AGONISING LOWS ERASED BY GLORY

You may need to excuse me for this entry. It has been a long few weeks trying to overcome a roller coaster of emotion that in some ways is still riding out. But as the recent rainfall approaches a record for September (and October), here is my efforts to try to describe the last couple of weeks of our season, and as it turned out my playing days at just 26.

When last I wrote here it was the eve of the preliminary final, a game in which Brothers had home ground advantage against a side that we mere most confident of beating. Thanks to handy contributions from a number of players, we did this rather easily. Little thanks to me though, as for some reason I was left on the bench for all but 5 minutes of the game. There was no injury concern, no good reason for leaving me there  and no chance of adopting AFL style rotation given half the players would struggle to run to the bench in our grade. So instead of celebrating the fantastic achievement of making Grand Finals in both senior grades, all I did for the half hour after the game was just sit there as though we had lost after the last kick of the day. At the time I had an inkling that my services were not required for the next Saturday. As it turned out those thoughts were well founded.

It’s funny how many players talk of sacrifice to make a premiership dream a reality, just ask the 44 selected players and 6 emergencies who may yet get a chance in this Saturday’s decider. For those that missed out, you start thinking was it really all worth it? Whilst sacrificing a life is what the professional footballer faces to make the final cut, for me and my futile attempts a monetary value was able to be placed on it, which was close to $350 in lost wages and a further $650 investing on a new computer after the old one was damaged in a fit of rage (OK, truth was I busted the hard drive after an online game of Ludo went pear shaped, but that can’t get in the way of the facts). Indeed that’s what entered my mind on the Friday Night before the game as I walked home from a food run after work, and in the end I decided that I would not be attending the game the next day.
Those thoughts were still fresh in the mind as I woke up on Saturday Morning. As late as 11:00 AM (close to 2 hours before the reserves commenced and 4 hours before the seniors opening bounce) I still wasn’t attending. Heck I even told my old man of the news and he was even more peeved than I was over non-selection. It was then that something in my mind told me that even though the reserves may not need me, the senior side may still require my help given potential assistance from the playing reserves would be hard to come by, especially if they had won. So I decided to go, not wearing club gear but the Western Bulldogs club shirt that I had purchased earlier this year.

For many in our club, the remaining hours of Saturday, September 4 was a blur, but at the same time would be remembered forever. It was a tight battle for three quarters of the reserves game. We were trailing BITS at half time by 3 points, but we did regain the narrow 2 point advantage that was earned at the end of the opening term with the final 20 minutes to come. BITS didn’t kick a goal after three quarter time, in which time we slammed on 6 to storm to the flag. During the last 5 minutes there was hardly any room to move on the bench, with about 4 of the 7 players that missed out crowding the bench in readiness for the outpouring of joy. As the siren went, emotions ranged from tears from the coach and team manager, joy for the older players (veteran Tim Carroll hadn’t played in a premiership side, having done everything else including senior league B&F and Queensland Country representative to name a couple), sheer exhaustion for some (Darrell Newsome collapsed from exhaustion and dehydration and spent a few hours in hospital, he has recovered well), and mixed emotions for blokes like myself. The best on ground medal was claimed by our pint sized winger Joel “Whippet” Robinson, capping a remarkable couple of years for the relative novice having won the club reserves best and fairest in 2009 (his first season in the game).

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay with the lads for long. Having anticipated that my assistance would be utilized for the senior battle, I was asked to help run water for the team, an offer accepted without hesitation. Running water in this league is a lot different to the Victorian leagues. Instead of having people stationed at various points, it was usually a job for 2 or 3 people all operating from a central point on the bench and trying not to get in the way of either the play, or each other.

The game was as tense as any other I had experienced in a number of years. Having coasted for a number of weeks during a 14 game winning streak, our seniors were challenged by the battle hardened BITS side unlike most others. For a while it felt as though it was a repeat of North Melbourne’s 1998 GF performance kicking 2 goals 7 in the 2nd quarter, but we still held our nerve despite long periods of play without respite with the ball rebounding between the defences.

Into the last quarter, with the clouds rolling into the Rockhampton Cricket Grounds without threatening any precipitation. There was a time I remember the other water carrier (shall remain nameless but is the fiance of one of the players and a sister of an EX-AFL player….oops, sorry Michelle!) being ultra worried about the situation. I was a little calmer, but at the same time I was concerned. It took virtually all quarter for us to get the upper hand after the Saints had managed to nose in front early in the last. But a couple of late goals was enough to see us over the line by 10 points.

As the siren sounded I was drifting around our half forward line staying out of the way, when I saw someone (I believe it was Brad “Frex” Matheson) charging towards me and planting a bear hug. Some of the lads were too exhausted to really show massive joy, returning midfielder Brendan “Beak” Ridgley deservedly winning the BOG medal having been in just about every contest at ground level, making the mid season switch back from Moranbah worthwhile. For those who had played in the 2005 flag, it was certainly better now than it was in 2005 (the game that year was decided in the first quarter). For full forward Aiden Colbourne, his 6 goals took his season tally to 71 from 13 games to go with the Bernie Gottke Medal for league Best and Fairest. For coach Don Pollock, who had for many years taken charge of junior teams at club and representative level and being presented with junior league life membership earlier in the day, the win capped off the day perfectly for him.

That night was best left to the imagination in terms of celebration, but I do remember 4 things. Number 1 was the Doggies getting belted by Collingwood. The second was the sight of our players having a drink “Off The Wood” (our premiership trophy being a wooden shield, the Brothers name being engraved upon it for the 6th time in the seniors following wins in 1984-85, 1987, 1995 and 2005). The third was embarrassing our erstwhile full forward to a song created by ageless wonder Wayne “Schimma” Clifford to the tune of Waltzing Matilda (Kick it to Aiden). The final thing was turning up to work to sort letters the next morning at 5:30AM in the guernsey that I would have played in with Ridgley’s premiership medal that he gave to me after the game, saying that he would keep the BOG medal instead. I still have the medal in my bag somewhere…..

A week or so later it was onto the presentation night. It would have been good if I had some photos of the event or a pen to cover the #27 with signatures. But alas there was no pen and for some reason I misplaced the card required for my digital camera to save photos on. I didn’t win any awards as such, but it was discovered that I had played 146 senior/reserve club games, a figure which only a select few managed to exceed. In fact when my games were combined with my father’s, we were the only father-son combination to have played over 300 games for the club, and there are also 3 other brothers waiting in the wings (and a sister, although she’s more into The World Game). The club was also kind enough to get myself and the other 6 blokes who missed out a premiership medal, even though only one other who didn’t play in the game was there on the night. For the record the trophy cabinet for Aiden Colbourne was again overflowing winning the B&F for the club. Custodian Peter “Bendy” O’Brien took out the Reserves gong to add to the senior prize that he won for our disastrous 2007 campaign.

This concludes the playing days for myself, although I won’t be lost to the club for 2011. I’ll still be available to umpire junior games and help out the senior and reserves sides when and where required. There will be a few weeks where I’ll be elsewhere hopefully following the Doggies to break their long premiership drought. Now where are those runners so I can go for a 4:30AM run……

About Mick Jeffrey

32 Year Old, Bulldogs Member and tragic. Reserve Grade coach after over 225 combined senior/reserves appearances for Brothers AFC in AFL Capricornia. 11 time Marathon finisher, one time Ultra Marathon finisher and Comrades Marathon competitor 2017.

Comments

  1. Steve Fahey says:

    Mick

    Congratulations on a cracking story of grass roots footy, and of moving on from individual disappointment for the collective good. There is indeed no i in team !!

    Premierships are rare but community is always there

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