I trained them hard

Jesus, I trained those Juniors hard.

They were a dead-set chance. At something that would affect them and their community and stay with them forever, like a tattoo for your heart.

Sometimes, while training them hard, I’d tell them.

I had never won a flag. Not in all those years. Then, my team made the Big One. The town, the coast, the whole bloody ranges were there. Everyone. My opponent was their CHF and their gun. A VFL player still in his prime. I shut him down, gave everything. God, I was desperate! I was one of the best on ground.

With about two minutes left in a close one, our team had a kick-out. We were all tired to our bones. Only big Berry led. I should have, but was so exhausted, I knew no-one would notice if I didn’t. The full-back did a miss-kick, the ball fumbled to my man, he kicked the winning goal.

Nobody blamed me. It was a miss-kick to a pack I was nowhere near, I’d done a great job, it was bad luck.

But I knew.

I knew that if I’d led, maybe, the full-back would have had another target to aim for. I knew, for sure, that my opponent would have been forced to follow me, and not have been where the ball ended up.

I knew. In a life dominated by football, I had massive regrets. Not that we lost, that I hadn’t given the lot. All that work, all those years. If I had led ONCE more.

It’s only bush footy, but it’s not. Sometimes it’s everything. Sometimes you’re haunted.

Sometimes you give the wrong twenty-two blokes tattoos for their hearts, and photos on club walls that never fade, that people will look at in awe in 80 years time. You give them a lifetime of reunions, and put smiles on their butchers and publicans, and girlfriends, and committee men and water-boys, and kids.

I trained my boys damn hard, because they were a chance. Because they looked me in the eye, and told me they were young men.


  1. Anyone who hasn’t got a story like that hasn’t tried hard enough.

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    Too many stories, too many nightmares. Reflect on them often.

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