Season 31, and all the very best to those strapping on the boots this year

 

 

I hate running laps. Always have and will. There was a time I was young enough, though. I’d sprint ten before training, as hard as I could, finishing at a crawl. Just to prove nothing.

I’m older than that now, but realised something long ago. Age doesn’t mean that you’ve earned the right to do less. You have to do more, to keep up.

My speed is gone, not that I ever had much. Now I’ve got to grind other players down. The sport, the team, never have or will owe me anything. If I’m going to play, I’ve got to earn my spot. Be of value.

Being old does have its advantages, though. It’s so much easier to reach peek fitness than it used to be, because your peek fitness is so much lower than what it once was! Three hard weeks will do it.

Mostly, though, it’s in the mind.

If you think you’re too old, you will be. If you worry you can’t outmuscle them, you won’t. If you doubt, they’ll beat you. If you think you don’t have to chase, soon, your body will forget how to and you’ll never will again.

So much of football is hunger.

Last week I was running laps surrounded by a yellow view made of rolling, dead grass – dairy hills in drought. Lap after lap I watched the dryness of the land. It’s heartbreaking. And has destroyed so much of my work, and friend’s livelihoods, and made the ovals rock hard, everywhere.

It’s going to be a mean season in country footy.

I’ll be 46 this year. The idea of it seems ludicrous! I still rememeber David Segal from one of my first teams. He was a club champion. Straight lines, solid, Fred Flintstone of a backman, returned to help the twos with numbers.

Past his best, he fumbled often, and ran with is neck stretched like a turtle, as if his head was willing the body to keep up. None of us young bucks knew what to make of it. I’ll be about ten years older this winter than he was.

 

I had a shit season last year, only played one, maybe two games where I seized it and shook it. I’m determined to not let that be my finish, even if it’s only Div 2 reserves these days. Hence, the extra laps, and the stupid thoughts and fears that go through my mind while running them before training.

Like: Damn, I wish the canteen still sold chips!

And

I’ve got to keep playing until Nutsy retires, so I can finish my career with No.20.

And:

   Where is Ziggy now?

And:

The kid I played on in last week’s practice match was exactly 30 years younger than me! What if a fight broke out? I’d have to spank him!

Even:

   Man, I hope I don’t run with my neck out like a turtle!

I probably should retire, but it just feels so damn good playing Australian Rules Football!

 

Good luck to everyone, of every age. Young, old, male, female, immigrant, indigenous, convict, poor, rich, from the Outback and cities. From the spectators, to the mums and dads and players and kids on the boundary.

No matter how hard life gets, for those two or so hours a week we have the chance to be invincible.

 

Comments

  1. Peter Fuller says:

    Matt,
    It’s refreshing to hear from someone who has absorbed the message of that old cliche “you’re a long time retired.” It’s especially good to understand it before you pack it in. Good luck, have a stellar year!

  2. Good luck Matt, all power to you.

    I started playing hockey at 9 years old, and at 45, will again this year front up to play as many games as I can fit in with two local clubs.

    I have retired about 5 times, taken a year off here and there, but always seem to get in 4-5 games a year. Last year, I was drafted back late in the season to help a run to the finals, which was great, with the late season coinciding with junior footy responsibilities having finished.

    Busy weekends this year with my own kids sport will not see me a regular player but both clubs know that I am always on call if they are short, the game is local and I could be fagged doing it.

    Like you, I seem to play on guys that could be my kids. But I love it and until the hammies are completely shot, like you, I’ll stick at it.

    Age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill, good luck this season

    Sean

  3. Thist week at touch, an 11 year old kid stepped me and scored a try. I should have spanked him. That’s a 36 year difference. Stuffed ankle and still sore two days later. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Positional sense and voice can make for solid contributions when the legs don’t get you to so many contests.

  4. Matt Zurbo says:

    “Age and tretchery will always overcome youth and skill!!!!!” Great call. My next t-shirt.

    Gus, very true. When I won a flag at 43, i was in the mostly young team for my voice and direction. a kick was a bonus.

  5. Emma Rene says:

    Thanks Matt
    I’ve stapped on the boots for the first time this year, and I’m loving every minute of pre-season so far. It’s really nice to know that this passion could well and truly stay with me for odd years down the track.

    Good luck with the season!!

  6. You’ll probably have me beaten, I’m only planning to go on for 2 more seasons to get to 200 club games before concentrating on running. You’ll hear more I promise on this year.

  7. Matt Zurbo says:

    Emma, I LOVE that women’s footy is booming! (or are you playing in a mixed team?) Good luck to you on your year. Write some things for the Almanac! Haha.

    Mick, thank Christ it’s not contest! Some blokes play until 60! Reckon I’ll be happy to pull up around the 600 game mark. Compedative running?

    And CHEERS Peter!

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