Cricket story hits a six for film industry
Cricket story hits a six for film industry

Let's face it; Australian movies were as daggy and dated as day-old Pavlova last year. Comedies such as Kath & Kimderella, A Few Best Men, Mental and Any Questions for Ben? rolled out ocker gags and caricatures rather than characters.

Yet the new Aussie cricket comedy Save Your Legs! may just be the shot that puts the runs back on the local film scoreboard. Unashamedly Australian without nose-diving into bawdy backyard humour, it follows a D-grade Melbourne cricket team on an adventure-filled tour of India.

It's the kind of feel-good bromance about mateship and the love of the gentleman's game that cricket and non-cricket fans will enjoy. But if you think stars Stephen Curry, Brendan Cowell and Damon Gameau are playing fictional characters, think again.

Save Your Legs! - named for the cry heard from the crowd when a batsman scores a boundary - is inspired by a real-life D-grade Melbourne cricket club, the Abbotsford Anglers, and their hapless 2001 tour of India.

Along with original Anglers member Nick Batzias, who went on to co-produce Save Your Legs!, former Fremantle Dockers captain Peter Mann had a spell as an Angler and recalls their madcap tour of India fondly.

"When I finished footy with Fremantle in 1999 I went over to Melbourne for work," he said of the five-week, five-city tour that inspired the film.

"I got caught up playing for the Abbotsford Anglers and went on the tour with them in May of 2001. I had a wonderful time. I've been on plenty of footy trips in my time, but they were quite sedate compared to this cricket trip," he said. "I'll spare you the gory details but I made some lifelong friends on that tour and it really cemented that ethos of camaraderie and friendship that the club is famous for."

Director Boyd Hicklin, who previously made a TV documentary about the tour, captures that sense of mateship through 30-something cricket tragic Teddy (Curry), who plans the tour in a desperate bid to hold on to his childhood dreams.

His two best mates (Cowell and Gameau), however, are finally growing up and moving on with their lives. It causes plenty of upheaval on the tour - but not before a big Bollywood dance number and some male bonding.

"Our ability was a fair bit lower than the teams in India, where cricket is a religion," said Mann, who played 77 games for Freo and now works as a water engineering consultant.

"I think the organisers over-sold our ability a bit because we were well beyond our capabilities against almost everyone we played against. We played five matches in five cities and we didn't win one of them. But I did score a hat-trick on the day Boyd made the documentary, which inspired him to include it in the film."

Just like the real 2001 tour, the cast and crew of Save Your Legs travelled to India, with the bulk of filming in Varanasi, Kolkata and Mumbai. Curry, Cowell and Gameau admit they didn't need coaching to play D-grade cricketers but did catch a nasty bout of gastro just like the men who inspired their characters.

"It wasn't pretty," Mann recalled.

"Between games we all went off in groups on our own adventures. We had some good food and some really bad food. We missed planes and buses and had to make our own way to places. They were some of the hardest times. They were also the best parts."

And Mann, who made the trip to Busselton for the film's WA premiere at Cinefest Oz last August, said the filmmakers got it just right.

"It's good to see a positive, humorous, inspirational Australian movie. It has that wonderful Australian sense of humour and it definitely taps into the passion for cricket and the camaraderie of the club. I think it's great."

The West Australian

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