Playing for Keeps Review

Playing for Keeps is Ten’s latest Australian Drama offering but does it hit the mark or fall behind?

In Playing for Keeps, we are welcomed into the world of AFL team the Southern Jets when they welcome new recruit Daniel Fletcher (George Pullar, A Place to Call Home, Fighting Season), who arrives from a country town. Hot on his heels is his girlfriend, Paige Dunkeley (Cece Peters, The Wrong Girl, Catching Milat), a qualified teacher trying to get a job. The couple couldn’t be any more different than the team and their partners, and it’s Paige that struggles to fit in with the glitz and glamor.

In the series’ opening moments, Kath (Madeline West, Neighbours, The Wrong Girl) is giving an interview in which she states the wives and girlfriends (WAGs) of football, like the partners of anyone in society, come from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds- a lot of us don’t have anything in common except for the support we give our partners. This is true with the wives and girlfriends who welcome Paige into the club’s fold at a team party at the coach’s house- Kath, the elegant, astute and perfectly mannered wife to coach Brian (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Offspring, Love Child); Maddy (Annie Maynard, Dead Lucky), a high-flying lawyer and mother of two who is married to Travis (Kevin Hofbauer, Rush, Offspring), a recently retired player who consults at the club; Tahlia (Olympia Valance, Neighbours), a glamorous social media influencer and entrepreneur who is dating club captain Connor Marrello (Jackson Gallagher, Home and Away), and Jessie (Isabella Giovinazzo, Home and Away), a young mother with football aspirations of her own who is married to full-forward player Jack (James Mason, Neighbours).

Things really pick up when the players embark on a last-minute pre-season training camp, desperate to prove themselves after losing the grand final by a single point last year, but will it get the desired result or are secrets going to unravel the bonds? Meanwhile, the women attend Tahlia’s fragrance launch- will Paige survive the responsibilities of being a WAG?

The script written by Claire Phillips is a great setup to the series as it allows us to get to know all the key characters without feeling overwhelmed. As the pilot unfolds, it becomes clear that some people are not what they appear to the public.

The acting is great, with a mix of old hands and first timers all given the chance to shine. Cece Peters is an excellent choice for the role of Paige and its great to see some younger talent getting their chance to shine with dynamite performances from Olympia Valance, Jackson Gallagher and George Pullar in the pilot.

There’s nothing to fault- the script is engaging, the cast top notch, and the story is full of surprises. Did it hit the mark? Ten scored a goal with episode one.

5/5 stars

Playing for Keeps premieres 8:45 pm Wednesday September 19 on Ten.