Airports and Grunt



The road must have been in a safe seat. It was shit, but in a good way. Thin, with narrow shoulders, ebbing and flowing through a bumpy patchwork of tar repairs, but, suddenly, it bent and rose across a railway track and smoothed out into a town that was more like a village. Something pretty and leafy, surrounded by Tassie mountains and their snow, and a tough footy team made up of blokes mostly from other places.
The airport wasn’t far. In this weird pocket of rural England we bashed into each other while planes rose and fell. I watched one at quarter time, wondered who was on it, mid-day Saturday? It would have had a crowd of sorts. People coming, going, doing their things. Things nothing to do with football. Living lives, most probably, that had nothing to do with football.


Our game was strange. Hard. They’re a solid mob. But we had Nicko with us, who’s a senior player who’s cracked the shits. And Freddy with us, who’s a senior player who’s cracked the shits, too. And Big Boogy, who is good enough, but too loose to play Ones. And Big Trev, who’s too lazy.
And, best, there was a new bloke who’d just sorta appeared on the last week of clearances. He’s young and as friendly as all hell, and has a mullet and bomber jacket. Cougars, reminded of their youth, try to pick him up.
But what matters is he’s tall, and can mark. Suddenly, kicking into the strong wind in the second, we had a target, and, in that, in the Twos, from nowhere, some sort of a plan.
Sometimes it’s as simple as that.


We were about 6 goals up in the last when another plane rose, from behind the grandstand, into the sky. The mountains framed it beautifully. ‘Where are they going?’ I thought. ‘What’s on in Melbourne on a Saturday night? Why didn’t they go on a Friday and make a weekend of it?
‘Get there a day early and watch a match?’
AFL players see nothing but airports. All in their team colours, like cattle, being looked at, living the dream. Talking to their opponents like we do in the rooms, after the match. Like mates.
It seems like another world. I hope they love it. Even the airports.


We won by four goals against the 4th placed team. The seniors lost to the sixth. In a week, our positions are reversed. The McGoos lost our first 5 matches of the season by an average of 100 points. Nikki Webster could have beaten us with a wet mop. We still only get about ten to training, but, somehow, finals are now a good chance.


I was knackered. I’d spent the lot, worn a knock or two, and done my bit. Training three nights a week is paying off. This week, anyway, the marks stuck.
I left the leafy clubrooms on dusk, throwing my dog in the back of the ute as another plane came in. I’d be passing the airport as they got off. I was tempted to stop in and say g’day, ask them where they’d been, where they were going? What they got up to in their lives? How many of them played footy in their day, but had simply had enough?
Even if they wanted to share a beer? Why not?


But I was keen to get back to the bush.





  1. Matt, if you want a summer gig, come and play for the Abu Dhabi Falcons for a few games. I’d love to see how the Zurbo mind would work at the Muscat Footy Ground. Surrounded by sheer and shaggy mountains devoid of any vegetation, foregrounded with mostly white buildings including a large mosque.

    Nothing like trying to get a kick when the call to prayer is going off!

  2. Matt Zurbo says

    Gus, mate! Stop it, you’re making me horny! Haha. If I wasn’t a dumb arsed wood cutter with no money I wold be there so damn quick! Might have to rob a bank or something. Damn!!

  3. Not much wood to cut anywhere around here. I think it is one of the things we are looking forward to when we return to Oz next year. Trees, ahhhh. Green, ahhhh… Must get home. Soon

    My old man was a Forester for 35 odd years up in Qld, although mostly research based. Got me a job one year doing surveying in the Imbil Forestry Reserve. Something very settling about being in the bush surrounded by it, with nothing to hear but the wind through the leaves and birds.

    Start saving. I’ll see if I can work out a sponsorship deal for the flight!

  4. Matt Zurbo says

    Haha! You serious, Gus?! Or teasin’ the shit outta me? Would be a dream.

    And, yeah, people assume people who work in the bush don’t love it. I have been a harvester and done a lot of rainforest re-generation (have recreated 7 rainforests to date) and been a tree pruner, and, now, a wood cutter. I could trade many great stories of the bush with ya. Over a beer, of course.

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