Henry and the Jets: Overtime and out of time

 

 

 

This will likely be the most difficult column I’ve written for the Almanac to date. Personally, when emotions take over my writing, things can go a little haywire, so I’ll attempt to remain coherent as I tap out the weekend’s events. The day began as I’m sure many players’ days did, with a Father’s Day breakfast. After a solid helping of scrambled eggs on toast, followed by my ritualistic bowl of porridge and a glass of juice, I was packing my gear ready to head on out.

 

I think it’s important, as I mention it, to give thanks for all fathers and father figures reading this, and especially to commemorate any fathers who aren’t with us anymore to celebrate with their families.

 

With Dad blasting Playing to Win by Little River Band on my way out the door, I had high hopes for a beautifully exciting day ahead. The beauty part took care of itself as spring had well and truly sprung in the outer-east suburbs of Melbourne, and I was feeling the perfect mixture of nervous and determined to return home with our dreams of a premiership intact. (For any sports-science students out there, I was perfectly poised upon the performance-arousal bell curve.)

 

To catch-up any newcomers to Henry and the Jets, the Heathmont Jets were lucky enough to scrape into a semi-final this past week and thanks to the footy gods – all hail those *insert expletive here* – we were pitted against our season’s greatest rival, the Mitcham Tigers. The season’s scoreline between us stood at 2-1 in their favour and we were keen to draw level in the most important game of the year so far.  The day’s football was about as exciting as any local footy you could have been lucky enough to witness. Both the Colts and Reserves stepped by their opponents with 1-point wins and Heathmont were off to a flier. The only dampener on a so far brilliant Heathmont parade was watching our Reserves’ captain-coach, Nathan Parker, go down with a painfully dislocated thumb. Nevertheless, a cumulative margin of 2 points across 2 games set the Seniors’ match up as an almighty finale.

 

There was a great sense that we were all in this together as we ran out onto a pristine East Burwood Reserve. The roaring cheers from the Heathmont faithful, with so many familiar, friendly and supportive faces, was one I hope not to forget before next season. The under 19s gathered behind the goals at the far end, settling into the trays of their utes and along the fence, ready to witness 3 hours of highly contested footy.

 

The one thing which always reminds me to think of a final as any other game is in the warm-up being the very same as any other. We get into routines as footballers and as a team, and naturally going through those paces, albeit with a heightened sense of occasion, can help to settle the nerves and return a sense of normality and familiarity to the moment. So that’s just what we did as we ran out shoulder to shoulder. A bit of side to side, a bit of backwards jogging, the odd sprint and we were in tight for our final captain’s address. This address centred around ‘writing our own story’. Utility Murphy Ambrose touched on the fact that this year’s squad will never ever play together again exactly as we have been in 2019. Blokes will move on and blokes will retire, but we had one chance to make sure it wasn’t the last time we enjoyed a kick of the leather together. Then, before we knew it, we were in position and the umpire was throwing the ball up in slow-motion – just like in the movies.

 

Typical of our two teams’ playing styles, it was a low-scoring affair. Sequences of 5 to 10 stoppages in a row were seen multiple times throughout the day, sometimes resulting in a scoring opportunity and other times the end of a quarter. The very fact it ended with quite low final scores is a tough reality considering the Jets managed the first 6 goals of the game within the opening quarter and a half. Spirits were high and as the EFL commentators can be heard saying at the time, “it’s impossible to see where Mitcham are going to find a goal from.” Credit to the Tigers though, they hung in for the middle third and remained within touching distance at the final change. Then down came the rains. Our beautiful spring day was drowned in a torrent which made Heathmont’s frantic ‘surge football’ tactic many lengths more difficult. Adapted from the premiership winning tactics of the 2016 Dogs and 2017 Tigers, our surge mentality was the ploy which had landed the Jets on our finals berthing, 4-game winning streak. But out there in the rain, the theme became more storm surge than surge football. The downpour was all Mitcham required to play the game on more even terms and, slowly but surely, with just a few minutes left before we advanced to the Prelim, they drew level.

 

6.8-44 played 6.8-44 when the siren sounded on a game which, after the first half, one would have guessed would belong to the Jets. Alas, for the second year in a row I would be subjected to a period of overtime – 5 minutes each way, after which a golden point may separate any further draw. The first half of OT saw 5 minutes of stock standard, wet, slippery local football. No scores were recorded and we remained locked at 44 a piece. It’s needless to say at this point that nerves were at a season-high. Any slip-up, literal or skill-wise, could lead to an opposition score and consequent loss.  The rain didn’t help as I tried in vain to dry my hands on any patch of dry clothing I could find. In the end, it didn’t matter. The vanquishing blow was what I can only acknowledge as a very classy, snapping goal in the conditions from Mitcham’s Jessie Smythe. We tried not to drop our heads and get back what should have been ours, but the Tigers overran us to claim a 7-point victory. Personally, it was my second finals loss in overtime in two years – last year in the Reserves – and boy, does it still hurt days later.

 

But the big thing I learned out of Sunday’s match lies in the realisation that losses bring a team far closer together than a win might.  I can’t think of many a time I’ve hugged my teammates after a win. More often you’ll catch me sharing a high-five and one of those almost hug, bro-shake kind of things. After Sunday’s loss, on the other hand, all anyone wanted to do was look a mate in the eye, give them a big cuddle and remind them that next year everything will come up Heathmont.  I’m not sure if that’s just me or if that’s just Heathmont. But after having an EFL writer tip us to finish last before the season had begun, there was a real sense that having made the finals was a massive achievement, considering where we were 6 weeks ago. Of course, this won’t make things hurt much less for any Jets reading along this week though I’d like to think that enshrining it upon the Almanac will give us something to look back on and remember what a loss feels like.

 

One positive I’ve found out of the weekend’s results is the Reserves now get a turn to be written about! As I’ve been reminded several times by several players, “the twos should get a run as well in your little weekly column”. Well boys, now’s your time – just give me something worthwhile to write about, will you? A Preliminary Final win if possible…

 

As much as I’d rather not say it, next week’s submission will be a supportive sideline role – maybe a Fanta in one hand and a burger in the other. As long as I’m in amongst the blue, white and yellow I reckon everything will pan out. I’ll be cheering every goal scored, groaning at each one conceded, and politely suggesting the umpire reverse his decision. And I’ll be doing it all with the Jets alongside me, because that’s just another way a loss brings you closer together.

 

To re-live the Jets’ journey to the finals, click HERE.

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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About Henry Ballard

21 year-old student of journalism, local footy, and fluent conversation. Of which I have perfected none and should never hope to.

Comments

  1. Tough, Henry! But you proved the pre-season doubters very wrong and the lads deserve a lot of credit. Good on you for trying to find and hang on to the positives of the season and the heart-breaking overtime loss. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your reports and look forward to next week’s results. Good luck to those two teams.

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