Senior coach Jarred Paull speaks to his players in the Central Broken Hill Magpies changerooms at half-time during a game. All pictures: Patrick Reincke

IT'S HALF-time, and the Broken Hill Central Magpies are down by 71 points.

This is the striking image within the inner sanctum changeroom submitted by budding photographer Patrick Reincke as his entry into this year's AFL Footy Focus community photo competition. It evokes memories of the competition's inaugural winning entry, Amber Noseda's intimate snap of the Apollo Bay Hawks.

Central may be out of the contest in this game, but despite this, teammates sit side by side, tuned into to the encouraging words of player/coach and 250-gamer, Jarred Paull.

With a proud history, the mighty Magpies were founded in 1890. Their last premiership, however, was in 2010 and since then it's been seven wooden spoons, one finals appearance and lots of half-times like this one.

There are four clubs in this famous mining town: North, South, West and Central. All have shift workers in their line-ups. 

"A Central side that beat North last week could have 15 players unavailable next week because of the mining rosters," explains Patrick.

"Players can move shifts around to play certain games and the mines facilitate this, especially when it comes to a Grand Final."

Central Broken Hill's home ground, Memorial Oval. Picture: Patrick Reincke

If the mining roster wasn't enough to deal with, the extreme weather - of which this part of the country has seen more than its share - likes to make it hard for the players from all sides of the Broken Hill Football League to perform at their best. 

"Pre-season training can be conducted in 45-degree heat and of course, we slip, slop, slap and keep well hydrated but ... it's 45 degrees! In contrast, we've also had dust storms roll through at times, cutting visibility," Reincke said. 

"In the middle of winter, we can get rain and hail, but the area needs it so we're happy to play in it."

A dust storm in Broken Hill. Picture: Patrick Reincke

With so much against them, why do the Magpies keep turning up?

It's a simple reason.  

"Love for the club," Reincke said. 

Two years ago, player and diehard Magpies supporter Bayden Quinn took his own life. 

Jordan Gliby, a close friend of Bayden and a Central player himself, wanted to advocate for mental health in the aftermath of his mate's tragic death. He challenged himself to run the 25 kilometres from Silverton to Broken Hill, to raise money for Lifeline. 

"In his head, he thought he would raise a couple of hundred dollars but instead, a team of 10 Central players joined him. He was surrounded and followed by a convoy of cars and in the end, they raised $17,000," Reincke recalled.

This was followed by a cycling event dubbed 'Ride for Quinny' that raised more than $50,000 and saw more Broken Hill locals break out the lycra for the good cause.

For the Pies, the club isn't just part of the community, it is the community. They are a team that band together and have each other's backs when it's needed most. And like most country footy clubs, it has its fair share of spirited members.

When veteran 300-gamer Justin 'Bongo' Heath isn't getting a rubdown to make an appearance on the field, he's a runner for the A Grade team. Sheldon Hall, who can no longer play footy because of too many knocks to the head, is now Central Women's coach and, to date, they have just lost the one game for the season. 

Central Broken Hill's Teagan Coombes helps opponent Tayla Frizell to the bench after Frizell dislocated her shoulder. Picture: Patrick Reincke

"The club is filled with a remarkable number of volunteers and supporters that donate their weekends, weeknights and spare time to keep the team running, chase players, handle finances and much more," Reincke said.

While the side still chases its first win since 2018, the camaraderie stays strong through regular club events, none bigger or more prestigious than the annual 'Stew Day'.

"You leave your worries at home, come to the club on a Sunday dressed in your worst outfit, and eat a delicious stew together that has been cooked in a fire pit," says Patrick.

Despite the adversity and the challenges, this club in the heart of The Silver City shines. 

A champion team, even without a premiership.

Do you have your own community footy photo to share? Enter #FootyFocus21 here for your chance to shoot with AFL chief photographer Michael Willson.