Almanac Footy Memoir: Worse Than This


The rain started late on Friday night. As I went to sleep it drummed on the tin roof and every now and then when the wind picked up it threw the drops hard against the window. By Saturday morning the lawn was puddled, saturated and muddy. The rain continued on and off through the morning and when it wasn’t raining it was misty and damp. It got as high as 9 degrees momentarily around one and then began dropping again.


By the time the game started at 2.30 the ground was churned mud from the earlier contests. It was going to be a slog. Heavy ball, cold air, muddy underfoot. Attrition. Kick the heavy ball up the field, watch it skid along the grass or stop in the glue, pack develops, players burrow in, about ten hands try and pick it up, none do. Umpire whistles. Ball up. Repeat.


About three quarter time the clouds darkened and thunder rolled across the ground. The temperature dropped. The training lights were turned on highlighting the steam rising from players’ bodies in the huddles. The last quarter was played in driving rain.


The few supporters who had braved the conditions to stand or sit round the boundary, joined the majority in their cars around the ground.  A small but vocal crowd – a few of the colts, a few club stalwarts – stood in front of the clubrooms with cans of beer in hand, grateful to have done their bit for the day, or to tell tales of that day, ten or twenty years back, when it was “worse than this”.


None of that meant that the contest on the field wasn’t fierce. It was. There aren’t more or less points on offer for winning ugly. The only difference was that the abiding emotion was more endurance than enjoyment. Every now and then someone would defy the conditions and do something that might happen when it was sunny and dry. A mark overhead or a pick up on the run or a snap for a goal from 30 metres. The team that did that more often would win and so it proved. We finished 8 points ahead when the final siren mercifully put everyone out of their misery and back to the sheds; not 1 goal 2, but literally 8 points – 3.12 to 3.4.


It was marginally warmer in the sheds, mainly from the warmth emanating from the crowd of bodies and, eventually the steam drifting from the showers. The beer was still very cold as it should be, and given the result, still tasted pretty good on our side of the partition. After a while the volume of the noise grew as people thawed out and began to feel vaguely human again. Players, having showered, stood on the benches to get changed to avoid standing in the mud and dirt that covered the change room floor. The jumpers lay in a sodden pile in the middle of the floor, the club colours unrecognisable.


And so, eventually to the club rooms. The cold air hit you as you emerged from the sheds but the light from the clubrooms beckoned warm and yellow.  As you entered the warmth embraced you. The heaters had been on all day. There was a pretty big crowd. There was an enticing smell of warm food cooking in the kitchen. There was a jovial hum of talk and laughter. The President was over at the tables where the victorious netballers had congregated, raffle tickets in hand. A few of the opposition players faced with the choice of driving off into the dark and cold night, had stayed behind for a drink and a catch up with friends. Players’ partners were chatting together. A few kids munched chips or had an eye on the footy replay on the TV in the corner. My girlfriend came over and shook her head at the madness of what she had seen over the last few hours. Then we hugged, and took a couple of chairs as close as we could to the heater, friends and team mates around us, a drink in hand, and smiles on our faces.


Is there a warmer place on earth than the warm corner of the footy/netball club rooms about 6pm on a cold winter evening after a slogging win in the rain and mud? I already knew the answer. There isn’t.


And is  there a more carefree and contented feeling than the one to be had in those those warm footy club rooms after a wet, cold game, a fierce contest in which you gave your best, with a satisfying outcome, with friends and supporters packed in, drinks in hand, hot food cooking, when you are young and all that mattered was the Saturday night that lay ahead with exciting possibilities?


I knew the answer to that one too. Same answer.


It’s a cold and wet Saturday today. I wish I was there again.






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  1. John Butler says

    You’re made of sterner stuff than I, John.

    You’ve just reminded me why I opted for cricket. :)

  2. I loved this, John.
    It brought back memories of the mudheaps I played on in the Ammos in the 80’s and 90’s.
    The aftermatch was always special on those days.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Bewdy John. At Adelaide Uni, we were responsible for providing and maintaining our own gear. You can imagine how good students were at washing their jumpers. By mid-July, they were generally black with a grey-brown V. I had the sense to shower in my gear some weeks. It was worth it.

  4. Snowy from Busso says

    Great read John.The might Bridgenorth Parrots down in Tassie,whom the Prime Minister barracks for,has an open fireplace in their shed.

  5. Terrific stuff John. I still feel the sleeting rain off Spencer Gulf when playing colts in Yorketown. Being a career coward I gave it up soon after for cricket & golf – like JB. I watch my nephew in the mud at Bassendean and marvel at how much he enjoys the biff and bash and physicality of footy. Not for me. But the promise of Saturday night – that’s another matter.

  6. John Gordon says

    Thanks for all the comments and chilling memories. Who is your nephew Peter B? Always happy for another one to watch out for. I might write about cricket in the Perth summer heat next!

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