Rugby league the star of new film
Rugby league's presence on the big screen has been few and far between but mad Panthers fan Heath Davis is hoping to shed new light on one of society's most difficult issues through the travails of a retired NRL star.
Starring Steve Le Marquand as former Dally M medallist Ben Kelly, Broke boasts a roll call of some of Australia's finest acting talent including Claire Van Der Boom, Max Cullen, Steve Bastoni and our very own NRL.com columnist Brendan Cowell.
It depicts Kelly's addiction to gambling following the end of his football career and how through rugby league he is able to win back the trust of not only friends and family but also the community that idolised him at the height of his powers.
Producer of the film, Luke Graham, is the son of legendary Kiwi and North Sydney Bears forward Mark Graham and the flashback sequences of Kelly's playing days are actually of Graham in his heyday.
"We needed some flashback sequences and Steve Le Marquand looks a lot like Mark Graham," Davis explains. "So we ended up using Mark Graham as the character he once was and used those old North Sydney Bears colours which is great because it was the producer's father, and my grandfather was a diehard Bears fan and everybody feels sorry for the Bears.
"They got a raw deal and he's sort of a down-and-out working class hero. It would be great to get all the Bears supporters back and a part of something."
A rugby league tragic who grew up playing for the Colyton Colts alongside future Test and Origin star Craig Gower, Davis himself trialled for the Eels' SG Ball team before a broken leg brought his rugby league dreams unstuck.
With strong rugby league ties he watched on as former teammates were caught in gambling's vice-like grip and said the growing issue and his desire to see rugby league featured in film inspired the script.
In recent years films such as The Final Winter and Footy Legends joined The First Kangaroos as rugby league inspired movies and Davis said he wanted to produce a film that would connect with rugby league people, such as himself.
"I used to see famous players even when I was younger punting every weekend and losing all their weekly wages," Davis said.
"A couple of players specifically were my childhood heroes and then I'd see them down and out just a few years after their careers. I'd be like, 'What happened to this guy.' I just wish I could take him home and shake him up and try and turn his life back on track.
"More and more recently the issue became more pertinent and I thought, There's a film here.
"Brendan Cowell and I, Steve Le Marquand, there are a few of us that love sport but a lot of the people that love film or arts in the country aren't big sporting fans and they're definitely not NRL fans.
"I was determined to show these people as salt-of-the-earth people. I live in western Sydney and I was determined to try and show it in a somewhat classy and mature light but real at the same time.
"My film deals with a bigger issue and rugby league is the background in it. The story is really a relationship/redemption story and a compassion film but rugby league is the landscape that it plays on.
"He could have been a boxer, he could have been anything and I think that's the strength of the film too."
In addition to screenings at film festivals in Auckland and Manchester preview screenings are planned for Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Canberra and Wollongong before the Sunset Cinemas screening at North Sydney Oval prior to the start of the 2016 Telstra Premiership season.
The film will have its official premiere where it was filmed in Gladstone in Queensland before embarking on regional tours of both Queensland and New South Wales.