WHAT Deakin University lacked in scoreboard pressure on the weekend, it made up for on the gate.
The Sharks hosted the Warrnambool and District league match against Panmure in Mortlake, the affiliated town that supplied most of Deakin’s juniors.
And while the university failed to score against the premiership favourite in the senior football contest, there was still plenty to celebrate.
Club vice-president Brendan Boucher yesterday told The Standard Deakin had enjoyed its biggest gate and canteen takings at D.C. Farran Oval since forming an alliance with Mortlake five seasons ago.
The refurbished kitchen also served up about 130 meals on both Thursday and Saturday night last week.
“It’s a real underdog story,” he said.
“We started with nothing but the town is starting to get right behind it. Any club has to build it off the ground and it takes time.
“We’re seeing people at the football who haven’t been in years.”
Deakin lost to Panmure 21.21 (147) to 0.0 (0) on Saturday, with Sharks president Luke Jackson later raising questions about the sustainability of the league.
Despite the loss, Boucher said the Mortlake division of Deakin University had developed into a welcoming, family unit and had a bright future.
With three junior football teams and four junior netball teams based in Mortlake but playing under the Deakin University banner, the young Sharks’ enthusiasm has captured the attention of the northern town.
He said it was only a matter of time until the strength and consistency of the juniors filtered into the senior ranks.
“The support for the Sharks in Mortlake is really good,” Boucher said.
“When we first started, there wasn’t any football or netball provided in Mortlake.
“Deakin gave us that opportunity.”
Boucher, a butcher in Mortlake, said the beauty of the rising Mortlake entity ensured money stayed in the town.
He said the junior department raised $10,000, which was matched by Moyne Shire, to renovate the kitchen and canteen facilities at D.C. Farran Oval, with the works completed about a month ago.
“We’ve just worked so hard,” Boucher said.
“It’s definitely the closest thing Mortlake people have had to having a football club for a long time.”
Boucher said the bond between Deakin and Mortlake was solid, most clearly shown by the adoption of the university’s trademark Shark Shuffle.
However, the youngsters still call themselves “Mortlake” when cheering on the field.
It is for this reason Boucher would like to see the junior department recognised as the Mortlake Junior Football Club.
“There’s a real desire for our club to have that identity,” he said.
“They need to be recognised for what they are.”