Off Season Odyssey – Part 11: New Year’s Without Resolutions

Off Season Odyssey Pt11.

 

New Year’s Without Resolutions.

 

Princetown has a beaut oval. Round. Hard. There’s no team any more, no town. Just the reedy wetlands that is the last gasp of the Gellibrand River, where farmers, back in the day, paddled their milk downstream, on longboats, to the Saturday market. Just coastal cliffs that lead to the Six-and-a-half Apostles, and wind.

Always wind.

A few of the logging crews camp here every holidays. I’m drinking with them for New Years. No reason, other than they’re good people, and are on the same highway.

It’s been a hard year. One of the boys died in a coop accident a few weeks ago. And there’s been other hard luck and heartbreak.

I ask Len-Dog about playing against Princetown, back when there was a Princetown.

“Yeah, towards the end they had no Twos,” he says. “As late as midday, they’d be knocking on farmer’s doors, roping up tourists and ring-ins.”

I was in another league then, but remember everybody in South East Victoria would look at the papers on Sundays to see what Princetown got done by.

42 goals, to one.

61 goals to zero.

The few locals who refused to buckle, who wore it, week in, week out, year in, year out, were my heroes.

“The club was mostly spud farmers, I think,” Kane says. “And dairy, from the Chapel Valley.”

The place is strange. Hills bend and roll, easy, like warped ply-wood, farm after farm after farm, yellow grass, not many trees, as if forever. Then it just stops. The world stops. And there are brilliant coastal cliffs, a violent sea, tourists and sea-gulls.

I ring Russel, last man to shut the door on the clubrooms.

“We had good times, too,” he says. “Won flags. Great times. Great social times. But, yeah, the end wasn’t easy.”

The place is nowhere. Beautiful nowhere. Hard and often boring. You can’t eat scenery.

For the length of a phone call, Russel’s in our camping circle.

“It was a damn shame,” he says to no-one and everyone. “Still, that’s what happens.”

“We got all three of Russel’s boys from it,” Len-Dog says.

“And a fistful of Ferarris,” agrees Kano.

“The Palmer boys in juniors,” I add.

“Geez, we’d have been stuffed if they didn’t buckle!” laughs Len-Dog.

We sit back in silence, one of those longest seconds, thinking on it. Len’s right.

 

Thanks Princetown.

 

Not one thing came other than players when you folded, but by surviving, Otway Districts are keeping you alive, too. There’s no two ways about it.

 

The drinks are going down, but our mood isn’t lifting, not really.

I grab a footy and hit the oval. Its boundary is full, surrounded better than in its playing days. Campervans, caravans, utes and swags, small tents, big tents. The working class and lost tourists. They create the feel of a final. Imagine if they all honked their horns… I think. If they gave a shit about Princetown, dairy farmers on longboats, about spud farmers and football…

 

A couple of drunks are staggering across the oval not far from me. One of them sees the pill and calls for it. I think I know him, but might not. I flag the bloke to lead, he does. That’s good enough for me. I put it out in front of him.

The ball bounces and skids and kicks up and finally, he runs onto it about 65 out. He gallops in an arch, turning towards me. I wave him back on.

“Go for goal, mate!”

He cuts goal-ward.

He looks brilliant, running through the dark, campervans and caravans and the sound of wild surf framing him. In the background, the first of the fireworks are going off, every one of them illegal. The Princetown oval is alive again, even if only for a few seconds. He kicks…

“Go, you good thing…!” somebody calls, as we ride on the result.

 

It must be close to midnight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Andrew Starkie says:

    Zurbs, we had our yr8 camp at Princetown. Pepe Brooks from Koroit punched me on the nose. Great oval at Princetown. At the river mouth? I tracked their last few years as well. Flogging after flogging. Wild, lonely, windy country.

  2. Matt Zurbo says:

    Stark, yeah, at the river mouth. I played some good footy against Koroit. Hope I evened up for ya. (they might have got me too a few times, but!)

    You will like the next post, I think…

  3. Made my senior debut for the also now defunct South Purrumbete FC at Princetown. Unusually for down there it was sunny and not windy at all. The Princetown Cricket Club re-emerged after quite a few years in recess and play at the footy ground. Played a few games there the last few years, good ground, the caravans and tents around the oval with the holidaymakers watching makes for a good atmosphere.

  4. Luke, was that when legendary Dave Costin was about, or Robo?

  5. Hi Matt, Dave is still there, he his his brother pretty much run the cricket club down there I think. They’ve done a great job getting the club going again.

  6. coached him at otway fc, most genuine of blokes. a champion person.

  7. Beautiful stirring stuff, as usual, Matty! And no, you can’t eat scenery.

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