First match of the coaching season

We love living across the road from a football ground. Helen and I moved into our current abode 14 years ago. The school football ground was part of the attraction. Many family hours have been spent flying kites, throwing frisbees, kicking footballs, catching lacrosse balls, learning to ride bicycles or just running around. We always went across the road. And on Sundays in football season, the street came alive with the comings and goings of junior footballers. There was one oval, home ground to the Williamstown Juniors, and games were played from early to late. Our children were still too young to play, but we would often wandered across to just watch whatever game was on at the time. We would also laugh at our next door neighbours, John and Mary, who, early in the day, would drive their car into the ground and park on the wing, so later that afternoon, they would have a prime, weather-proof viewing position to watch their grandson play.

About six years ago the oval was deemed sub-standard and football was moved elsewhere. The convenience of the across-the-road training venue went with it. Home games were played at borrowed venues in Newport and Altona – nice enough grounds, but they never seemed like home. Grumpy old George up the street might have been happier that his winter Sundays weren’t disrupted by football sirens, but most of us missed it.

Grants were sourced. Money was raised. Plans were made and re-made. The first oval was twisted and stretched and re-turfed. A second oval was constructed on vacant land behind the first. The change rooms were re-furbished. Training lights were installed. In 2007, Williamstown Juniors moved back home. Mary has passed away, and their grandson is no longer a junior footballer, but gates and barriers mean that their park on the boundary is no longer an option anyway. But winter Sundays of traffic mayhem have certainly returned. With two ovals, twice the number of matches and twice the player and spectator population.

Week one of season 2009. The grounds are rock-hard but cleared for play. A heavy downpour on the preceding Thursday was never more welcome. Some more would be nice. Most of the Williamstown Juniors teams are drawn to play Hoppers Crossing, home and away. However, the welcome rain has meant that Hoppers have been kicked off their grounds for this week. Their ovals are in such a poor state that football so soon after the rain could have ruined them for the remainder of the season. Games have to be re-located – a few to Williamstown. It is going to be Super Sunday across the road. The first games are scheduled for 8.50. The first cars start arriving well before 8 o’clock. They must have forgotten to wind their clocks back. More likely they are keen under 9s playing their first game of competitive football wanting to make sure they aren’t late. Ground rationalisation means, for the early timeslot games, they have to use cones and makeshift posts to create two grounds on oval number one. And the two ovals have games scheduled right through to a 6pm finish time. The training lights might need to be switched on. If the club canteen doesn’t make a motza on Super Sunday they are not trying.

The Under 16 Ds are scheduled to play Hoppers at Hoppers at 2.05. The game is moved to Williamstown and re-scheduled for 4.00. We get to wear white shorts at home. And the later time slot means that Dickie Fry can coach. He can still play his Super Fools game in the morning. I am happy to be his assistant. My son Bill has had his wisdom teeth out on the Friday so he is not playing. I know most of the kids in the team but have to learn a few names. As team manager, Steve McHugh has the most difficult job. It never ceases to amaze how some parents can remain invisible until all the jobs have been allocated and the game about to commence. Steve checks off each job as he conscripts another “volunteer”. Compared to being team manager, the coaches have a very easy lot.

Dickie and I go through the team. Four on the bench is a good number. Everyone will get to play at least three quarters. And we can rotate players through various positions. We want to win, sure, but player development and enjoyment are paramount. Bill will be pleased that on his return Dickie wants to move him out of the back-line.

A handy first quarter wind helps us build a handy quarter time lead. Dickie delegates the speech responsibility to his assistant – me. Dickie is not going to make every game. I will have to get used to this oratory aspect of the role. A few specific highlights. Point out that our friend the wind is now our enemy. But not an unassailable one. Stating the obvious really. But football coaches are not renowned for their speech making. Are they?

We hold our ground in the second quarter and go on to a solid ten goal win.  A couple of injuries mean we are down to one fit player on the bench by the final siren. The worst injury is the broken arm I am able to diagnose from forty metres. I did say the grounds were hard. A bit more rain would be nice.


About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.


  1. Good one AF.
    This is a bit of a time capsule now, I imagine, with reference to your son and his wisdom teeth coming out. I’m not (yet) involved with junior sport. Our two girls are 8 and 6 – just getting into the gymnastics. But I have friends involved. And I’ve done it in my previous life as a secondary school teacher.
    Getting the balance right between (i) fun; (ii) development of skills & interests of individuals and the team; and (iii) winning the on the scoreboard, seems to be a thorny issue.
    I guess we all sit somewhere on a spectrum there. I know where my seat is positioned, and it’s a long way from the parent who wants to win at all costs.
    Great piece.
    I wonder what changes you’ve noticed since this was published…

  2. Andrew Fithall says

    e.regnans. I want to claim a new Almanac record – 4 years 6 months between initial posting of an article and the registering of the first comment.

    Bill never did get out of the backline – just finished his final season of junior football (under 19) having moved from Willy Juniors to Williamstown CYMS. Back pocket with occasional kick-out duties.

    We still love the football season activity across the road. Our youngest son has just finished his final season at Willy Juniors. I saw little of his season having accompanied his sisters to their lacrosse games. My wife Helen was just made a life member of Williy Juniors having completed 11 years of service incorporating numerous roles on and off-field.

    Without knowing where you live e. may I recommend lacrosse for your daughters. My two girls were introduced to the sport because of where we live and through friends who are heavily involved. They are 16 and have been to four national junior championships and next year hopefully begin try-outs for the Australian under 19 team to play world championships in Scotland the middle of 2015. Small sport. Lots of opportunities (but unlike gymnastics – no olympics).


  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Andrew good summary of junior sport and there is something special about the beehive of activity of junior footy . I love SAPSA week where there are 8 games going on at the same time with 32 teams involved from all around the state at West Beach here in SA where last year the mighty East Adelaide won div 1 for the 1st time . The APY lands team competes and it is one of my greatest football joys having the privilege to umpire them the sheer joy these boys display while playing is incredible somersaults , cartwheels it is amazing .
    Andrew are your boys playing now ? What are you doing re sport now ?
    Congrats Helen life membership is a fantastic achievement and recognition Thanks Andrew

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