Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by ACM executive editor James Joyce.
Everyone was cold and wet - and barely recognisable under thick layers of mud.
No, it wasn't a party room meeting of Turnbull-era federal Liberal MPs circa August 2018.
It was Saturday's Aussie Rules match - Learmonth versus Hepburn - at Learmonth Oval outside Ballarat.
More in a moment on the weekend's merry mud-slinging in marvellously moist regional Victoria, and how the Facebook followers of Australian Community Media's The Courier responded warmly to its coverage of the grime scene at Learmonth.
First, to those smart cookies at the Regional Australia Institute, who say that more people should swap the outer suburbs of the state capitals for life and work in Australia's regional centres.
The institute has just released an online tool to help potential home-owners find out which areas beyond the big cities give them the best chance of paying off their mortgage faster.
Here at the Voice of Real Australia, we're loud and proud advocates of all those beautiful bits of our wide, brown, windy and currently partly snow-dusted land that aren't Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
So, we welcome the institute's call for an awareness campaign to encourage people to move to the regions to avert the economic consequences of Australia's stampede into a future of ever-sprawling megacities.
Writing today for Australian Community Media, RAI co-chief executives Dr Kim Houghton and Liz Ritchie challenge decision-makers to prioritise regional Australia and divert population growth to connected regional cities.
Back to that filthy footy frolic near Ballarat. In the last round of the Central Highlands Football League's home and away season, the Hepburn and Learmonth teams gamely played on as usually picturesque Learmonth Oval became a slippery, squelching, splattering mud bath.
Just like that federal Liberal party melee that ended Malcolm Turnbull's prime ministership a year ago, Saturday's winners (Hepburn, that's them in brown) were left heavily stained and soiled but managed to secure a place in the knockout final, while the losers (Learmonth, also in brown) were no doubt feeling a bit dirty as they trudged off to watch on from the sidelines.
But, as ScoMo himself might exalt, how good are the Facebook followers of The Courier? Hundreds of them loved photographer Kate Healy's fabulous photos from the footy.
On The Courier's Facebook page, football nostalgic Ian Haby's was not the only comment contrasting the majestic mess of Learmonth with the neat and tidy corporate image of modern professional sport: "Pansys nowadays under marvel roof wouldn't know what real wet weather footy was ..."
Sensible Fay Frawley had a handy hint for whoever was the poor sod on the roster this week to wash the jerseys: "Put the jumpers on the line and hose them down then leave overnight for a rinse. Job Done!!!! Hose the boys down too before they get a foot in the door!!!!!"
And thoughtful Debbie Von Burg posted on the therapeutic benefits of a dirt cheap exfoliation regime: "People pay a lot of money for a mud wrap, so it's a win-win cos it's good for their skin. But the footy gear can go in the bin!!"
Of course, weekend warriors across all sporting codes have been getting down and dirty week in, week out around the country since, well, forever. But we can't think of a better advertisement right now for the joys of regional city living than the gutsy fun and filth on show at Learmonth.
Cue our quietly genius slogan for the national campaign the Regional Australia Institute says is needed to help drive a population shift to regional centres in coming decades.
Drum roll: Where the muddy hell are ya?
It's a marketing hook we're sure will get a double-thumbs-up from Prime Minister Scott "How good are slogans!" Morrison, the former Tourism Australia chief who signed off on that memorably Ocker 2006 advertising campaign featuring Lara Bingle in a bikini diplomatically inquiring as to the approximate whereabouts of foreign holiday-makers.
As Bendigo and Adelaide Bank director David Matthews said at last week's launch of the RAI report in Melbourne, job opportunities are growing in regional Australia so there's more reason than ever for people living in the outer suburbs of the big cities to consider a change in lifestyle.
"Regional Australia has so much to offer, be it more affordable housing, a quicker commute to work and a safe welcoming environment to share with your family," Mr Matthews said.
You might get a little bit of mud on you, though.
A final word on the PM. If you're not familiar with ACM journalist Mark Bode's distinctive style of political commentary, why not start with his account of a recent fancy dress encounter with ScoMo in party mode dressed in a brown bear costume, and an earlier reminiscence about the pollie's history of slick self-promotion.
Warning: may contain traces of shameless fabrication and satirical imputation. And nuts.
See below for more stuff happening around the Australian Community Media network.
Executive editor, Australian Community Media
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