Bush Footy Grand Final – Colac v Grovedale: Meeting in Chaos

 

 

I met Bec Lang in chaos.

 

In ’96 the more blue collar Bay boys went to a dingy pub in Warrnambool for their footy trip. We stayed in the two storeys of guest rooms out back of a bar that had seen it all. Below our floor was the Alvie netball trip, beside us a touring rock band from inner city Melbourne. It was a blurry night.

 

Bec was one of the netballers – small and wild! She out swore us, out brassed us, out drank us. A few of the boys were intimidated, for sure. She was going out with one of the Alvie footballers and knew her bush footy as good as anyone.

 

Through mutual friends, mostly, we stayed in occasional contact after that. No phone calls or anything, just a casual g’day when paths crossed over summer at pub after-parties on the coast, or working in the mountains, or in Colac. We always talked life and footy.

 

She was a good netballer “when T-Rexs roamed the earth”, she says. Competitive, but loved contact sports. She wanted more, even if she wasn’t sure what, and drifted away from the sport.

 

Retired from netball she took up the craze of the moment; female roller derby. There was a team in Colac. We talked about it. They were full-on! Wild and rough. Bec enjoyed the physical side, the adventure. I suspect it also pinned her down and gave her somewhere to belong.

 

By this time I was down in Tassie, working deep in the North East ranges. She called one day. “Come down to Hobart! It’s the national championships. You’ll love it – the after party will be twenty teams of women in fishnet stockings cutting loose in a foreign city!”

 

It was a fair pitch.

 

Eventually, roller derby and Bec went their own ways. Many reasons, but I reckon, primarily, it all wasn’t quite real enough for her.

 

Meanwhile, over the following years women’s footy rose and rose. This brilliant wave of inclusiveness. Now, couples don’t have to think about their baby being a boy or girl, footballer or netballer. Suddenly, anything is possible.

 

The AFL must be stoked! The biggest threat to our game over the past 30 years has been soccer mums, who thought footy was too violent, too injury inflicting for their boys. Now there will be generation after generation of women leading from the front, who understand the vitality of contact sport. Being involved, playing andcoaching. Either inspiring or following their kids’ careers. Until now, footy only ever covered half the nation. A golden example of a sport evolving alongside its country.

 

Women’s footy didn’t so much appear on Bec’s horizon, as swelled up from under her feet. All she had ever watched was Essendon and CDFNL games. She was no obsessive, but passionate when she did watch. She needed to barrack, to have a connection. Her daughter was old enough to play. Next thing she knew, she was asked to team manage the Colac Imperials Under 19s Women’s Football Club.

 

After an unsure start for the girls, losing a handful of games – and her, not knowing 2/3rds of the players names – Bec, and the team, found their groove.

 

As well as team manager, she became water girl, runner, you name it. One of those people…

 

I was stoked for her!

 

Bec never asked for advice and I never gave it, because I knew she already had all the right ingredients. She’s passionate. She shows respect before she expects to receive it. She immediately cared about her players as people. She hates bullshit.

 

She knows footy.

 

“Matty, I barrack for them. I mean, I fill my role, but once I get to know them I can’t help but also barrack for each one when they run out as if they were all my girls!”

 

The team made the Grand Final by winning 9 in a row. Bec didn’t want to be tripping over the coach on game day, or getting all teary when they needed fire, so posted her speech on social media the night before.

 

I have loved every second of being your Manager/Footy Mum. I have grown to know and love every one of you girls and made life long friends with you all. I could not of asked for a better bunch of ratbags to laugh, cry, be injured and even have the honour of playing alongside you all. Tomorrow will be a very emotional day for me as I watch all that hard work pay off as you make history and be the first Colac and District Girls Football Team to make a Grand Final. This will also be the last time all the team will play together due to age. All of you girls have improved your skills and playing abilities beyond belief. You may not see it yourself but I see it every game you play and it makes me so proud. I leave you with this In the rooms tomorrow I know you will all have Butterflies in your belly but once you walk out that door they will turn into Dragons that breath fire I want you all to use that fire in your belly to play a game that you never thought you were able too. Play hard, play strong, play for your teammates, play for that girl who never thought this day would come and most of all play hard for your team manager who will have fire in her belly and tears in her eyes. Love my Blue and Pink Imps Girls Xx”

 

The sweetest of all football ingredients, momentum, was theirs. Today they bowled through their shot at the Big Dance down in Torquay, Colac 6.6 to Grovedale 1.4.

 

To look at the winning photo is not to see girls footy or boys footy, but a universal image, any team, any age bracket, city, bush or AFL, from the 1870s to now – a moment of free, smiling faces. A picture that will not age or fade. Instant, glorious history.

 

“I’m nursing this cup home, the fire is still in my belly…!” she messaged about 6pm. “Damn, I’m a footy head now!”

 

Later, as the night wore on, she messaged again…

 

“They say Roller Derby saved my soul but in all honesty footy has got me a front and centre to the bar stool at the pearly gates. Who the hell would of known a little leather ball would’ve changed my life!?”

 

Bec’s team have inspired her. She’s thinking of playing women’s Super Rules next year. Changing times? Back in the day, a bloke retired at 30. Now, a legend like Bec can start a new career a decade later.

 

The thought of her running around out there, bashing into opponents, giving rough lip, being in a team, being who she is, makes me happy.

 

Bec Lang has grown from the knockabout woman I first met, into a mother and team manager and a quality human being – who still knows how to celebrate things earned, like premierships. As I write this I’m sure she’s back in Colac, sharing a beer, or two, with the team and their families.

 

I suspect the Colac girls are every bit as lucky to have her as she is to have them. Combined, they’re learning disciplines, about themselves, sport and making dreams that will last a lifetime!

 

Woman’s football – we’re all lucky.

 

Nothing beats junior teams. They should be the cornerstone, the foundation of all footy clubs, and, sometimes, are just that for the broader community. If you want to survive, to thrive, you put your kids first, seniors and reserves second. It’s that simple.

 

Bec and the gang brought home the jingle this year. You dead set ripper!

 

I’m stoked for everyone.

 

 

Read more about The Women’s Footy Almanac 2017 HERE

Read Kirby Fenwick’s review of The Women’s Footy Almanac HERE.

Read about Jasmine Conrad’s first season for the Caulfield Bears HERE

 

Comments

  1. This is a really lovely story. But are we sure it’s not Zurbo? [It is, now – Ed.]

  2. That’s a ripping yarn, M Zurbo !!

  3. Malby Dangles says:

    A terrific piece. Great to read the passion from Bec in her email.
    Can Women’s footy start a sporting revolution? It’s starting to feel that way

  4. Yvette Wroby says:

    Wonderful as always. Thanks for tagging me in. The passion and joy of girls playing footy is something to behold. Love it

  5. Superb Old Dog people who don’t get involved in community sport have no idea what they’re missing out on.
    Congrats Bec !

  6. Grouseness! Thanks gang! Thanks Bec!

  7. Love it Old Dog.

Leave a Comment

*