Characters III: Almost Everybody Loved Brauz

 

 

Almost everybody loved Brauz. I did, in spades.

He was a freak of a player. CHF. Strong, like Ablett Sr. Could leap and kick like Ablett. Run and hit packs like Ablett. He had natural power. Head-to-toe. And never trained and was always on the grog.

He would win any 400 race, but only once. Do twice as many chin-ups as the laughing, wide-eyed, disbelieving gym boys, then throw up. Do push-ups forever, but only on a bet or dare, then die.

He had amazing natural balance. One function I found him in the gravel car park, standing in a puddle, in the constant drizzle, snoring like a saw. Even when he passed out he stayed on his feet.

He had a drunk’s humour. None of us wanted to be him, or would even try. Hell, he was a walking, talking cautionary tale. But most of us loved him for it.

At a very well-heeled Presentation Night, when his name was called for Leading Goal-Kicker, he fell backwards off his chair, sculled yet more red, got up on stage, took a massive speckie over the startled President as if his trophy was a footy, yelling “Brrraaazzzzz!”, then sat down again.

.

Some of the things he did were freakish. We were two points down, a minute or two left in a final. The ball got kicked to a pack on the fifty, near the boundary. He knew the game had to be won, so, totally out of position, leapt, rose above the pack like Roach, looked for the ball, saw it was passing on another line to him, threw his hands out to the right, and marked it two feet off his hip. Then landed, on his feet, amongst us mortals again.

Then put it through.

Then, a week later, had a brain snap and walked out on the club twice before the Grand Final, and, head all over the place, came back without training and played a shocker.

The coach hated him, no doubt. And me. Brauz and I were both scruffy and from the wrong sides of the tracks. His girlfriend was on drugs. His life was a mess. He was hopeless, but I had time for him. Empathy.

There was a great person in there. I barracked for the son-of-a-bitch.

So the coach threw us in the same basket. Even though I trained my guts out, more than anyone. Even though I stayed off the grog and did everything right.

“How’s your friend Brauz?” the coach would ask, linking us, a snide tone in his voice.

Yet he was the one who wouldn’t drop Brauz because he was vital to the team, and would drop me, because I wasn’t.

 

I hated him. Oh, I hated the bastard.

 

He was the coach and looked smart and spoke well, and seemed tough, but wasn’t.

 

At home, over the next few years, things got worse for Brauz. His girlfriend got worse. He got worse. There was a baby. He would tell me, in his crappy share house, his dreams about selling some crazy laser rocket shit to the American government. Under all the haze, he was smart, but even if he knew how to pull it off, he couldn’t. It was sounding more and more like junkie talk.

I worried about him, and checked in now and then, but eventually he went his way and I returned to the bush.

People would say to me, all the time: “Oh, man, Brauz has it all! Hell, he could play AFL. If only his head was in the right place!”

I would tell them that the head is as much a part of the equation as legs and height and elasticity, the sort that, with timing, lets you kick mile, even if you’re a skinny prick, That: “Yeah, and I could be a better player if I was born quick.”

Sometimes we are what we are.

Brauz was and is a legend, but I would never want to coach him. I wouldn’t put up with it. The still being drunk at half time, the not training, the brain snaps, all the things that were the flip side of his seven goal hauls from the hardest position the game has. If I was coach I’d visit, try and help, and drop him if he kept fucking up. Let him go if he walked out over it.

But I wasn’t his coach. I was his mate.

 

Brauz was a survivor, who had the best smile. All gap-toothed and disappearing chin. He goddamn sparkled with it.

From deep in my gut, from my heart, I hope wherever he is, he’s shaken his demons. That everything that was good and full of life about him is alive and well.

That he’s alive and well, and doing great.

 

Good on you, Brauz! All the best.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Malby Dangles says:

    Really digging the ‘Characters’ set of posts Matty

  2. Matt Zurbo says:

    Thanks lots Malby. The game has so many great ones, it seems rude not to share.

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