A Game of Life (Cont.)

They say it is an ill wind that blows no good.

The old bloke and the young bloke had had their share of sadness in the last month. After the recent rite of passage passing of the last of the young bloke’s blood grandfathers another of his life’s pillars, the surrogate grandpa from over the cow paddock, had gone. When it rains it apparently pours round here.

The funeral would be on Saturday, clashing with significant clash. It would be second semi-final day at the other side of the island, against the so far unbeaten bush mob that had caused the young bloke and his team such discomfort a few weeks before. Again he would play.

The old bloke had no choice, he would carry the coffin of a good old mate for the second time in a month and this time he would speak. He would miss the game but a priority is just that. Good friends are rare, even if they are old fellas, and he had just lost one of the best.

The week before the old bloke had inadvertently earwigged a phone call, over by the can bar at a game on a ground under the northern slopes of the mountain at a place known as German Town before the ‘Great War’. It was from the bush mob’s president to their coach, who was in absentia. There was mention of a young bloke at centre half forward.

(The young bloke had solid history around that ground, but few knew. His grandfather, known as ‘fighter’ in the district, used to drive the tractor from the pear arch house along the railway line to the pub just after the second war. In a visit to the town in his declining years he told a wide eyed boy about the time they put the young local cop in the lock-up out the back of the station after they stitched him up for continuing to try close the pub at closing time. He’d been warned: the cheek of him! The only problem was it was a single ‘plod’ station and as they were also a little wayward at the time they forgot till the day after, the day after. Someone slipped the key under the door and bolted. Folklore has it that the matter was never mentioned in formal circles and the ten o’clock visits appeared to be off the policeman’s agenda as well.)

“He is pretty mobile, makes position well and can take a mark; he’ll need a bit of close attention next week”, apparently forgetting the last time they had played. “He can’t kick straight, but.” said the president.

Bit of a worry with the last meeting’s close attention and result fresh in the old bloke’s memory. Not too sure about the ‘can’t kick straight’ bit. Just because he had missed four easy ones, that would have put the game to bed against the wind and the rain in the first quarter. A little bit harsh.

So early that week the old bloke sat with pen and paper and wrote an old fashioned letter to the new fashioned young bloke. This was his way. He posted it on to the young bloke’s partner. He asked that it be held till Friday night, and that she insist that it was not cast aside when the next text arrived, but studied.

It was historical perspective stuff about the young bloke’s grandfather; the fighter, a fierce footy fanatic. The one whose coffin he had insisted on carrying as an early teenager over a decade before just months after the quaint bush policing saga was told. For the next day he was to play in the fighter’s sandpit up at ‘Windy Hill’, the place where half a century ago he had been the boss. The old bloke wrote that no matter what was said or done during the game by the bullies who would try to pinch his bucket and spade, throw sand in his face and call him names he was the boss of the sand pit now. It was his legacy and he had the legitimacy to run free. The rabbits running around him were merely gate crashers at his boys’ party.

He explained to the young bloke that he may line up to kick at goal in front of the grand stand bearing the fighter’s name. He would likely cross over the fighter’s ashes as he ran towards goal. The fighter would be around him. The fighter would be with him. The fighter would be inside him for he was now the fighter.

But the young bloke would fight with inherent strength, determination and his mind not with fists and feet of his warrior fore-bare, for that was his way. He had had to fight just to stay alive several times as a baby when instinct, rather than coherent thought, determined the outcome when the stakes were so unfairly high.

The scores started to filter through to the old bloke miles away, now relaxed and drying after the morning’s tense nostalgia and drenching rain was cocooned within the analgesic potency of schnapps, chatter and finger food that was currently digesting and being absorbed with the gut sorrow.

The boys were in the game and just a few points down, at quarter time. The young bloke was not in the game. Exiled to the goal square against the wind was the plan. A change of ends and a change of plan brought the young bloke out into the main space and it was game on. The bush mob sensed they were in trouble in the quarters on both sides of the main break. With the boys kicking nine goals to five in that time the pendulum had swung.

The texts continued. The young bloke was out and about and had kicked four, with three assists. The bush mob’s coach lined up on him in the third to deliver a bit of the ‘close attention’ discussed over the phone the week before: but apparently the horse had bolted.

The ensuing brawl, that received back page headlines in the regional rag next Tuesday, was no surprise to the old bloke’s eyes and ears at the ground. The boys had pinched the bush mob’s afternoon tea and they weren’t happy. Create a distraction; start a ruckus, anything to wrest back the momentum. That’s what they did in the fighter’s day. He would surely have been over the fence and into it as were the spectators who had welled onto the ground during the final break.

“Not sure how it started.” The young bloke said later. “A few of our blokes copped a couple of hits. They were a pretty dirty bunch.”

The boys, unruffled, kept hitting the contests hard as the bush mob kept hitting them hard. With a seven goal to three final term, they exorcised the demons of the month before with a ninety eight point turn around. The bush mob was stunned. The boys were first into the grand final, an unlikely scenario just a few hours before.

The young bloke rang the old bloke as soon as he could.

“How was your day?’


“How was yours?”


“I heard you got amongst it today.”

“Yes, I thought I had better have a crack considering it was my last game for the season.”


The late Harry Chapin once wrote a song called All My Life’s a Circle. It was one of the old bloke’s favourite repetitive Sunday school slurping songs when he used to wear the young bloke’s number on his back in the good old days. For the young bloke the last twelve months had just circled him, snuck up behind and bitten him on the backside.

He had been injured for the game that got his team, from that other place at the other side of the island, into the big one the year before.  Another young bloke, who had fought hard to help get them there, would miss out to allow him back in.

In a twist of fate this year footy had to take second place to work and study for the young bloke. He had a compulsory university tutorial at a far-away place at southern side of the island for the entire weekend of the grand final. He had known for a few weeks. No exemptions. Another lucky young bloke would get a chance to curtsey at the big dance.

What did Ned Kelly say?


  1. Love that Phanto.

    I think Ned Kelly said “I’ll give them something to remember!”

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