WORDS: Celia Drummond
PICTURES: Brooke Sleep
PRODUCER: Sarah Morton
THE SCENES in the changerooms when the Broadbeach Cats won their first premiership in 25 years were incredibly special. Photographer Brooke Sleep was there to capture all the usual player celebrations, while also keeping a keen eye on two particular people in the rooms that memorable day late last year.
Upon soaking up the win with his charges, Cats senior coach Craig O'Brien called all the club's volunteers into the centre of the player huddle to firstly sing the team song, and then to thank them for their commitment and support of the team as they won the premiership.
This special bunch of volunteers included husband and wife team Ray and Joy Johnson, both life members of the Broadbeach Cats.
Observing how happy and emotional Ray and Joy were in the rooms at that moment tugged at Brooke's heart strings.
"It was incredibly beautiful to witness, that even in the chaos around winning a grand final, there was such an awareness in the playing group to honour and thank the volunteers that supported them to get there," Brooke recalls.
These beautiful images are Brooke Sleep's entries into #FootyFocus22, with thanks to Toyota. Brooke is no stranger to a candid snap at the Cats, taking these memorable pics of Jessica and Lola Harvey in 2021.
Brooke loves covering the on-field action with her camera, yet thinks some of the best snaps in her collection are those candid off-field moments taken away from the action.
"Whether it's a family spectating, a volunteer undertaking their regular game day job, or players warming up, these raw moments are the best way to showcase the focus, determination and passion of our club," Brooke says.
Looking back on Brooke's images taken from the inner sanctum on grand final day last year, Joy Johnson gets goosebumps remembering the celebrations.
"It was bloody fantastic being part of the day and seeing the sheer happiness on all the familiar faces around us," Joy recalls.
"With all the emotion of winning the premiership for the first time in 25 years brimming over, it brought tears to many people's eyes," she says.
Joy and her husband Ray, who just recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, have been volunteering at the Broadbeach Cats for 29 years. Since their son Travis started playing in the under-8s in 1993, they have become an integral part of keeping this family-focused club running.
"Through our son's junior years, I have had varied roles including team manager for many sides, statistician, and I've also worked in the canteen. Ray has been on barbecue duty and anything else that was required," says Joy.
Ray is no stranger to the game, having played for Footscray under 19s in Victoria in the 1940s. Now, at the ripe old age of 91, he is the Cats' timekeeper and Joy is the team manager for the club's reserves side.
On a typical day, Ray makes sure his trusty, old timeclock is wound up and that he also has the correct time on his regular, modern watch. He'll then commence his duties ensuring matches are kept to the correct time.
Joy makes sure everything runs smoothly until the reserves take the field.
"I check jumper numbers are correct, exchange team sheets with the opposition and the umpires. I then keep score, record goalkickers and help vote on best players," Joy explains.
Joy's information is then given to match officials to submit to AFL Queensland.
"I then make sure jumpers are all collected for cleaning," she adds.
Once the pair's main duties are complete, they'll then sit and watch the seniors play, with Ray keeping score.
"Ray and Joy almost always have a pair of binoculars handy and are extremely focused on tracking the play from their camp chairs. That's the norm on game day but I love capturing it as often as I can," Brooke says.
Brooke knows how important her images can be in highlighting the effort club volunteers like Joy and Ray put into supporting the players and the club week in, week out.
"When you look beyond the boundary you see how many people are involved in making a game day happen. I think it's so important to highlight those people on a regular basis," she says.
"Brooke takes sneaky photos when you are not looking, and usually they are the best ones," adds Joy with a laugh.
The Cats are truly a club that appreciates and respects its volunteers and know they wouldn't be the reigning premiers without them. Like many community footy clubs, the biggest challenge the Cats have is getting enough volunteers to help.
Despite this, both Brooke and Joy are big advocates for becoming a volunteer and value how rewarding it can be.
"It's a great way to meet new people and stay active, especially if you don't necessarily play sport but are keen to be involved," says Brooke.
"I can't express enough the purpose, support and friendships I've received being involved with the Broadbeach Cats. I look at Ray and Joy and see how passionate and dedicated they are to their roles, and to the club. I hope they know how big of a role they play in making Broadbeach feel like a family."
Joy shares the same sentiment: "Broadbeach FC has been fantastic to us for the past 29 years. It is a wonderful feeling being part of this club."
#FootyFocus22, thanks to Toyota's Good For Footy program, is now open for entries! Here's your chance to shadow and shoot with Michael Willson and Dylan Burns at a game in 2023. We want to see your photos that capture the essence of our great game at a grassroots level. To enter, upload your best community footy photos taken during 2022 to: http://footyfocus22.afl/