A sporting history of gastro



Fifth Test, Joe Root takes on conditions you find every day in India, and folds like origami. Bad luck old sport. Bad luck and good on you! At first, the Press started to wind up their hero against the odds routines. The warrior who defies.


Sport is full of such stories. Dean Jones had to be hospitalised after his 200 in the sub-continent. Tony Libratore, as a teen, played a 50-plus possession pre-season game in such heat, spent three days in hospital. But only after finishing the match. I love them!


Root had gastro.


I had it once. It was, without a doubt, of my 35 seasons of footy, my most embarrassing injury.


It was an important game in the mud. I guess. I have no idea where they were or we were on the ladder. The true addict will miss his own wedding to play for 9th. Or to be beaten in the rain by 20 goals. The only game you’ll even contemplate missing is one you’re expected to win by 20. And even then, somebody had better be dying. Every game is vital!


So, yeah, I had gastro. “Pheh! The shits won’t stop me!”


I crapped like a jammed drink dispenser before leaving home. Had to stop at a public dunny on the way to the game. Let loose three times before the game. Raced to the clubroom dunnies ¼, ½, ¾ time. Not one ounce of solids. Just this gush of liquid. I must have drunk ten litres to keep up with my bum. In one end, out the other.


“What’s going on, Old Dog?”


“Tummy rumbles.”


I was so busy holding my cheeks together I have no idea if we won or not. I thought for sure a good tackle would be the end of me – and the tackler.


It sort of felt guilty. Yeah, I used my own water bottle, and, being a backman, got no pats on the back, high fives or arse slaps. But still, what if by game’s end everybody had caught it?


Geez, it would have been a sight for the ages! At least the coach would have been happy – he was always complaining we didn’t rotate the bench enough.

“Do your five minutes and get off!”

Too easy!


I had no idea if I’d get through the last quarter. All I knew was I was glad it was muddy.


Anyways, by game’s end I had no more liquid in me.


“Why’s Old Dog grey?”


“You having a stroke, Doggie?” my mates asked come beer and showers.


I snuck out of the rooms and made my way to hospital.


I’d been there before, of course, for some rippers. Dislocated my elbow, pulled it back in myself in the clubrooms, made a real mess of it. Broken hip. Concussions, broken wrists. Re-attaching a tendon to my finger. One game, while waiting in emergency, ten minutes later, my opponent was wheeled in with a broken leg and placed beside me. He took staying on his man very seriously!


“Didn’t want you to get lonely.”


This time I was put on the drip for hours. It wasn’t brave, just embarrassing.


“Another footy player…” the doctor rolled her eyes. “What are you in for?”


“I shit myself!”


At least, in hindsight, I know why Root never came back out on the last day. Physically, like I was, I suspect he was up to it. But one bouncer to duck under, take his mind off the clench for a millisecond…


There’s no mud out there to hide in. Hell, they wear creams! And the telly cameras these days have mighty lenses. Bad enough being beaten 4-zip. To end a losing Ashes series on a note like that would just not have been worth it.

Yeah, copping gastro as you go down to the colony isn’t very glamorous, or overly heroic, but if Joe has a sense of humour it will eventually make a cracking pub story!


Matt Zurbo is one of 50 contributors to The Tiger’s Almanac 2017.



Presenting The Tigers’ Almanac 2017. Read all about it HERE.


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  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Wonderful stuff as always Matt. Where r u all now??

  2. Great stuff Old dog I admit my favourite part is your opponent following you to hospital

  3. the phrase “mind over matter” fails to apply to some afflictions….

    gold Matty Z.

  4. Love it, Matty.

  5. Collingwood v Essendon @ VFL Park, 1992

    55,000 crowd

    Scott Russell

    White shorts

    15 fit players, no interchange, game in the balance.

    Oh dear…

    And honourable mention to Rob De Castella, 1982 Commonwealth Games, and of course M Zurbo (very funny story well told).

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