30 years young…not bad when you’re 28!

This weekend is a celebration of 30 years for the Brothers Australian Football Club, based in Rockhampton Central Queensland. I know there are some down south who may question why I’m making a big deal over a comparatively minor milestone, but to survive for this period in a Rugby League stronghold dealing with constant player turnover, natural disaster and a media profile often lower than table tennis needs to be acknowledged. On Saturday Night (12 August) there will be over 130 brethren and sisters celebrating and reminiscing over a handful of choice beverages.

I’m too young to remember most of the first 13 years, although not being involved can be a factor, plus the fact that I didn’t exist in the first 2 years. When the old man first arrived at the club in 1994, Brothers were down the bottom of the ladder but would be top of the pile after the 1995 premiership decider. While the game was close and only decided late in the day, the most memorable moment was the all in spectator brawl below the Rockhampton Cricket Ground grandstand. Standards have thankfully changed for the better and such incidents of that magnitude are unlikely to happen again. It lead to a run of 4 senior Grand Final appearances in 5 years (missing only 1996), but 1995 would be the only premiership season.

The last in the sequence (1999) was probably the best chance, but after a double premiership was possible both the Under 17’s and seniors were run down. Fatigue was the excuse for the senior defeat, having trailed badly at half time before unleashing a scoring barrage in the third term. Personally I would remember the Under 17’s decider more clearly. For the Leon Davis fans out there, I performed slightly better than he did in his first grand final, I took a solitary mark and had a single kick. The single kick caused a stir amongst a team mate who wanted a short chip rather than my long bailout down the line, and he gave me a lecture at the three quarter time huddle. It’s fair to say that the career of AFL umpire #27 has progressed longer than the current Brothers #27, no slight on my ability but Ben Ryan made a wise career choice in taking up the whistle more seriously.

The previous decade began with lean times on the field, the seniors missing the finals from 2001-2003 failing to recover from slow starts. The drought was longer for the reserves, not featuring in the final month of the season from 2002-2009. I can recall the first reserves final that I played in, which due to Olympics and ground availability was played on a Sunday for the first and most likely only time I can remember, the scoreboard at the end of the day read 4 goals to 1. The description of the 1 from keen observers was that I ran 5 metres to kick the goal, then ran 50 metres in celebration. In my defence I was trying to lift the team for the last few minutes figuring in the atrocious conditions that a 3 goal margin was able to be erased. The next year I was stuck in defence and remember kicking the ball out every second minute of the last quarter. I tried long kicks to the boundary, drop punts down the spine, chip passes to the back pocket, torpedo punts, even playing on. Not many seemed to work that well despite the practice I was being afforded. Little did I know that would be the last final I would play until the end of the decade.

The next senior premiership came in 2005 in what was one of the dullest grand finals seen on record. The game was over at quarter time having kicked 7 goals and maintaining a big lead all day. To be honest we didn’t hear the siren on the boundary, but I suppose someone did to lead the crowd invasion. The closest I came to getting a gig was in the first semi, but the team sheet was submitted well before one of our players rolled an ankle literally 2 minutes before the siren. To be truthful I had pinged a hamstring 2 weeks earlier, but still had to play the next week in the 2’s so the club could avoid being fined $600 (I somehow touched the ball twice, not bad when I struggled to go faster than walking pace).

I have chronicled the most recent memories in past entries, including the premiership successes in 2010 and the narrow miss last season. It’s considerably more simplistic to record history in the modern era with social media, online databases and The Footy Almanac (not forgetting the other football sites on the web)  providing ample platforms for record keeping. It’s a far cry from the 20 year function, where the old fashioned cards which had not been updated for years were the major source of trying to track down players. That night in the middle of 2002 was big in itself, held on a weekend free of football save for a social kick between current and ex-players. This year coincides with the annual Tony Clifford memorial day, with the final home game of the season annually reserved to remember the founding father of the club and the others that have since passed on.

So what has happened this year since Round 6? There is a solitary win for the Under 13’s who were obviously keen to celebrate winning at Panthers by watching Sir Paul McCartney belt out Hey Jude at the Opening Ceremony. The Under 17’s narrowly broke their duck in Boyne Island last weekend, which automatically means the 16 players on the team sheet have already won more times than I have in 10 years! The reserves have won both matches against Panthers, but narrow 8 point losses to Glenmore and Yeppoon at this point see us outside the top 4. It basically comes down to Yeppoon losing to Panthers and us beating Glenmore this weekend, for our percentage is six percent better than Yeppoon’s. Despite a couple of forfeits given half our team are high school boarders, the sisters have been successful a couple of times although the finals are out of reach. Truth be told I don’t know what the actual ladder is for the women’s competition, I guess the forfeits have created too much confusion for those that are keeping that record.

Unfortunately, the seniors are looking at a repeat of 2007 with a win less season on the cards. As has been the case over the last 30 years, injury, inexperience and employment have impacted the side, although unlike 2007 we have not had to either have 20 players play a second game or even forfeit reserves matches. The injury toll has been so bad, for the first time since 2008 even I have made an appearance in the first XVIII. Certainly it hasn’t been easy, I couldn’t get a touch against BITS at Boyne Island where we had eight players “doubling up”. Two weeks later against Gladstone I had 2 kicks, 1 mark, a nasty cut between the eye brows with the scar still showing, an unrewarded tackle and minor scuffles with at least 3 opponents. Then against Yeppoon a week later finding the Sherrin was easier, particularly playing at full back in the last quarter. I honestly don’t know how I was positioned there, all I know was that after a couple of kicks the stand in coaches saw the fuel tank at empty and I was able to brag about keeping an opponent kick less.

Regrettably the season could be over for me. At the last training session the troublesome calf muscle let go, as it has done over the last few years. Any further on field involvement depends on what happens this weekend, and beyond that whether the calf can be in satisfactory condition in 8 days. The first signs of injury came before the Panthers game three weeks ago, and in hindsight playing last weekend may not have been the smartest decision considering we had more than enough players. At least I will be able to try to help some of the returning former Roo Boys identify those in the current herd.

About Mick Jeffrey

32 Year Old, Bulldogs Member and tragic. Reserve Grade coach after over 225 combined senior/reserves appearances for Brothers AFC in AFL Capricornia. 11 time Marathon finisher, one time Ultra Marathon finisher and Comrades Marathon competitor 2017.

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