Hockey: Way Out West

It’s a long way to the hockey.

It’s a long way to go.

It’s a long way to the hockey,

At the coldest place we know.

Good bye sunny Melbourne,

Hello Western Vic

It’s a long, long way to the hockey,

And we left points there.

(Sung to the tune of a Long Long Way to Tipperary, a World War 1 tune)


Knox travelled out to Ballarat to play Western Vic, Knox, looking to consolidate a top two-position and Western Vic looking to wrench themselves out of the relegation zone. Knox without their captain, Fridge, and half back, Cones. This loomed as a danger game, the sort of game that a top side might lose to a desperate lower team. Furthermore the game was played on a pitch that seemed impossible to keep your footing on, which reduced the skill level, much like footy on a mud heap. My God, this sounds like a sports report. I must stop it.

I brought along a mate, Greg, who actually plays the game and so knows something about it but thanks to a late patient we were late to the game, something I hate doing, no matter what the sport.

All games have their own nuances, their own atmosphere, their own sounds, and smells, for that matter. Deep Heat is the smell of footy while the smell of hockey is probably the goalie’s kit and don’t I know it (Pete, my son, is a goalie). The sounds of cricket (please note I only talk about amateur sport ; the professional stuff can go roger itself) are not the sounds of bats on balls but are the clickity-clacks that the player’s spikes make as the players gingerly tip toe over the cement to get out onto the ground. This, to me, is the sound of summer.

I go to amateur footy each week (this is why I am not at all Pete’s games) and amateur footy has its own sounds. The ‘ball!!! Yeah!!!!’ is common to all footy. You hear that at any game of footy but only at a reserve amateur game will you get ‘will someone pick up number ninety seven’.

Hockey has its own sounds at the warm up; the clack and thump of the hit ups, players twenty yards apart, hitting balls back and forth, the thump of the ball hitting the goalies pads, or the back board as players take shots. You hear these sounds at half time when the next team comes out for a warm up and let me say I have noticed an added benefit in the half time warm up for us spectators at Knox games. The girls are next on so they are out warming up at half time, diligently whacking the balls around. It’s now mandatory, to cast the professional eye over these lasses hitting up. I am only checking out their back sticks of course.

Hockey clubs have their own feel. Camberwell, Pete’s old team, was full of young gentlemen called  Nicholas , Andrew and  Sebastian.  Knox is full of blokes called Cones, Fridge, ,Cadbury, Ringo and Spud. Being a bloke from the bush I reckon I have a natural affinity for the outer Eastern suburban club.

We missed the first West Vic goal, a bad defensive error, from all reports. Just the sort of thing that happens on a long road trip but more worrying was that general play was going their way. My technical advisor, Greg, was constantly bemoaning the lack of build up from Knox as, time and time again, Knox players were going long, attempting the low percentage, long, through ball, rather than hanging onto the ball, going wide and working the ball deep into attack. He blamed the player with the ball.

I thought something else was going wrong. Tony Lockett, or Jason Dunstall for that matter, did not lead for the ball. They demanded it. During the first fifty minutes of the game not one Knox player demanded the ball, not one Knox player wanted to stamp themselves on the game. Not enough gut busting run up and down the ground which usually splits lower ranked teams down the middle late in the game.

This is what happened in the last ten minutes: two goals to Knox as Western Vic tired badly (as I predicted) and Knox players started to demand the ball, take risks, spread wide and realise that winning was possible. You could thank Gooders for the late charge as he totally reorganised the line-up, putting Wonks up forward but I thought the mental attitude was the key to the change.

Thank God, Pete was able to kick the bloke that was on the end of their last second fast-break, into next week.

Not the result we were after but not a disaster. Learn a lesson and move on and demand the ball.



  1. Joe Moore says

    Brilliant piece, Phil. As a former hockey player myself, I think you have captured the sounds and certainly the smells of hockey! Love the nicknames of the Knox boys and the comparison of hockey forwards to Plugger and Dunstall…Demand the ball!!!

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    As a one season only hockey dad, I recognise those sounds too.

    It was the late Friday night games at Berwick, Frankston or the SNHC in July that dimmed my enthusiasm somewhat. Not sure I would have made it to Ballarat though.

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