AFL Grand Final: Half-time Legends

 

It’s half-time in the big one. The game’s a bottler. We’re all happy little Vegemites, excited, hairy, overgrown children, bundling out of Roland’s beat-up Grand Final shed to piss, fire up the barbie, wince at daylight, and kick the footy.

“You in it, Dippa?” I ask.

No idea how he got the nickname, he looks nothing like the old Hawthorn version.

“Half-time legends are what footy’s about!” Dippa smiles.

Half-a-dozen of us stroll through the broken fencing, past the rusted out Bedford and into the paddock proper, like duty and traditions. I roost the first one, and, oh, if feels sweet!

The footy is some sort of almost-leather, given to me for ten dollars by the local servo owner, about 23kms down the valley. It’s probably worth more, but the bloke can be generous like that. He’s a Brisbane supporter, in nowhere Tassie, flags, pictures all over the shop, out on the roadside.

Boogie half-marks over the Forestry ranger, and a girl called Trouble, then roosts it towards the stoners who’ve done all they can to make it out and watch.

“Why pick on them?” I snap at Boogie.

“Sorry, boys!” he says, goes over, gets the ball, which is at their unmoving feet, and kicks again.

We have to dodge a few cows at first. Their reflexes are worse than mine. It takes about five minutes of speckies and torps into their rears for them to finally say: “Hey, somebody’s in here with us!” jump as if they’ve been electric-prodded, then bolt into the gully.

Jack, who I coached in kids, but is all 6ft and dangly now, no longer has cattle to mark over, so uses me as a ladder.

We land in cow pads, I throw an old one at him like a frizbee.

“Punk!”

He laughs.

“What the hell is one of them?” he says, trotting off to kick the pill. “Are they like hippies?”

Dippa takes a grab… AND GOES FOR A RUN!

None of us are sure why? We just stand there, in the paddock, wondering what’s going through his head as he darts through the cattle, weaving past kicking hooves, swishing tails and shit. They bolt again, but he has them, is right in the middle, as if they’re his team, as if there’s more than just eight of us out here.

As if there’s a crowd. Stampeding towards goal with him.

He cuts back across the field, framed by hills and old, wire fences, roosting the ball when he gets close enough.

“You still got it, Dip!” I say, for something to say.

“That knackered me!” he heaves. “Why are we doing this?”

“Because we love it,” I tell him.

“Yeah?” he puffs.

“Reminds us what that stuff on the big screen is all about,” I insist, dropping a mark, scooping it up. sticking the forearm out at Jack, who’s back is to me, and kicking it away again.

Dippa’s run had killed him. He’s hunched over, trying to suck in air, so he can light another smoke.

“I was once fast!” he wheezes, as Trouble gets a kick and Jack takes a hanger over him. Or tries to. They both land in the cow pads, the ball bouncing about three meters from them. The grab was never going to happen.

Me, the forestry man and Boogie have a good laugh. Everything’s tradition, everybody’s having a kick, a laugh, across the nation, around the world. In cities, suburban streets, backyards, parks, outside pubs and surf clubs, on crusty desert planes, in army barracks, whites, Aboriginals, Europeans. Men, women, children, old dogs, young guns, tearaways, blue heelers, rich and poor. No talent required. Not a scrap of it!

This is what it’s about! Half time legends is football.

 

Dippa gets up off his arse, and chases Jack through the paddock. The kid runs, arms and legs dangling everywhere. The cows scatter again, Dippa can’t catch him.

“I can’t BELIEVE I used to be fast!” he shouts.

He could be again, if he got fit, but none of us are, so nobody’s judging.

 

For a second or two, though, running with the herd, he looked invincible.

 

Anyone got any half-time legends stories worth telling. I love them.

 

Comments

  1. Matt – half time. 1989. Cats trailing the Hawks by plenty. But we have G Ablett. We can win this. We go to Petrie Park and kick the footy. I’m pumped. Also have about 7 Caaaaarltons in my belly. I leap onto the shoulders of my mate as the ball floats into the goal square. I’m Jezza, I’m Peter Knights, Snake Baker, Van Der Haar. What a mark!

    But the stretch is too much. The arse tears out of my jeans. The Cats lose.

  2. 2003 GF – Emerald, Queensland. Well tanked at half time – let’s have a kick with the Queensland heathens. Before we left the house, one big rugby bloke from the Capella Cattledogs, or was it the Emerald Rams (or Clermont BushPigs), and I don’t know if he saw me say it, told no-one in particular – I’m going to take Cookie down. Whack whack whack. More hits in a half-time break than I’ve had in a lifetime of junior footy. Couldn’t help but giggle at the ridiculousness of it all. He wasn’t a bad bloke actually.

  3. Luke Ridgwell says:

    2007 GF – half time. A few groups always end up at the local oval for half time heroes, guys we see from a few years down from school only once a year. But this year there is more than ever. What is normally a 10 man kick to kick, becomes a 20 a side full on match. Clearly no one has any interest in returning to watch the cats in a cakewalk. Didn’t see any of the 2nd half. Still one of my favourite GF day memories.

  4. Shane Kennedy says:

    2003 GF – Torquay. Backyard was too small for a kick so we opted for the half time sprint. Stubbies in hand it was up the street, through the bottle shop driveway and back again, without spillage. It was sight to behold seeing 20 or so half cut men and women, in footy jumpers of various states of decomposition, charging through the bottle shop in full voice. The attendants just leaned back and had a chuckle, like they had seen it every day.

  5. From the yarns so far, this is going to be hard for Zurbo to award the 3,2,1

  6. Matt Zurbo says:

    Mate, Gold, Gold, Gold! I reckon! God bless the one Parra story. Thanks all three of you. Stoked! I hope the office crew on Monday morning get to see this and add to them!

    Here’s mine.

    Drove from the mountians into Apollo Bay for one GF, watched it with my great mate, Kenty, who owned and ran a surf and fishing shop, and all his surfie/fishing mates. We went out onto the street at half time to see the stoners walk out from their GF shed, all dazed and confused, to do the same. And it was on! A random match using tourist’s cars for goal posts. Stoners vs surfie’s and sales reps. The thin side street was chaos! Lots of wheezing, throwing up, half preend fights, kaugher, and we all driften in for when the game began again.

  7. 2006, with 12 people crammed into my innercity loungeroom, we repaired to the backyard to smoke and drink some more. Despite Strop’s claims that Sydney could come back, I spent the third qtr outside handballing and kicking with a six year old, with a beer in one hand and a joint in between my clenched teeth.
    Strop was right about Sydney coming back. Bad day for Barry to have the yips, it did something to him, he was never the same player for Sydney after that.

  8. Matt Zurbo says:

    Haha, I love any story with a Strop in it!
    (And reckon you’reright about Baz. I wonder if that day still haunts him?)

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    A GF we were watching at St Annes College we had drawn the names out of the hat 4 Sclulling re Kicking a Goal On the full etc Tim Plug Harcourt to Say he was struggling is a understatement were in the Parklands Plug goes for a mark doesnt lay a glove on the Sherrin comes down knocks his head he is out cold comes 2 luckily there is a girl who is not under the influence takes Plug to the RAH were he is admitted and is kept under observation till the next morning Plug you bastard you caused us to miss the 3rd Quarter !

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