Australians love – sorry, make that, are obsessed with – sport, but that’s not what is so great about the brilliant 1997 doco, Year Of The Dogs. If you’re not a fan of AFL, or even of sport at all, don’t let that put you off seeking out this powerful work from filmmaker, Michael Cordell, who would later go on to co-create and produce the hugely successful reality TV series, Bondi Rescue and Go Back To Where You Came From. Pity the fool who bypassed Rats In The Ranks because they didn’t think that they were interested in local council politics.
Year Of The Dogs might not be quite as good as that seminal Australian masterpiece, but it’s definitely in the same league. For over a year, Cordell was a fly on the wall at the Footscray football club, capturing every ugly, shattering, and often hilarious moment of what would become their “annus horribillus”, with the team losing games, the front office in disarray, and the threat of a merger (the film was shot in the mid-nineties before AFL was fully nationalised) just around the corner.
The film documents the responses of the team’s various players, its embattled coach, and the hardscrabble fans. Year Of The Dogs has everything you want in a film: warm, engaging characters; high suspense; rich humour; and bumpy ups and downs. “This is a marvellously revealing study of an Aussie Rules football team on the rack,” Rats In The Ranks director, Bob Connolly, told FilmInk. “It’s a wonderfully tender and revealing study of Australian maleness.”