Henry and the Jets: Turning sour into sweet, a farewell.

A beautiful day for finals footy at East Burwood Reserve. Photo: Henry Ballard


Another finals week, another chance for a Jets team to fight their way to the ultimate in local football glory. Despising the Under 19s earlier time slot on the day, I dragged myself out of bed in the wee hours of Sunday morning (8:30 wake-up? Ya kidding!), woofed down some Weet-Bix, and headed on out. Yet again, springtime had well and truly sprung in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and a third consecutive week of finals footy looked set to cap off a beautiful weekend. Loving Sunday’s lack of traffic up Burwood Highway, I begrudgingly handed over the $15 required to support my teammates and found my way around the boundary to the Heathmont supporters.


Gradually, the Jets crowd ambled in, most with a coffee in hand, some with sunglasses on in an all too obvious nod to a big night before. Most Reserves players were frustrated to be stuck on the sidelines, as the Seniors had been for a fortnight now, while others admitted to being slightly relieved to put a long season behind them. It’s always interesting to speak with teammates individually as opposed to in a blokey group after training or a game. A lot more can be revealed by just chatting one-on-one – this, I think, is most important to mention in the wake of ‘Spud’ Frawley’s passing. It would seem that the fewer pairs of ears listening, the more that’ll be said, rather ironically.


But on with the game, as they say! Which, in the same fashion as our other two teams’ finals, started brilliantly. Our young Colts slammed on the first three goals of the game, heading into the first change with a handy lead. Ben North, brother to Fremantle’s Tom, muscled his way through packs and handed out to his fiery ‘hair-twin’ in Angus Puddy for some powerful inside 50s. Declan Browne, who debuted in the Seniors this year, was seen deep at both ends of the ground mopping up whatever spills needed mopping. Our game plan was flowing brilliantly. Some readers from recent weeks may be picking up on a very Heathmont trend right about now. Don’t we love a fast start! In fact, I recall senior coach, Kyle Emley, reminding the Seniors before our semi-final two weeks ago that we have also finished games off really well this year. Which begs the question why we’re on the sidelines at this pointy end of the season.


The sun remained as shiny as ever and the 19s looked as though they could take things to the next level in the second half. But I’m dismayed to say, there is a ‘however’. I’m slowly running out of ways to pen this next paragraph… East Burwood, our enemy for the day, strolled within four points of our young Jets by the final change. By this point, my love of finals footy was on the brink of dying out as our collective hearts sat and stayed up around our mouths for the remaining half hour.


There I sat, behind the goals at East Burwood Reserve, amongst some brilliantly talented teammates, simply willing the ball to bounce down our end. Our chances were fleeting as the Rams used the wind in their favour to lock the play down their end instead and, as our full-forwards started to cool down, we knew, so did our hopes of bringing a flag home to the old Hangar. Some admittedly stunning shots on goal from East Burwood saw our lead slip away in a painfully similar fashion to weeks gone by. Our collective hearts broke for our players who we knew had given their all against an opposition who sat four wins above them after the home and away season.


The trifecta was made at Heathmont this year, three teams who tripped and fell at the game’s final hurdle. A 13-point victory to the Rams saw our young men collared with black medals, not red, and tears of sadness, not joy. But, my god, has Heathmont got a lot of promise in these lads. One can safely bet (figuratively and responsibly) that the Jets won’t be missing a finals series for a few years yet with the bulls we’ve got coming through the ranks.


How is it that a game (a game!) of footy can have us feel so deeply? How is it that I can barrack so hard for 22 19-year-olds, some of whom I’ve known for less than a year. It’s vicarious, almost certainly, but at the same time it’s visceral. As I’ve touched on in previous columns, football clubs, no less the Heathmont Jets, live and die by their players. Our hearts and souls are devoted to our clubmen and women simply because they don the same colours as us. One of those stupid human traits I guess, but I know few who would trade it for the world.


Sadly, as with every season that’s come before us, and likely every season that ever will be, September spells the end of another EFL season. The Jets will cool off in our own Hangars for a while, wherever they may be, before we roll out for a bigger pre-season than we’ve ever known come November. And while there were moments throughout the year where I believed I wouldn’t be back next year – which will be much to the surprise of some – I’d be kidding myself if I think I can find a community worthy of filling the hole Heathmont would leave in me.


Never did I think these columns over the last few months would come to mean so much. But, through reflecting and sharing the intricacies of a football club, I’ve come to realise the importance of mateship, community and, at the core of it, local footy. A second home to most and a first home to some, football clubs are about far more than just footy. Heathmont has taught me that.


After chatting with some senior members of the club – again proving the importance of intimate and open conversation – it was agreed that Heathmont is one of the most diverse clubs going around. Of personality, of ability, of confidence. It takes a big room to accommodate that kind of crowd, or a big sense of community. Next year, once our brand-spanking new refurbishments are complete, Heathmont will proudly boast both. Until then, I’m off to buy a new cricket bat.


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



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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. Henry, all I can say is ‘Bugger!” But, as you point out so well, it has been a winning year for the Jets – on the field to get all your teams into the finals, and off the field to build something that other clubs can only aspire to.

    Beautifully written throughout the season!

  2. Henry. You have a mature head on young shoulders. Nice, emotive, series.

  3. Nice stuff, Henry.
    I enjoyed the journey.

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