Off Season Odyssey Part 8: A well-shared silence

Off Season Odyssey Pt.8.


Concreting has been hard. Jack and I kick the ball. His real name is Steven, but his last name is Daniels. He is a stocky Otway Ressies Premiership player, by way of Geelong.  Nowhere Geelong. From one of those non-descript houses, in one of those rolling suburbs in a sea of rolling suburbs I never knew existed until I followed him off the highway. No wonder Geelong is such a successful football town, there are ovals everywhere. The culture of it is everywhere.

Jack’s not fit but is a natural footballer, probably better than Twos, but this year injuries cobbled him. I say “G’day”, we let the dog off the ute, then I grab a footy and we hit the nearest park, not one hour before drinking time. He doesn’t even think about it. Just follows me to the smallest oval, attached to a primary school.

“Ya ready, Old Dog,” he says, and puts one out in front of me.

The kick is perfect.

Just. Goddamn. Perfect.

I lob the pill back. He puts another one out in front of me. Also perfect. He can kick, there’s no two ways about it. And, like that, everything’s gravy.

The ground is so tiny it makes my 35 meter pokes to Jack, just behind the posts, seem like thumping goals.  As if I’m young, strong, and invincible.

“Here, Zurbo, have that strength again. Be unbreakable with youth. Too fit for any oval to hold, too big for any ground to run down.” Even if only for 30 minutes.

Kicking with someone who has good skills is like drinking top shelf. There’s a  crispness to it.

A storm is brewing. It looks brilliant, as if someone has spilled a bucket of black guts over the oval. Under it, Jack lobs another perfect kick out in font of me. Then another. I’m unfit, but lead and mark. And again. It feels good, the rhythm of it, the work. Before long I’m really having to push, sweating.

It’s been the longest time since a kick has truly let all else fall away. Which it does. All of it. The bigger questions, the small. The ones that stab, the ones that gnaw, the ones that badger. Even the: “Why didn’t I kick that goal that time?” or “Why didn’t I deck that coach?”

All of it falls, and is gone.

The storm just keeps brewing. It’s huge, a mean beautiful thing. Lost under it, Jack kicks more, I lead more, and kick more, as if that’s all there is, because, sometimes, that is all there is.


Just a pig-skin, and a good bloke down the other end. Nothing said. Not really.


Just football and time.


Any moment now, the rain’s going to hammer down on us…



  1. Damo Balassone says

    Lovely stuff mate. Feel like I’m reading the lost chapters from “The Turning”. Magic.

    Nothing beats having a kick with a good mate (and better still, a good kick!). You’ve inspired me to ring my brother and have a kick after work.

  2. One of the challenges I’ve had as a dad was trying to enjoy kicking the footy with a 10 year old son who couldn’t kick it.

    I’ve been working with him on it where now as a 12 year old, he’s a good kick left and right and it is so much more enjoyable.

  3. What more is there to life is there than to seek out moments when there are no thoughts about the ‘outside’ world creeping into the mindset other than where to be for the following instant?

    ps. Just used the “A storm is brewing. It looks brilliant, as if someone has spilled a bucket of black guts over the oval.” line as inspiration for my gr4 kids to write more descriptively. Where do I send the cheque?

    Keep having moments Matt!

  4. Richard Jones says

    YEP, Matt, in the “old” days there were some burgeonings of some of those ‘rolling suburbs in a sea of rolling suburbs”.

    F’r instance. Highton had only just got started in the 50s, down the hill and across the bridge over the Barwon from Newtown.

    Great sprawling present-day enclaves such as Leopold and Grovedale were real outliers. The tram line stopped in Belmont just where the road to Tprquay gets going these days There wasn’t much there for a cuppla miles (kilometres hadn’t been invented back then) until the train crossing on the Torquay Road..

    Except there was a poultry farm right near the crossing where I could buy duck eggs. On the annual summer holidays Back Down South from tropical climes in Port Moresby.
    Where we were kitted out in shorts & short-sleeved shirts, with long white socks held up by garters a smidge below the knees!!

    Ah, yes Zurbs. Much has changed in half-a-century and more. The drop kick, and those little pin-pointy stab kicks, have gone to God,
    Nowadays blokes punt kick passes to each other, Maybe, they even use the drop punt. But nothing matches Bobby Davis’ or Pete Pianto’s or Nipper Tresize’s or Leo Turner’s (much better player than his son) stab kicks to a fellow Pivotonian forward — on the lead.

    Drop the pill onto the ground — not onto the boot in the first movement, mark you — and then, as it bounced up, deliver with a hard little shunt onto the chest of the teammate down the ground.

    Probably at Queen’s Park. That was a ground regarded as a tad esoteric all those decades ago.

  5. @Richard Jones – When were you in PNG, for how long, and wanem wok bin yupela mekim?

  6. Matt Zurbo says

    Damo, that’s brilliant! Have traveled thousands of ks since this post, but that has made my day! Pete, I could never kick with my dad. It must be a joy.

    Gus, how is the footy in the Middle East going?!?

    “Drop the pill onto the ground — not onto the boot in the first movement, mark you — and then, as it bounced up, deliver with a hard little shunt onto the chest of the teammate down the ground.” Gold.

  7. Richard Jones says

    @pete with the 10-year-old son.
    Mi save long dispela tok-tok.

    In PNG 13 years: 1963 to 1976.

    Started off working in the Public Service. Got into journalism writing sport for the twice a week South Pacific Post which morphed into the national daily Post-Courier in 1969.

    Also worked for the ABC (9PA in Moresby) calling the boxing live on the national network. We’d get crowds of 10,000-plus when one of the PNG locals was fighting a specially flown-in Aussie, Filipino or Korean.

    PM Somare, who has been in a bit of hot water lately challenging the newest PM, suspended standing orders in the House of Assembly one Friday nite in the mid-70s. All the pollies rocked up in official, big black cars to see local boy Martin Beni take on S. Aust’s Colin Cassidy in a Commonwealth light-welterweight ratings bout.

  8. @Richard Jones

    My dad, John (Jack) Edwards, was a kiap from 1957 to 1974. I was born in Port Morseby. My mum was from Yule Island. Did you know the Cantwells at all (cousins). Tony (Cantwell) considered himself emmi tru bigman around Moresby, particulary in the 80s and 90s.

  9. Richard Jones says


    KNEW a heap of kiaps but can’t place ur Dad. Did he work in the Papuan provinces (Milne Bay, the Gulf; Central, the Western District etc…) or was he stationed in New Guinea’s Highlands regions ??

    Martin Beni the boxer I mentioned above hailed from the Kairuku sub-district,, not that far from ur Mum’s home territory!

    To see what Moresby looks like these days [the amount of high rises in little ol’ downtown POM is staggering], go to PNG Attitude (run by PNG old hand, Keith Jackson) and click onto Island Meri’s link. That’s run run by Mari Ellingsen, who comes from the Milne Bay area.. Scroll back in her “older posts” to see shots of the massive buildings in Moresby these days. And more being built, as we speak..

    Mari Ellingsen is back in PNG these days but was stationed in London at the PNG Embassy for a few years. I think as the tourism-special events head there.

  10. @Richard

    Dad was first stationed at Kairuku (before your time). In the early 60s, he went to the Highlands, and was there most of the rest of his career. He was ADC in Mt Hagen before we “fled” in 1974 prior to independence.

    He did spend some time on Rabaul and on Fergusson Island and one of my sisters was born in Budoya. Maria Von Trapp is her Godmother.

    It’s amazing how many people have either worked up there, or have a direct relationship with someone who worked up there.

  11. Malby Danlges says

    “Kicking with someone who has good skills is like drinking top shelf. There’s a crispness to it.”

    So true Matty!

  12. Pete. Where exactly is Yule Island? That is my family name!

    Matt. The season has largely passed me by. Work commitments have prevented me from reporting on the games. Short version; Played 3 Won 1, Lost 2. Still a chance of playing in the GF, but relying on others to help out. So far it is still possible with one round to play. Won’t go into to details, but the Falcons need to win last game against Muscat and hope that percentage and other results fall into place.

    The first game was a win against the Dubai Dragons, but probably covered up a few deficiencies. The next two games against the Dubai Dingoes and Doha Kangaroos, had the Falcons competitive, but if you don’t/can’t kick straight against teams that are equal in most other areas it makes it hard to win.

    We are missing a few from last year and don’t seem to have the depth to cover at the moment. That would be the nature of ex-pat footy though. Flying one year, few players move to greener pastures and you are back in the group pretty quick!

  13. @gus – it is a tiny island West of Port Moresby (75km to 100km away I think). Last I heard, it is being claimed by the sea.

  14. Richard Jones says

    @gus and also @pete

    ALL that sub-district to which Pete is referring was heavily influenced by the Catholic Mission. Bereine, Kairuku, Yule Island: schools and hospitals run by Christian Brothers. They were pretty handy after-hours drinkers, I recall.

    I was at the other end of the Central District, briefly, Pete. At a place called Amazon Bay, or Magarida for the Government station. Earlier than that at Marshall Lagoon where the trade store and basic accommodation was run by a bloke named Jack McGavern.
    He’d been a compositor at the South Pacific Post newspaper, but branched out on his own in middle age. He used to use teenage local girls to carry his trade store merchandise up the hill from the wharf.

    To we early 20-somethings sitting on Jack’s doorstep swilling South Pacific “green bottle” longnecks it was a sight to behold. The line of girls clad only in lap-laps (or sarongs), I mean !!

    They were Papuans. not New Guineans, of course.There’s a huge difference in the “appreciation” stakes right there.

  15. @Pete

    Somewhat like myself…

    Not really expecting an answer here, but would you know if Yule Island was named after the season or a person? It would be nice to have an exploring forebear who did more than wander into the area behind Beenleigh (ie. Away from the Rum Distillery…)

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