will be lost on you.
As sourced from Wikipedia;
The cartoon was based around the life of Wal Footrot’s sheepdog, called “Dog”, on their farm Footrot Flats, and the other characters, human and animal, that came into their lives. The Dog’s thoughts are voiced in thought bubbles, though he is clearly “just a dog” rather than the heavily anthropomorphised creatures sometimes found in other comics or animation. The humour was based around the foibles of the characters, which many, particularly farmers themselves, found easy to recognise around them. There was much “humour in adversity”, making fun of the daily struggle that permeates farming life. The depictions of the animals are quite realistic and detailed, with a dose of comic anthropomorphism superimposed without spoiling the farming realism.
Sport plays a major part in Footrot Flats. Wal plays all sorts of sports including cricket, golf, fishing, rugby union, tennis and many more. The dog often plays with Wal and an ongoing joke in the strip is how Wal can never beat his little brother Rex in any sport.
Wal plays for the Raupo rugby club as a hooker and is often seen playing and training in the strip. At one point Wal was replaced by a younger man as he was getting too old, but the younger player wasn’t as good. The final few strips ever drawn involve an unlikely chain of events which culminate in Wal somehow scoring a try against a touring international rugby side.
In the cricket season Wal plays for an unknown team as an all-rounder, although he is sometimes pictured as the wicket keeper. Cooch often plays cricket with Wal and so does the dog, usually fielding in the slips or in the covers.
Cooch also plays golf with Wal who has a homemade course on his farm. Cooch is better than Wal at golf, even though the course is very hard (the first hole is a par 14). When they do play on a real course Cooch usually wins. Wal claims that the trees are on Cooch’s side.
Wal also occasionally plays tennis with Cheeky Hobson and fights for her affections with Nigel Erkstine, another member of the tennis club. The dog is usually the ball boy.
Wal and Cooch frequently fish in various ways: whitebaiting, long line fishing, and most often floundering.
Other sports that get mentioned in Footrot Flats are boxing, polo, soccer, squash, and shooting.