AND just like that, bush footy is back on once again.

The first rugby league teams west of Toowoomba to lace up are the Jandowae Fishhooks and the Dalby Diehards, who clash once a year for an exhibition match which is as much a social affair for Jandowae as it is an opportunity for local players to try and belt their mates from down the road.

The Fishhooks don’t have a regular senior club but there are enough footy enthusiasts living locally – or who call Jandowae their home town – to field a team to host the Diehards every pre-season.

The fixture has now been running for seven years and has included a women’s game for the past two.

The Dalby Diehards, who are part of the Toowoomba Rugby League men’s competition, are invariably favourites coming into the game and dominated throughout the early years before a rousing upset by the Fishhooks in 2022.

A crowd of close to a thousand turned out on Saturday night, making this event Jandowae’s largest community gathering since last year’s Timbertown Festival.

Impressive skill and physicality was displayed throughout the women’s fixture, especially considering many were playing only their second ever football game and some were running out for the very first time.

SLIDESHOW – IMAGES: Country Caller

Jandowae stayed within two points of Dalby until the second half, when the Diehards mounted on three unconverted tries to run away with a 20-6 victory.

But the score didn’t matter.

Debby Welsh, captain of the Jandowae Fishhooks, praised the efforts of all players from both teams for simply coming together and “having a crack”.

“We’re a big community group and it’s a great friendship. That’s why I came out again because everyone’s so welcoming,” said Welsh, who lives in Dalby but led the Jandowae team on Saturday.

Jandowae captain and dummy half Debby Welsh, who plays for Dalby during the regular season. IMAGE: Country Caller

“We all started playing last year and some of the girls went in and played a season with Dalby.

“There was major improvement. The girls have all improved. For a lot of us, last year was our first game. Some of us have now played a whole season and we’ve come back again nice and hungry to play again.

“We’ve all been good friends since last year so it’s good to put some shots on and then get up and pat each other on the back.”

Diehards and Fishhooks women’s team in a post match huddle. VIDEO: Country Caller

A minute’s silence was held before the men’s game to commemorate Alvie Wenham and Steven Blinco, local businessmen who were devoted sponsors and supporters of Jandowae rugby league, and who both passed away last year.

The Fishhooks came out to play with plenty of intent and within two minutes of kickoff winger Dean Wenham had crossed over in the south-eastern corner.

Captain Danny Wassell, whose textbook tackle on hulking Dalby prop Cody Riley was one of the plays of the night, combined with play makers Sam Greenup and Brayden Favley to give Jandowae pace and structure in attack.

Jandowae community gathers to watch the Fishhooks annual footy game. IMAGES. Country Caller

But equally slick was the Dalby spine led by halfback Alex Duneman. Fullback Travis Babington found space regularly and at one stage broke through before giving winger Alex Lindsay and inside ball for a well executed meat pie.

Jandowae were ahead 8-6 at half time but began to wear out over the second 40 minutes, allowing the Diehards to rack up four unanswered tries and a 24-8 victory.

“It was another fast game with the Diehards, played in great spirits.” Danny Wassell said.

“This game seems to be getting faster and better quality every year. This year they got the wood on us and last year we got the wood on them, so we’ll go back to the drawing board and get into it again next year.


Jandowae winger Dean Wenham being pulled up in attack . IMAGE: Country Caller

“There’s probably five or six boys from Jandowae who actually play footy (during the season for Dalby) and the rest don’t play footy all year, so for them to come out and put the jersey on for one game a year, and then put it to a team that plays once a week and trains twice a week, is a good effort.”

Western Downs councillor Andrew Smith, who took up commentary duties on the night, said the annual Fishhooks-Diehards fixture had become a highlight on the local calendar.

“Aside from the Timber Town Festival there’s probably no event in Jandowae that brings the community together like this does,” Smith said.

Best and fairest awards went to Jandowae and Dalby second-rowers Eddy Kelly and Sam Gillespie. IMAGE: Country Caller

“The Fishhooks have been phenomenal for the Jandowae community.

“It’s interesting. You’re watching the footy and then you turn around and half the crowd – with all due respect – probably aren’t here to watch the footy, they’re here to meet and talk and do what small communities do.

“It was a tough game of footy. It always is, and it’s great to see lots of people come out from Dalby as well. 

“There’s a bit of rivalry there. They go out there and they play hard, just as brothers do.”

Diehards and Fishhooks celebrate another match played in good spirits. IMAGE: Country Caller
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