A game of football

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jethro's picture

The night before I usually dream of playing football. I take marks, kick the ball and play awesomely. It is great visualisation stuff and I always wake early and raring to go.

masters_20090419_349 The time before I leave the house is taken up with collecting my gear, double checking I have everything in my bag and making sure I leave on time. I am always early. Today I arrived 3rd to the ground, taking Miranda with me. Its cold and there is a chilly wind blowing, though the sunshine is warm. I feel old, cold and very fragile at this point. Doubts swirl in my head about my ability to perform.

I get a ball into my hand and go and kick a few shots – barefoot. I make all but one of them so feel very happy about my ability to kick goals, though I probably will play in the back line.

As the blokes start to arrive players deal with their preparation differently. Some joke around a lot, others quietly prepare on their own. I am one of those. Heading into the rooms the smells of stale sweat, damp clothing and the harsh sweet smell of deep heat hits your nose. I have a routine followed religiously for the past 30 years. I pull out my contacts first and get them into my eyes.  already have my shorts on having worn them to the ground. Then the socks come out and I work them on. I fumble a lot as I prepare, double handling things, checking and rechecking my gear, adjusting my socks just right. I pull on my boots one at a time, tightening the laces and double checking the bows.

I pull on my shirt and then look for some deep heat to rub into a tight hamstring.

The time has come and I can’t delay any further. I head out to the back ground where the boys are warming up. Some stretching, others handballing or kicking balls to each other. I stretch gently. I feel cold and old. In no way do I feel capable at this point. I can delay no longer and push out onto the boundary line shambling into a trot. The next 2 minutes will set up my day. I have to get my head right. As I ease into a jog I feel every bump on the ground. I feel my ankles correcting the roll where the ground is uneven. My breath tightens, my legs feel like lead and the doubts are pouring into my head. I am too old for this, I can’t possibly run this whole lap. There is no way my body is going to warm up. I get to the other end and go round the posts. Every muscle and tendon in my body is screaming at me to stop running and walk. This is where my head over rules. I know I can do this. I can force my body past this point – I have done it before I can do it again. As I get past the end of the 50 metre point I feel easier. I have pushed through the mental barrier and I am telling myself that I can do this. I am puffing hard as I do not let the pace up continuing all the way to the goals at the other end. Leaning up against the post I stretch my calves and get my breath back. Another player stretching there looks at me curiously as I am blowing hard.

I start marking balls being kicked into the goal and kick them back out. I am hitting them cleanly and accurately and I feel good.

We go into the rooms as a group for the final gee up by the coach before running out onto the ground. I cannot see the board but when I go up and check I am starting on the bench. We run out onto the ground, head down the other end of the field and start running through with handballs and then kicks. I am running well now, muscles now reacting to the requirements of the short sprint and slow down turn around and repeat.

The hooter blows and the benched players head off the ground and the game gets under way. The coach tells me I am subbing into the back line and I head down the boundary line at a trot. The doubts swirl back momentarily, but I push them away. Coming back I am called to change with my team mate coming off the ground and I have a 15 metre jog to get over to my man. He looks skinny and fast and I decide to play 10 metres in front of him until I get warm. He doesn’t seem inclined to argue the position and stays away from me near the boundary line. I switch men with the half back flank who wants a rest and soon get involved in the play with a bouncing ball coming at me. After wards one of my team mates said that was where I started the game well. Getting that ball cleanly into my hands and delivery a god kick to a running team mate that was cleanly marked lifted my confidence no end.

Shortly after the ball comes back down the same wing and is kicked high toward the player in front of me. I run hard and get under it as backs into me. I leap high over his head grabbing the ball cleanly with two hands and get a great contested mark. I feel great and move back off the mark to look for a team mate. I am hearing players screaming at me to deliver it to DJ but I can see him anywhere, but I can see scooter running into a gap around 30 metres away and I know I can make that distance so I kick sweetly through the ball watching it clear the players in front mf my team mate. Unfortunately he fumbles what should have been an easy mark and I sprint towards the contest, but we win it and the ball is kicked into our forward line.

We quickly get on top of the other team and head out to a 33-2 lead. At quarter time we come into the huddle and coach singles me out for praise for the work I just did, He leaves me in the same position for the next quarter. From here I note the same player is not looking very keen to get involved. I push up to the half back flank and tell Jeff to push up onto the wing. he nervously leaves his man and gets about half way up as the ball comes out the other teams back line and heads there. I scream at him to go and he breaks into a sprint and gets into the contest and takes a great contested mark. Turning he kicks into the center forward line and we convert that to a goal. as he comes jogging back with a big grin. I congratulate him on the mark and tell him that was his goal.

Now I feel no pain, i am running easily and feel strong and full of confidence in my ability. I cut off another pass, nearly marking it, gather on the bounce and head into trouble, delivering over the top of the players rushing at me with a looping handball that finds my team mate in the clear and the ball is delivered back up the field for another goal. I am getting congratulations from around the ground. I switch to center half back and have to mark a big tall strong player. As I body up to him and start to shove him he resists and complains I am taking the game too seriously. I respond that clearly his team isn't take it seriously enough and point at the score board. He doesn't like this and shortly afterwards as the ball is kicked to us I leap high over him and grab a mark. He clocks me in the ear with his fist and I respond angrily. My team mates calm me and I go back and kick the ball to a running team mate, and once again two kicks later we have converted into a goal. I feel that I am having a great game and am relishing the opportunity to shine in this position. A few more scrambled balls and hand balls come my way. One ball comes to me, and rather than pick it up and get tackled i bobble it forward with my foot, then step quickly after it and gather it, I get crunched into the ground with a hip and shoulder as I deliver a handball to my team mate but that just feels great. I get up shaking my head and the supporters on the sideline start giving it to my opposition player who wasn't even involved in that contest but stayed out. They are calling him soft and tell him to get into the game. I take the opportunity to go and use my extra 30 odd kilos to push him around a bit and once again he doesn't like this and tries to jog away from me.

Half time comes and we are in front 52-10.

The coach leaves me in the same position and we start off after half time with plenty of action. The ball is kicked out from our goal square and I take a mark. Going back the whole wing looks congested with every team mate being closely marked. I make the decision to run it and have a bounce. I run off at an angle but I am quickly closed down. the player on the mark comes hard at me and gets one arm around me but with a burst of strength I break clear. I have another bounce and look for a target but there's nothing. Suddenly as a player comes toward me he opens up a hole behind him and there is our big ruckman standing clear. I am able to handball to him and he quickly sweeps a handball of to a running player and the ball is delivered up the ground. I quickly switch with another player and go back to the big guy at centre half back. He gets away from me when I am directing other players and gets an easy mark as I chase him. He kicks it across the ground to one of his players and there is no one marking him, He is 10 metres out from the 50 and running and bouncing. I sprint as hard as I can toward him and as he kicks it throw my hands up in the air. I just get my hand on the ball and deflect it. It falls to the ground behind me and as the players there swoop on it it comes out toward me. I get a clean bounce and am able to deliver it by foot up the wing to a team mate who marks it cleanly, takes it under his wing and goes.

Predictably the opposition team play their hearts out this quarter, and out score us. The quarter ends at 52-17.

20090517_mvkedron_048We go into the 4th quarter determined to make amends for the poor 3rd quarter and we soon do. I am having less to do as my man is clearly not interested in getting the ball. The other team get a couple of goals but we get more. I get a couple of handballs, make some shepherds and attempt one hip and shoulder. I am pretty tired by now and starting to blow hard after runs, but I am recovering quickly and able to defend against a couple of opportunities the other team have.

We walk of the ground 75-29 winners and it is a great feeling. The pain and effort is forgotten as we head into the rooms to sing the team song. I get a mention from the coach but am not best on ground. I am not worried - I had a great game and I got lots of congratulations from other players on the way off the field.

I am stoked and on a high as Miranda and I eat a pie and chips, have a drink and chat to the team mates as we tell tall stories about how hard we went. The team motto – the older we get the faster we went!

Photos for this game should becoming soon. In the meantime here is a photo from a previous game.


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Anonymous's picture

What a great write-up!!

What a great write-up!! Really enjoyed the details and emotion from the situations. Good pictures too. Well done!