From the US to Australia: a young boy’s introduction to footy


My boys were born in Melbourne, we moved to California when they were 2 and 3, and they have spent the majority of there short lives in the USA. After living there for a little over a year there was a heartbreaking moment when I realised that my kids now sounded more American than little Aussies It was what distinguished us from the masses, now it was my American wife, kids and the USA against me, I had no chance.


Not to be put off I was determined that my boys were going to be raised as Australian kids living in Pinole, California. I insisted that they write Mum instead of Mom and colour instead of color. You get the idea. They kept on bringing their school work home with corrections all through their spelling, confusing them even more. My answer was that I was right and the teacher was wrong but to go along with them just to appease them.


One thing I was determined to do was to continue their indoctrination into footy and to follow their old man into a life of misery barracking for St Kilda. For the brief time my wife lived in Australia she would see me yelling at the TV and writhing around on the couch or at the stadium, the constant frustration and exasperation that is being a St Kilda supporter. My wife would ask, why would I inflict such cruelty on my kids? I tell her that there is an unwritten code that your kids always follow their father’s team. The brainwashing was underway.

We would go down to the local field and kick the football, I would dazzle them with the magical skills of their old man (never telling them that my football career in the late 70’s and 80’s ended at the U16’s and was mainly spent sitting on the bench for the Oakleigh Districts in one of those old mothball smelling dressing gowns trying to stay warm in the cold south-east suburbs of Melbourne, handing out oranges to the real players at ¾ time and only when the game was firmly out of our grasp was I unleashed on to the football world safely ensconced in the pocket were I could do as little damage as possible to our losing score), practising our drop punts and handballs, tackling each other which they thought was the best part of the game.

Strange looks emanated from the local Pinole population as they walked by.

This would go on for years keeping them in touch with their roots and having to answer questions like “when was the last time St Kilda were Premiers?” and” how many times have they won it?”. When they digested the answers and compared them to other teams I could see there allegiance wavering. Nevertheless they have stuck with them and we are all proud members.

A few months before we moved back to Oz, my brother who lives across the bay in San Francisco came out to play with his nephews and we all went down to the local ground for a kick. After a while my brother comes up to me and says that Kadin my younger one is going to be a little champ, how so I asked. He is not afraid to take down bigger opponents he said, no fear, something I severely lacked as a footballer. While he said this and wondering where he got this trait from, he dragged down his 10 year old brother with relative ease and chose to remind him about it when they were getting up. Maybe he was on to something.


Back home and the 2012 season dawned and it was time to see if my years of teaching them the old man’s prolific skills had paid off. We agreed the best course of action was to get them into Auskick, do the fundamentals then join the local footy team. My eldest son Zach turns to me and says he wants to play soccer instead, “what the..?”. After the initial shock and quietly putting away the up-for-adoption papers, I reluctantly signed him up all the while still trying to coerce him ? Are you sure? Yes Dad I am. Damn!

Not so Kadin, he wanted to join Auskick and the local club, tears were welling up.

Before he even goes to his first Auskick the coordinator calls, we have a spare spot for Auskick during halftime at a preseason match at Etihad. Are you kidding me? This kid who has never played competitively, just off the plane from America is going to play his first ever game at Etihad stadium in front of thousands of people. I tried to explain to him how special this was explaining how I never had that chance, I would toil away at the suburban grounds as a kid in subzero temperatures with water logged balls covered in mud,  and that was just training, and he gets to run onto Etihad stadium.

Seeing him run out there, my wife and I were full of pride I looked at my eldest son who looked back and then out to his brother on the field and suddenly he realised the error in his decision not to play Auskick.

My son Kadin has an extreme sense of what he perceives as right and wrong and fair play when he plays games, or anything for that matter. Unfortunately the real world sometimes doesn’t play by those rules and frustratingly, he is finding that out. In Auskick there is no tackling, he was pinged the first time he came near the ball when he tackled another young boy text book style, “ball umpire”. When told no tackling he reluctantly gave it to the opposition to kick. When he was tackled and no free was given he was incredulous. He then proceeded to grab the ball, stop the game and explain the rules to the umpire and why he should be getting the ball. This is an AFL players dream, lecturing an umpire about the rules and what he has done wrong and how he should rectify it all in the middle of the stadium. Walking off, the other kids were cheering on the AFL players to the field, not my son, he was in deep conversation with the coach seeking clarification of the tackling rule. Welcome to the world of dubious umpiring decisions son.

First official Auskick practice arrives. Kadin extremely calm and collected in the face of so many kids and potential opponents, me an absolute nervous wreck. Well for a kid who has never formally played, my fears were allayed. After they did their drills they had a game and they section it off and put players in defense, centre and forwards to avoid a roving pack. Kadin was a defender, up walks a really big kid as his opponent. He was pushing everyone out of the way, and the other kids were scared of him and ran away, not Kadin, that was just more of a challenge, he was like an exocet missile and just homed in on him and dragged him down, the umpires then came in and told him he couldn’t tackle, undeterred by the no tackle rule, he would bump, scrounge, anything just to get his hands on that ball  (unlike me, at his age I would do my best Craig Bradley impersonation and dance around the pack waiting for someone to give me the ball).

Bursting with pride walking in the front door I announced to my wife with all the fanfare I could muster, I now have a favourite son, you can take care of soccer boy I’m going to Auskick. A journey to be continued.

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