I Need to be in Drummoyne

My love affair with pre-season suburban footy is in full swing. We’ve had our second date and I’m astounded at how strongly I feel. To think, in 15 years of club membership, I’d never once glanced its way.

So much of daily life is holding things at bay or trying to drive things forward. Trying to prepare for things you really know nothing about, trying not to prepare so much as to sacrifice spontaneity. So much of life is about having a plan of sorts and then attempting some kind of alignment. To feel safe. To feel unsafe.

Footy is microcosmic. And it gives clues.

And when it’s at ground level, on a grassy hill, a metre or two from a picket fence, when the weather is fighting itself, when the local fire brigade has pulled up alongside the Murrays tour bus and all four crew are positioned along the fence, when the vista is port-a-loos and picnic rugs and ice cream vans and you can hear every word between players, see their efforts up close, the very structures of their knees … when the experience is unfiltered by the stadium’s spectacle effect, then it feels very close to life.

*

The Cygnet and I arrive while the boys are warming up. The Cygnet doesn’t especially want to come. But Dad’s away and I’ve penned it in. It’s been a weekend of preparing to fly to the other side of the world, with all its attendant excitement and fear. Gathering, mostly. And homework. Housework. A bike ride along the river with a killer hill at the end. A little too much busy-ness. I know he’d rather finish his Sunday bunkered down with a book and afternoon tea. But mind swinging all over, nervous system turned up to high with the tasks and emotion of home and away, I know I need to be in Drummoyne.

Boys look sharp at this time of year, tanned and tuned, shiny and new; they run with more spring than grind. Ross Lyon’s in the demountable two metres behind us. And Kirky. The players’ race is the concrete squeeze coming down from one of the grandstands. When the boys run out under the guard of rainbow-pride honour, something stirs. And it’s great to see Jetta heading down with the defensive pack for the first bounce, joining the hair-brigade half of defence. I’m just surprised enough.

 

Close enough to smell the linament.. Keiran Jack and some blokes named Adam and Lance

Close enough to smell the linament.. Tom Mitchell and Jake Lloyd taking some guys named Keiran, Adam and Lance under their wings during the warm up

 

The game is physical from the start. Sparks today that weren’t there two weeks ago in Marrickville. The usual suspects are working the middle. I continue to like that Lloyd. Some beautiful movements by hand, a couple of good raking left foot kicks from the back, a good mark for every two or three run under. Instinct tells me that Brandon Jack and his speed will play some role this year. And that we should enter a basketball comp with all the spare rucks. The team looks balanced, the right combination of youth and relative age, old heads and young legs.

I like Freo. I’ve always liked them. It’s amusing to see Rampe and Richards play pass the parcel with Pavlich, shirking him as they come off interchange, reallocating him in full voice and then resigning themselves. And it’s a privilege to hear Fyfe on the wing, foot to ground and then to ball and then a body on body contest amplified right in front of us and a spoil. And still he gets the ball and thunders forward. When Dan Robinson lays a bump on him late in the game that unbalances and floors him, I pen the number 27 in the mental notebook.

This is settling. Soothing. A response happens in me that is deeply physical. Like blood settling into the cells, oxygenating things, creating some other system of breathing. It’s like rhythm finding its beats and everything suddenly feeling right.

The afternoon sun is fighting with the greying clouds and the bridge is a rainbow, not only on the 40 metre arc, but in the sky strung out between the old fig trees. My Cygnet is stretched on the grass beside me, his head pillowed by our Sherrin, newly full of air. He hasn’t said a word. Hasn’t wished for his book, or food, or elsewhere. The sun is on our hairlines. And there’s nowhere for my beer but in a nest of summer grass between the soles of my feet. This may be love.

Freo press and we fall away. It’s a lab down in defence—Rohan, Richards, Rampe … who gets what? The rain comes heaving in, the firies are needed somewhere, the canteen staff pass the boxes of spare soft drink over the outer fence and the crowd disperse under a guard of umbrellas. But the pleasure is so deeply embedded.

Yeah, footy’s just a ball game, just boys running around … yes it is. But it’s good for journeying too. There’s a lot to be gained from those running boys, especially in the more intimate setting. A kind of unhooking of internal stagnation, lines of flight. You can see, up close, how they might be made. Stops and starts that catch breath and alter rhythm. It’s good for circulation.

 

About Mathilde de Hauteclocque

Swans member since 2000, Mathilde likes to wile away her winters in the O'Reilly stand with 'the boys', flicking through the Record and waiting to see the half backs drive an explosive forward movement. She lives in Sydney and raises a thirteen year old Cygnet.

Comments

  1. Thanks for taking us to the ground, Mathilde. I could smell the lineament and summer grass. Enthused by the team balance you describe! Good on the Cygnet for letting Mum enjoy the afternoon. Go the Swans!

  2. Kate Birrell says

    beautiful writing Mathilde…..and nothing like a ‘cygnet’ deeply embedded in the moment not asking for chips or soft drink and by the sounds of it minus a gadget?
    Also Sydney…they have the best white low running picket fences; melbournes fences tend to be a more utilitarian assembages of metal and wire, OH&S compliant; which makes them less attractive to the eye.

  3. Sounds like you need to get to a few local footy games, Mathilde. I find that up close, as close as you can get, the game seems to slow down a bit. And the hits get harder.

  4. E.regnans says

    Just wonderful painting, Mathilde.
    Each brushstroke evocative.

    Thank you

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    That was a delight to read Mathilde. The bridge being a rainbow was particularly symbolic in this match. You took me as close as I could possibly be without being there. Cheers

  6. Good read Mathilde.
    “penned it in” – I see what you did there!

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