Life Speeds Up



Cielo on the Shipwreck Coast, unconcerned by the chill waters.





Today, I took a minute to let my eye roam down the Footy Almanac page. There was lovely Yvette! Burly, passionate Rulebook, I searched for heartfelt Dave Brown, poetic Dave Wilson must. There were new, already established names, old stagers, great piece titles. Football, in all its aspects. A world to dive into and revel in.


I wanted to, but avoided temptation.


Life speeds up. When I first started writing for the Almanac I was single, living on a cold mountain, jagging firewood for a living. I was my own boss, living a good, hard adventure, roaming both Tasmania and the mainland, playing footy.


I had time, and wrote to suit. Whenever I wanted to.


In hindsight, if the world lasts that long, footy is such a large part of my life the Almanac becomes my journal. Something for my little girl, once she’s a big girl, to maybe read one day. I can see her now, skimming through some stupidly titled piece – ‘Looking Back and Forward’, ‘I Hate a Mob’, ‘Mighty Wallpaper’, something – and whispering to herself; “There you are…”


Having her changes everything. Time becomes something you make, fight for. There was a day John Harms would ask me to write less, as I churned out three stories a week. Now there’s an urgency to it. Time. You sniff an good story, become aware of one, have another fall at your feet, know there is one to be lived if you get in your car and drive for two days to get over there. But let them slide for bigger mountains. Your days are already eighteen hours long.


I’ve been planning for months to talk to Snowy McSparron, a totally likeable, laid-back father, who won junior flags, then flags in the Geelong district, flags for Apollo Bay, where he played his best footy, then, when he moved to England, coached seven more premierships. What an adventure!


But I haven’t had the time.


Gradually, you realise you’ve slipped out of the stream.


You still play, but train two nights a week, not three, and don’t go to the pub for Friday footy with the loggers and wild knockabouts of the district. Don’t drink for 24 hours after the game. That’s when the stories happen.


Some say: “It’s a couple of gap years.” That soon I’ll be telling my little girl’s footy stories, or, hopefully, she’ll be telling her own.


I’d hope they’re a bit less wild at heart. A bit less grimy. That she manages to stay safe through life. Keep her joy, and, as she grows, keep her perspective.


Sport should be joy for kids. All things should be! Joy and love and caring.


I half follow the AFL, but don’t trade blows with it anymore. Take in highlights, not games, and sit out a season-free virus busier than ever.


We were in the Otway Ranges when it locked the country down. Barred from the Northern Territory or Tasmania. Now, after a day’s work in the hills, we descend the coastal cliffs to remote shipwreck beaches our baby girl takes for granted. She laughs and jumps off rocks and plays dare with the wild surf, and wades through the rockpools, not giving a damn about the winter cold or Antarctic waters, climbing rusty, 100 year old ship anchors.


Nobody else for kilometres.


No, it’s not a game of bush footy, talking shit with blokes you’d die for, sinking beers until you feel the sweet pull of momentum. It’s a new journey.


Every bit as special.


I used to tell every kid I coached with itchy feet, “Go! Go! It will all still be here if you want to come back to it.”


I used to hope leaving the small towns that are my lifeblood, even if for other small towns in other climates, would give them more life experiences. Odds are they would play footy wherever they went anyway. It’s such an in, to a life, to a community. I hoped it would make them more rounded people. “If you want to, take off!” I’d insist.


It was about them, always.


And if they did return, they would be better players for it, better humans. Better clubmen.



Read more from Old Dog. (Matt Zurbo)   HERE



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  1. John Butler says

    Matt, that is a great pic.

    Seems like not a bad place to be a present.


  2. Brilliant photo.

    Much to relate to in your yarn.

    Yes, time is so different. I recall a time when I went back to uni to do postgrad stuff in the early `90s (zero financial responsibilities except keep the Bankcard in check, just) when I’d think “I can just read this morning.”

    The joy of kids made me revisit/reconsider notions of time. And yes, life should be joy for kids.

    Some ripper observations across the whole piece. One that many readers would relate to: “I half follow the AFL, but don’t trade blows with it anymore.” That’s an essay topic for History and Sociology of Sport 301. Discuss.

    Thanks yet again.

    Finally, very pleased the Almanac has become your journal of record. Here is the whole journal for people who want to wander through a decade of Old Dog.

  3. Matt Zurbo says

    Oa ya Johns!

    Yep, Harmsy, I there are two types of mad footyheads, I reckon. Those that grow through it, and lifers – and neither one is wrong!! These days I find myself envious of some people’s passion for the AFL. Might do apiece on it. When I find the time! Haha.

  4. Cracking photo Old Dog. The ocean is healing. I love the smell of it, the danger of it, the freedom of it. Good bit of swell in the background too!

    I’ve said a few times that in some respects I feel like footy has been stolen from me. That’s partly my own fault. Grumpiness. But children do change your perspective. You’re probably going through the hectic stage. Children force you to live at THEIR speed. But it will slow again. They’ll leave (as they ought).

    Terrific piece.

  5. E.regnans says

    Thank you M Zurbo.

    Love it.

  6. Is a footy career 30 seasons or the same season 30 times? Sounds to me like you’ve found things that return your love and time more than footy ever could. Lovely reflections.
    I find AFL now like looking at photos of an old flame. Something stirs but I’ll stick with love that’s reciprocated.

  7. Rulebook says

    Old dog plenty to ponder there definitely personally some guilt not being around as much as I should have been re kids and yep likewise re the afl some interests in individuals I know,coached etc but not the actual competition I hate it they’re multi million dollar franchises not footy clubs ( awesome photo and yep agree,Dips )

  8. Shane Reid says

    Thank you for this great reflection. Being a parent can make a minute seem like a day and yet a year seem like a minute. Thank you

  9. Lovely stuff, Old Dog.

    As someone who has lived through some pretty hectic days with my kids, my advice is: enjoy every minute.
    Little Cielo will not be so little for too long, and you will find yourself wondering where those days went.

  10. Matt Zurbo says

    Cheers all. Great saying Shane! And Peter top notch mate. Really well said, I reckon!

  11. Always sad/happy Matt and this no different.

    Richard Ford in Independence Day on being a dad-

    “And I had the feeling he was far out ahead of me then and in many things. Any time spent with your child is partly a damn sad time, the sadness of life a-going, bright, vivid, each time a last. A loss. A glimpse into what could’ve been. It can be corrupting.”

    Thanks again.

  12. Colin Ritchie says

    Thanks Matt, wonderful piece.Certainly made me reflect about my children. Kids are only with us for a short while before moving on and developing their own lives. I have 4 terrific kids, all well and truly adults now, (44, 42,37 & 34). I always thought they’d be kids forever but that’s not the way it goes, they grow up so quickly, so quickly that I missed many of the little things I should not have missed, and that I regret. Now that I have grand kids I make the effort to do the little things with them I didn’t do with my own children. I receive much pleasure from these small acts. Thanks again Matt, enjoy that beautiful daughter of yours!

  13. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    … and before you know it, they’ll still be living at home twenty five years later.

    Thanks Old Dog

  14. Stainless says

    Lovely piece Matt. Your time will return, be assured. But it will be tinged with a touch of sadness that this most important time has passed.
    Thanks again.

  15. Dennis Gedling says

    Not children but as someone who has had to take care of a sick partner for the past 18 months and is now coming out the otherside I am also in this mindset of an observer rather than a rusted on with sport and life in general at the moment. I was trying to finding the words for something to put on the Almanac but you have described it so well through other means. Guess you can’t force the passion, just let it return organically..if it does.

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