Grand Finals Pt.5. Netball.

The piece first appeared in the fantastic www.scoreboardpressure.com If you haven’t seen the sight do so! It is a ripper!


All photos (my old teammate!) Brad Trotter.


It was a big day. Grand Finals always are.

I was standing under the grandstand with Trots and few rusty old Otway salts when Rocket saddled up.
“I can’t do it, Old Dog” he said.
“What’s that, mate?”
“The Otway Under 17 girls are playing, but I just can’t watch netball! I went, I tried.”
“He lasted a minute,” his wife moaned.
“The netball…” I said to Eddy, and we were gone.
As we walked through the crowd I recognised a lot of faces, but had forgotten their names. Blokes I’ve played against over the past 20 years, fading into the background, looking less like they ever played football, while the young blokes and men on the oval bashed and crashed and celebrated now.


I thought about netball. How sweet it is. Every comp should have both. Goal posts and rings, I reckon. It gives the wives and girlfriends something more. Their own thing, just as important to them as footy to us. It brings people, sometimes entire families, to a club. Doubles it, in colour, noise and movement.
In bodies.
Which doubles it again.
I told Scratcher, when he was President for a while:
“You want the boys to hang around, recruit three good looking netballer girls.”
Besides, sport is sport. I used to watch the netball sometimes. The good players, like Candy Robins and Sharron Hickey, always stood out, like they do in any field. They have that bit more
time,
space,
presence.
The good players, no matter what the code, are gold.


The court was packed! Bodies everywhere, tippy-toes only, a dead set cluster towards the back of the footy ground.
The final siren blew as Eddy and I pushed through the crowd. The game was done as we arrived. The hard working co-coaches, mother and daughter, embraced like teammates and family. The Otway girls ran into a huddle, hugging and squealing. It was the best!
None of us footballers punching air, making fists, yelling things like
“Hell yeah!” or
“Grrrrrr!” or
“Shoved it up them!”
There were no words at all. Just pure, unadulterated tears and noise. It was the highlight of my day.

That moment, that unfettered emotion, victory, is always superb.

Mother and daughter co-coaches

“Oops,” said Eddy.
“We didn’t miss a thing,” I told him. Not that mattered. Be it football or netball.
“Yeah,” he said, sounding like Rocket. “At least we tried.”
The scoreboard said they’d won by a point. Word was, with a minute left, they’d come from behind. “How good was that!” the Cons beamed, walking up to us.
‘Fantastic!” I said, as me and Ed drifted, with the crowd, back to the football.
I looked at the final score before we left.
37,
38.
So simple.
A ten dollar piece of tin that to some meant heartache, others dreams and memories. That held a crowd.

I was stoked for the netballers, for all their effort and yards. For the club and how they had dusted off the overgrown, poorly lit netball courts over the past few years.
And happy for my old footy team. With netball wins like that, its social side and future felt that much more assured.

Comments

  1. I have always enjoyed playing and coaching netball. IN my (six-year) life as a PE teacher netball was a game where naturally gifted kids stood out. Running to space. Passing out in front. Reading the play. And general ball skills.

    We also played a game I called speed ball. Which was australian footy with throwing. This was at a fringe urban secondary school which emphasised rugby even though very few of the intake had ever played. It was mainly a soccer area. So to work out who had the skills – for half back, five eighth, full back etc – I’d get the Grade 8s to play this netball with kicking or footy with throwin, and it was very easy to work out who had what talents, and who would be burying their head in the scrum.

  2. pamela sherpa says:

    I agree JTH -there’s no game like netball for learning how to move into space and pass accurately and it feels brilliant when the passes are spot on. And being able to play and beat an opponent one on one – no better challenge.

  3. pamela sherpa says:

    Matt , the great thing about many country leagues is /was that wonderful connection of having the netball ‘ following the footy ‘.
    The best grand final I ever played in was my first and we had 3 extra times before we won by 1 goal- beat a team we had not beaten all year. And we credit the footballers with helping us get over the line. They had been unexpectedly beaten the previous week and couldn’t bear to watch the football GF so came to watch the netball and we credited their support on the sidelines making the difference . We had a fantastic party that night and the footballers came and were just as pleased for us as if they had won themselves.

  4. John, you just love sport, full stop. Is fantastic. To pass that on is superb.

    Pamela, that just the best story ever! Once a year we used to play footballers vs netballers in netball. It was always close. I loved the social aspect, but hated playing. I was hopeless! Thanks for sharing the yarn. I can almost picture it.

  5. Rachel Clissold says:

    Great story Matty, shows how far the club has come over the years to what they have achieved this year and to hopefully what they will achieve is the coming years.

  6. Love it Matty, good to hear a story about netball as it’s so rare. Makes me hang out for preseason even more. It’ll also be good to see many of the champs from that U/17 team move up into the senior grades next season. And yes, Otway netball has come a long way since those dusty old courts with buggerall lighting were upgraded, keen to see where we take ourselves in the next few seasons to come. Thanks again, hanging out for the next one.

  7. The best game, bar none, I have ever seen was a Aus vs NZ Netball Test Match. The band was meant to be in the garage practicing but I couldn’t tear myself away. Aus got up by a point after being down with a minute to play. Awesome…

  8. Matt Zurbo says:

    Gus,

    Hey, I remember it!!!!
    You were practicing in the garage, but was it a garage band? What was your nad called?
    How is the footy going, mate?

  9. The band was called Squidlips, (from a line in ‘Big Wednesday’). We did evolve out of the garage and played a few parties before graduating to pubs. The highlight was playing in a ‘Battle of the Bands’ type deal. The judgement was that we were the loudest of the 10 on display. I was proud of that.

    Footy is over for me, retired for the 17th time! Knee is not back to a stable enough condition to play contact sport, so I’m trying to get my thrills kite surfing now. The Falcons had a win against the Dubai Dragons. A new season, new players to replace the repatriates. It looks like it will be a harder league to dominate as they did last season, ( bar the GF).

    Getting my kicks at Auskick!

    And it’s rock season out here. A couple of weeks ago it was Metallica, tonight is The Cult. That is offset by Paul Macartney tomorrow and Britney Spears last night. I have the t-shirts to prove it. I would like to clarify that Metallica is the only group we payed for, the rest are part of the Formula 1 circus that we got freebies for. Never look a gift horse in the mouth…

  10. Goddamn, stop making me jealous. As a garage loving rocker, I would LOVE to see Britney! Wish I was over there. Use my email, send through some of your band’s music if you have anymore.

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