Round 23 – Gold Coast v Port Adelaide: Schulzy Army (with Mike Hugo’s sketch)

 

Mike Hugo Jay Schulz sketch

Jay Schulz Sketch by Mike Hugo

 

Gold Coast v Port Adelaide

7.25pm, Saturday 27th August

Metricon Stadium

By Cathryn McDonald

 

“Finally, we concede that there can be honour in defeat, but to each of us, honourable defeat of our club and guernsey can come only after human endeavour on the playing field is completely exhausted” – Fos Williams

It was always going to end like this for Schulzy.

His last game for Port was a glorified practice match on the distant frontier of Aussie Rules. He deserved avenues of confetti and smiling faces singing his name. Instead he got the empty expanses of Metricon, tens of thousands of kilometres away from home. His exit from the game was ephemeral; a leaf on the wind, watch me soar.

It’s fitting for what his career has been. When Bob went down with that ACL earlier in the year, everyone knew. Everyone cared. When Boomer was axed, it nearly broke Twitter. But Schulzy, when he went down with that back injury earlier in the year… our worries were private. They were whispered in Facebook chats, over coffee, in late-night conversations in pubs. Is he done? Is this it?

His last game was typical Schulzy. It was one last dance, one last chance to rage against the dying of the light. He threw his battered body into the contest from the start, emerging with two goals for the first half. He dished out twice as many to his young teammates. He made us walk taller… not just our two debutants, but our leaders, and the supporters watching avidly back home. He exuded the confidence the passage of time had taken from him these last few years.

At Port Adelaide, Schulzy has been known for two things: his cool confidence in front of goals, and his courage in the face of a series of injuries which would have led many to question the way they play. In 2012, during a game at Etihad, he collided with a team-mate’s knee. He spent days in hospital with internal bleeding. This was after thinking he’d lost an eye a few weeks earlier in a Showdown collision. At the time, the media asked him if he’d thought about giving the game away. Four years later, he’s still here.

As the match wore on, he began to disappear. It was a changing of the guard. Snelling and Bonner led the charge in their first game, with other youngsters such as Wines, Austin and Impey featuring heavily. But the football gods were kind that night, and halfway through the third, Schulzy found himself with a set shot to put the margin out to a game-high – and game-winning – seven goals. He converted. And somewhere a million miles away, pubs and loungerooms erupted in song one last time:

“Schulzy Army! Schulzy Army! Schulzy Army!”

At the end of the match, the travelling fans unveiled a cartoon drawing of Schulzy and held it above their heads. He walked around half the boundary of Metricon, making sure to high-five each and every fan. He refused his team-mates’ offers to be carried off the ground, walked down the race and it was over. He was gone.

This year we’ve had to answer some big questions. It seems that this season has gone the way of those who have been dealt the right cards. Other than a couple of perennial underperformers, this year’s big disappointments are the teams which have been decimated by injury and suspensions. However, for so many of these teams – especially Port Adelaide – this has translated into a malaise affecting every fit player. A few have progressed: those players given their first games, or a new role. But the majority have gone backwards. When we’re on the back foot from the start, when there’s little hope of reward, the appetite for the contest disappears. It’s as if it’s not worth it anymore.

Can your worth as a footballer, or a football team, be measured in glory and popularity alone? To what extent does football immortality depend on being in the right place at the right time? Is it still possible to be a champion if the odds were never in your favour?

Schulzy showed us what being that kind of champion means.

He played one game at the start of the year, before undergoing the back surgery that threatened to end his career. As our season collapsed around him, he worked through three months of rehab. All that time, it looked unlikely he’d play finals again. Time was against him even to make it back into the senior side.  But he still did it.

There aren’t that many ways in which a footballer can be a role model. But I think, for me, Schulzy was one. He leaves this “entertainment industry” with nothing. No awards bar a few years as Port’s leading goalkicker, no premierships, two finals series in fourteen seasons, and not much glory to speak of. But he fought for more than that.

Schulzy will be remembered as the most-loved Port Adelaide player of his generation.

He was a cult hero of a basket-case club. We believed in him when we had very little else to believe in. When our season was already over, when we were a hundred points down, when we hadn’t won a game in months: it made no difference to how he played. He played for his team mates, and for the jumper. It’s why we wore his face on our scarves, and let his name ring around every stadium in the country.

Schulzy leaves this club having earnt the trust and love of thousands. I’m glad that, for him, that was something worth fighting for. In decades’ time, when it’s my generation’s turn to tell stories of the great players of our younger years, his name will be the one on our lips.

Perhaps that’s the greatest honour of all.

 

 

GOLD COAST       1.4   2.7    7.10     9.12 (66)
PORT ADELAIDE   2.3   6.4   10.7   13.11 (89)

Goals:
Gold Coast: Fiorini 2, Day 2, Rosa, Matera, Sexton, MacPherson, Lynch
Port Adelaide: R. Gray 4, Schulz 3, Boak, Young, S. Gray, Impey, Snelling, Ebert

Best:
Gold Coast: Miller, May, Lynch, Fiorini
Port Adelaide: R. Gray, Wines, Bonner, Snelling, Ebert, Schulz

 

Umpires: Stephens, Hay, Wallace

Crowd: 9213

 

My votes: R. Gray 3, Bonner 2, Schulz 1

FAlmanac banner sq

About Cathryn McDonald

One-eyed Port Adelaide supporter, music geek and appreciator of the “match day experience”.

Comments

  1. This is a brilliant article, Cathryn. Thank you for writing it. Yep, Schulzy was a beacon in those dark, wet years when 100 point thrashings were meted out with all too regular monotony. If you haven’t already, please send this to the Club to give to Schulzy.

  2. Cathryn, I’ve become weary of footy writing lately, but this has restored my belief. Apart from your sweet testimonial to Shulzy, it was just a beautiful piece of writing: the perfect Fos quote, and your perceptive observation “this year’s big disappointments are the teams which have been decimated by injury and suspensions… for so many of these teams… this has translated into a malaise affecting every fit player”. I don’t recall anybody in the mainstream media expressing that thought so neatly (or spelling ‘Shulz’ without a ‘t’). Thanks! You there, Harmsy? – Gotta put this one in the book.

  3. E.regnans says:

    That’s a lovely tribute, Cathryn.
    Fine writing – fine sentiments.

    So much is made of external accolades – in life generally (“best in show”) – and in sport particularly.
    To go about your business in a humble but effective way is underrated in our showy age.

    What was the context for that Fos Williams quote?

  4. Cathryn McDonald says:

    Thankyou for the kind words, that’s so nice!

    MarcD I might send it to Schulzy one day, but he’s a pretty shy bloke off the field and right now his future is still up in the air, so I don’t think he’d be keen on long testimonials yet. But some day…

    Robbie D thanks! When JTH asked me to do a season review I kind of panicked a little, because the whole Port community has talked about this round and round in circles and we still haven’t figured it out. That’s my best theory, anyway. Perhaps that’s why this year has brought back so many bad memories, as it’s a similar malaise to what infected the club back when our football department was too under-resourced to compete.

    E. Regnans The quote is from the Port Adelaide Creed… a rather misunderstood document that people often say is about how to win, but more than half of it actually describes how to lose well. It’s basically the criteria by which hardcore Port supporters will assess the performance of players, officials and each other.

    And I’d be careful about describing Schulzy as “humble”. The AFL is full of highly-decorated, highly-regarded players who do what you describe… Kane Cornes is an example from our club. Schulzy is a showman. That is not mutually exclusive to the care he showed for our club, and in fact, it enhanced it.

  5. Yes RB, I really enjoyed this piece. Thanks Cathryn. I also love that Fos Williams quote. I am wondernig where Port goes from here and whether I will continue to put them well and truly in the eight next March, as I have done the last few years. I saw them (live) three or four times in that 2014 year and my mindset is still affected by the run and carry and sheer skill they showed. Surely it must come back. They were so good to watch.

    As for Schulzy, I always enjoyed watching him. His kicking action was the simplest since D. White of Lions fame. Schulzy could leap too. And his face always had the expression of a man for whom it mattered.

  6. Good stuff Cathryn and thanks for that. Loved watching Schulz for his high leaps, followed by the straightest kicking seen for some time. Simple stuff really, run straight in and kick straight through the ball, although he seemed to lose a little accuracy in the last year or so. I hope he manages to survive his injuries well, some of them looked frightening. Great club man who will always be welcome back and always lived the creed.

  7. Great sentiments. Beautifully expressed. Thanks Cathryn.
    Things could be worse for Schulz. He could have stayed at Richmond being pilloried by Rulebook like Troy Chaplin.

  8. Cathryn, an excellent tribute to Schulz, “the most loved player of his generation”.
    Well played!

  9. Great piece. Well done.

  10. Cathryn McDonald says:

    Thankyou Bucko, Peter_B, Smokie and Chris!

    Thanks JTH as well. I think in 2014 we had a red-letter year, similar to the Crows this year: next to no injuries and a wave of emotion. The skill and speed came from stability in our line-up, our physical and psychological fitness advantage, and some sharp minds in the coaches box. That said, it was also due to some freak talent which I can still see in the team today. The difference is, this year, that talent has been used to put lesser teams away despite clearly phoning it in.

  11. Great article. I was hoping there would be an tribute to Schulzy somewhere in the Almanac. I can now happily delete the draft I was working on as it wouldn’t have come close to this.

  12. Cathryn McDonald says:

    Thanks Mike! I was hoping for a Schulzy illustration on the cover… it won’t happen but a girl can dream

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