Footy: A solitary leaf opens gates of anticipation

By Damian O’Donnell

By rights when the leaves fall off the trees they should “fall” up into the sky;  after all, that’s the way the trees are facing. Fortunately the mysteries of gravity make the leaves drop to the ground.

This may not sound like a very significant issue to concern oneself with, but I’ve often wondered how we would know that the footy season is approaching if we didn’t see the first leaves of the deciduous trees fluttering past our noses on the way to the ground. It’s greeted with the same exultation as the bell to mark the end of the school year once was.

It normally occurs in a park. You might be wandering around between the swings and slides, watching your kids playing (competing) with about four billion other sugar-fuelled tikes, encased in a cocoon of parental conflict; on the one hand glad that the children are so happy, on the other hand sad because you could be at home watching the cricket on the couch.

You might be thinking thoughts that are neither here nor there, the sort of thoughts that waft in and out of your consciousness like a blow fly entering and exiting your ear canal. One moment the thought is prominent, it’s important; it requires attention. Then it’s gone. Phhhhhttt. And so you move onto the next wasted moment.

Maybe I’ll move the fuschias from the front gate to the side of the house.

If I could find a ladder that’s 30 metres high I could clean the spoutings on the high side of the house.

My neighbour’s new haircut looks ridiculous.

Where would be the best place to bury the dead gold fish?

Can Shane Watson hold up the opening spot through a tough ashes campaign?

A kid’s squeal alerts your senses. You look up, keen, vigilant, ready. Then you realise the squeal is not from one of yours. A blond boy with dirt and flies hanging around his nose has face planted off the adventure playground. He gets up and sprints to his mother with bits of tan bark hanging off his cheeks like stray pasta shells after an unsuccessful dinner attempt. You search for your own progeny. They are safely hanging upside down from the flying fox, a metre off the ground, trying to pull each other’s pants down (or is that up?). You relax again. You return to your reverie.

Then it happens, the first autumnal occurrence.

This first one is normally light brown and half-eaten; the weakest leaf on the tree. It can no longer hang on through summer’s harsh dry heat. It senses a call of nature and lets go. It might fall off an oak tree high up where the possums range. The journey to the ground is long and convoluted and subject to the vagaries of the breeze.

It flutters left then right, up then down, around a light pole, across the path of a cyclist and through a hectic cricket match. Then it flutters past your nose. It is insignificant; a leaf.

There’s a leaf, you think, an autumn leaf.

The next thought is a magnitude seven on the thinkter scale. Autumn equals the start of the footy season with the same certainty that E=mc2.

Summer’s heroes immediately disappear from your mind. It’s not about Shane Watson anymore, it’s about Max Rooke and Ablett and Chappyyyyyy. You want to leave the park immediately, go home and put your footy jumper on just to make sure it still fits.

Putting that jumper on again is a special moment. You pull it over your head and stretch it across your shoulders. Then you go to the mirror. A few crinkles and crumples are visible because the jumper has been stuffed into the drawer over summer. You pat them down. At the end of this season you promise yourself you will fold it properly before storing it away.

It looks magnificent.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. That was such a nice Story. :)
    i like Autumn because it means my Birthday is near, Born in May makes me an Autumn baby. :)

    once again, great piece.


  2. Dips,

    I can picture you in the park, a thin, crisp leaf floating past your bald noggin.

    Unfortunately, I’ll probably now think of you when I see my first falling leaf of the season.

  3. Danni – thanks. You probably like May for two reasons:

    1 – It’s your birthday month
    2 – The Pies are normally flag favourites in May.

    And Daff, I’m only HALF bald thank you very much.

  4. Your better half?

  5. Great piece Dips! Can totally empathise with the cricket/footy changeover. Though, admittedly, am slightly less excited about the season after the Stokes dilemma :-(

  6. Susie – appreciate your sentiments.

    Don’t worry about the Stokes incident. He will be dealt with appropriately. Once the ball bounces you’ll be into it again.

  7. John Butler says

    Lovely stuff Dips.

    And the Stawell Gift is in autumn as well.

  8. Another classic piece, Dips. While events of this time last year have dominated the news lately, one thing I remember about January 2009 was the number of leaves that fell due to trees suffering from drought and heat stress. So I was itching for footy way too early last year!

    This year the trees are behaving themselves and I have a cricket team to play for so the itch hasn’t arrived just yet. But I’m looking forward to it.

  9. Gigs – you should fire up about the footy very soon. Dogs a BIG chance this year.

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