Football Memories




We were engaged. Work wise, her heart was tough, leather. I loved her for that. The way she had dreams. In life it was porcelain. I was in love with that, too. With keeping her safe. I had only ever taken her to one match, when I was still in the bush.

My club at the time, from the coast, played an inland farming team full of grit. Somebody gave me one, I gave one back and it was on for a bit. Nothing much. Their supporters had grit, too. They shouted at me and mine, veins-popping, faces-exploding stuff. It was just another game against this mob, I thought.

We had a good win. My opponent was a 100 goals a year man. He kicked five on me in the first. The bench, for some dumb reason, left me on him. He was a fox, always running me under it, using his body, playing the full dodgy deck. I changed tactics and started behind him, reading it through the air on the lead. Hit him hard on his double back. We started winning it more out of the middle, too. He didn’t kick another. I was happy enough.

He only had one more shot, deep in the third. He lost me in traffic, leaping into a great pack mark. His shot from 50 hit the metal goal post flush. It made the sweetest, loudest PING, that echoed through the cattle hills and plains. It was no nick, there was no waiting to see how the umpire saw it. The sound had such a simplicity to it.


I’ll never forget it. My life should always be so straight up.

After my shower, I went into the rooms to have a beer with the people who’d been demanding somebody rip my head off, as you do. My girlfriend wasn’t there.

I found her in the car, where I’d parked it, under the cypress trees. She’d been there for three quarters, crying her guts out.

“They all sounded so angry, so aggressive,” she said.


A year or two later I moved to the city to be with her. I got a job on the garbage run that helped her set up her own fashion label of exquisite, beautiful clothes. My boss was mad. We ran and lifted, non-stop, as hard as we could, in five hour braces, for ten to fifteen hours a day. But it kept me outdoors and sane and fit for footy. I liked the start to the days. The quiet, open roads. There was never any traffic at 5am.

Pre season we played a tough, working class mob under the shadows of the MCG, six or seven railway lines rattling our teeth. The opposition had a big, beefy thug who liked throwing his weight and elbows around. When he did it to me I’d had enough, and gave him a backhand, then when he hit me back, slipped and fell on the cricket pitch. He was, simply, a better fighter. On and all over me.

The big donk.


Fists came down, as they sometimes do.


The team I was playing for was fairly affluent. Good people, but they had different life rules to me.

“Stay for a drink with these gorillas?” they said, and left for restaurants or nightclubs, or whatever they did.

The opposition club rooms were packed, not just with players – reserves and seniors – but wives, girlfriends, kids, ex-players, parents, friends. It was a noisy, shifting, swaying smoking, drinking living thing. I was as jealous as all hell.

“Each week we give the funnel to the best player from the other mob,” the President boomed. “And seeings as you’re the only one who came in…”

“You beauty!” I said, and everybody laughed, and I drank the funnel beer.


My black eye was a corker. I sat back in the middle of their noise for a drink or two, pretty much on my own, thinking about my beautiful, tough yet porcelain woman. We had nothing. Not even furniture. Just her dream and a garbage run.

She always worried that this was me. That I’d find ways to stay down. She worked 14 hour days, seven days a week and would come home to a ten dollar couch, empty walls and small five dollar, flickering b&w t.v. And there I was, wearing busted faces like trophies.

We lasted until the end of the football season, after which I, eventually, returned to play in the bush.



  1. Enjoyed your piece Matt.

    But being the naturally optimistic type, I expected that you were leading us to a happy ending.

    Such is life.

    That is all

  2. Matt Zurbo says

    Thank you!

  3. Loved it Matt. Poignant and funny. Just like life.
    I reckon you had a happy ending, just not the one that the article led us to suspect. The literary version of being sold the dummy.
    As John Lennon said “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”

  4. Neil Belford says

    The sheer grace of this story has me enthralled – dumbstruck. I have finally figured out a comment. Matt – are you sure you are not Paul Kelly.

  5. Matt Zurbo says

    Thanks, Peter. I sometimes wish I was better at that plans stuff.

    Neil, far from it, but one hell of a compliment! Thank you, mate.

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