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Memories of hard-hitting days

PUBLISHED: 16:51 31 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:21 03 July 2010

Miles Jermy

The 1980s were well known as the era of big shoulder pads on TV series such as Dynasty and Dallas.

But it was a sporting accessory rather than glamorous fashion statement in a film shot in Great Yarmouth two decades ago.

The 1980s were well known as the era of big shoulder pads on TV series such as Dynasty and Dallas.

But it was a sporting accessory rather than glamorous fashion statement in a film shot in Great Yarmouth two decades ago.

The one-off BBC drama Defrosting the Fridge featured a no-hope American Football team knocked into shape by a no-nonsense Texan coach.

The 1988 film was the subject of a recent article in the Mercury after featuring in the Questions to Answer section of the paper with a reader asking if anyone could recall it being shown.

It brought back memories for Nigel Hadley who was one of the members of the fictional Trawlers - the worst American football team in England. At the time Nigel, from Scratby played for Bradwell-based East Coast Leopards when the game was at the height of its popularity in Britain.

Nigel, 46, rubbed shoulders with stars of the film including veteran Hollywood actor Joe Don Baker who would later star in the James Bond movies GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies.

He spent six weeks recording scenes for the film that was shot at locations including the Wellesley Ground, the old South Denes caravan park and Gorleston Cliff Tops.

“The BBC contacted the governing British American Football League and they forwarded our contact details. We were exempt from Equity membership as technically we weren't being paid,” said Nigel.

“All we had to do was play football. It was easy, the days were long but we were well looked after by the BBC - particularly the caterers.”

In a classic tale of achieving triumph from disaster the Trawlers turned from chumps to champs in the film that culminated with a match against a team from a nearby USAF base.

A project manager with Norwich-based Hubbard Architectural Metalwork, Nigel had taken up American Football the previous year after playing rugby for several seasons.

He was one of around 20 team members of the East Coast Leopards hired for the film and appeared in most of the action scenes.

He went on to enjoy success playing for Ipswich Cardinals and Norwich Devils and then coaching Norwich and Kent Exiles.

One of the hardest aspects of the filming was putting sporting pride to one side during scenes from games when the Trawlers were on a losing streak.

“As the Trawlers were hopeless they asked us to play a game against a team from a higher league which they would film for background shots and we would get well beaten as the plot dictated,” recalled Nigel

“However, after several of our opponents were removed injured, one requiring a trip to the hospital with a dislocated shoulder, we were reminded of the film and could we please let them score!

“The film wasn't well received, but it was spot on - dozens of teams in the UK started just like the Trawlers.”

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