Henry and the Jets: That freak hailstorm

It began with a few clinks on the skylight and a chorus of “good day for footy”.  Jane Bunn had got it right – hail was in the air.


As the magoos began their second half, we the Heathmont Jets firsts sat about Ringwood’s away rooms taping up and strapping on, preparing for another critical Parker Family Cup between our neighbouring suburbs.


The skylight clinks intensified and not 10 minutes into the reserves’ third quarter, our change-room door flew open. In stampeded a team of shell-shocked, unpaid footballers, hailstones clattering in the doorway behind them – their match had been temporarily abandoned. The howling laughter which erupted from the so far dry senior team still rings in my ears, as we watched bloke after tough bloke flood our cosy bunker of pump-up music and Deep Heat.


Players flee the hail. Photo: Dylan Milton


As the skylight quietened down, the ice was kicked from their boots and shaken from their questionable haircuts. Playing coach Nathan Parker (heir to the Parker Family Cup) rallied his troops and they marched on out again.  Over the piles of hail at the doorstep, they ran back out of sight, as we the senior 22 pretended to remain equally keen to brave the conditions.  The term ‘warm-up’ was chucked around more loosely from then on, but kick about and stretch we did on the lake that was the training ground at Ringwood’s Jubilee Park.


No one had seen anything like it. Hail was piled against the grandstand walls for the remainder of the day, as streams of water cut their way through to the nearest drain. Jubilee Park itself had been reduced to a sheet of white as onlookers discussed how boundary lines would be distinguished. I will admit, true to character, I was seen handling a hail-ball or two in the aftermath of the downpour.


Surprisingly, the ice was far from the most slippery part of play. Instead, as per usual, the centre square mud from last summer’s cricket pitch still took the cake. And in this regard, it was like any other day in local footy, except it just wasn’t. The day’s difficulty level was seen in the Ringwood 2’s outing of 1.15-21; and by the average score of 35 across the day at Jubilee.


The scoreboard says it all. Photo: Dylan Milton


The reserves players had their 15 seconds of fame as videos and photos posted online were picked up by the AFL and Triple M media teams – arguably and understandably the scrappiest quality of football which has ever graced our mobile screens.


Co-captain, playing-coach Pat Warman later told me just how abrasive the surface became as players were tackled into the ice. Their hot, post-game showers painfully revealed every nick and cut received from the hail stone carpet.


As the reserves match wound up, so did senior warm-ups and it was time for us to brave the blizzard ourselves. After all, the Heathmont-Ringwood Parker Family Cup was on the line.  So, out onto the slowly melting field we ran, grit in our teeth and ice in our veins. To keep in touch with top four, we needed this win.


Thankfully and bizarrely, the sun poked its head out for patches of the game, before the hail returned in the final quarter of a classic tussle with the Redbacks. Down by just three goals at the final change, the home side mounted their final grasp at the cup. In the end, a negating role from the Jets’ loudest quiet-achiever Wade Van Leeuwen – who saw his opponent to just two touches for the game was enough to put the spiders away. While at the other end of the ground, Heathmont’s Ben “the Viking” Abbruzzese was impossible to stop with three goals. And fair play to the Ringwood backline – if I heard a big, blond, brick house like Benny charging towards me out of full forward I might think about stepping aside too.


As the final siren sounded giving us a 23-point victory and our first Parker Family Cup since the come-from-behind prelim final win of 2017, wouldn’t you bloody know it – a rainbow appeared.




Henry Ballard is a final year journalism student at Deakin University.



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.


  1. Welcome, Henry.
    Really well-paced and enjoyable piece.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    You’ve captured a very unique day of footy there Henry. You might not see anything like that ever again.

  3. There’s nothing quite like being in the middle of a hailstorm. Years ago, when we got a “big hurricane” as my friend Geoff described it, many of my fishing mates and I would head for the Port Noarlunga jetty and fish for salmon.

    Dressed appropriately in oilskins and rubber boots, we hauled in these great fighters no matter what the weather through at us. 30 to 35 knot westerlies were the best conditions. You could see the rain clouds approaching with the rain not far away. Then came the hail. Putting your rod int a groove in the jetty rail, pulling up your hood and turning your back to the wind was then the way to go.

    It would take something like 5 minutes for the hail to go and the clouds to break up until a a little later the next round began. I can remember a few times when, in their haste to ready themselves for the approaching tempest, a few angles would forget to set the drag on their reel. Invariably a salmon would grab the bait and a rod would disappear over the side.

    What fun. My best afternoon there resulted in me catching 51 and I left them biting as all my bags were all full (no bag limits in those days) Fish sizes ranged between 2 pounds and 3 and a half pounds. Some days someone would even catch a snapper, but I never did.

  4. E.regnans says

    Hailstone carpet!
    Love the scene of scratches & nicks being painfully revealed.

    Thanks for this Henry.
    Well played Heathmont. Well played Ringwood.

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