The humble bus trip, a pleasure that so many footballers around the country so often don’t get the pleasure of experiencing once throughout their time in footy. And before you ask, no the trip that the Richmond players took to get home from Sydney does not really count as a bus trip for that only traveled on a one-way basis, even though I’m sure they’ll claim it for all that it’s worth. As a general rule what goes on bus trips stays on bus trips, and this doesn’t seek to lift any of the myths that may or may not occur during a simple 90 minute or 2 hour journey. More so this will be a basis for a preview (of sorts) to this weekend’s trip to Gladstone to take on the Mudcrabs.

In the past the start was generally at a random pub that kicked in a few dollars to  get the teams on the paddock every year at a time that usually didn’t mean too much. For instance this week we are supposed to meet by 9AM for a 9:30 departure, however it’s more likely that the boys will be departing closer to 10AM. From there is get out on the highway, with maybe a glance here or there at features that we’ve seen millions of times. Then pass the local establishment at Raglan, a small township near Mt.Larcom which acts as the turnoff for Gladstone game (the turnoff for Boyne Island games is a little further down the highway) and doubles as a toilet stop. Their pies are home made but fall apart easily and are probably worth passing over. Then it’s a short drag past the Yarwun turnoff (where a chemicals plant is situated), through the industrial area of Gladstone, past Ferguson Park where the gallops take place about 10 times a year without TAB coverage, around a roundabout where the shopping centre and McDonalds is located, and a very short drive later we arrive at Clinton Oval.

For some reason I like playing at Clinton Oval. It’s a ground that seems like it’s narrower at one end (the clubhouse/road end of the ground) than the other (the Gladstone Airport end, where Qantas flies to a couple of times a day). It’s never really that windy, space seems to be relatively easy to find despite the nature of the ground, and we get our fair share of wins such as the previous meeting of the reserves teams. Unfortunately I was not a part of the winning team that day, at that stage I was walking along the banks of the Swan River before the Doggies got wiped like a toddler’s backside the next day. The ground is very much a multi-purpose venue, with a cricket pitch in the middle that never seems to have a lot of grass and can become a bog if rain gets on it. It also hosts the Clinton soccer/football/world game/round ball code team, with the markings for their field often becoming confusing for players and boundary umpires who often cannot differentiate between an oval and a rectangular field. The lights at the ground are also geared towards the round ball code, although for us it has been 8 years since we’ve played under lights in Gladstone, mainly because by the time we got home it was well past midnight.

This year the local team are celebrating 40 seasons of existence, which in country Queensland is a remarkable achievement. Their celebration game will come a few weeks later when the clash with their local rival BITS on the final round of the season. Currently though, as with many other Gladstone sporting organisations (particularly their Rugby Union team who has the unfortunate nickname of The GRUFs), player stocks are not exactly at full strength. Their reserves team have currently not won a game this season, and have only a draw with the 2nd last placed Glenmore Bulls as a reward. We should win provided we bring the proper attitude to the game (business not pleasure), and provided our numbers are of a satisfactory level for often we have had to have several players play 2 games on the 1 day.

The senior game though is a case of do or die for our premiership defence. All too often lapses in concentration have cost the team, winning only 2 games all year. The consolation for us is that the hosts have only tasted victory 3 times themselves. Simply speaking we realistically need to win this game and probably 2 more games in the following month to make the final 4, at a ground where we haven’t tasted success since 2006. If the alcoholic beverages are to taste sweet on the long journey home (remember, what goes on bus trips stays on bus trips), then nothing short of the 4 points will be satisfactory. A loss here and the seniors can start planning for fishing trips or whatever else they can plan for August and September.

Looking at the month ahead, we have 3 home fixtures after this game, hosting the Rockhampton clubs (Panthers and Glenmore) and also Yeppoon, with another bus trip to Boyne Island thrown into the mix. Whilst not looking too far ahead to those clashes, Boyne Island’s bus trip is the longest that we take each and every year although it has been a while since we’ve only played there on a single occasion this year. Their trip is going to change in the near future with a new ground for their club in the pipeline with hopefully more spacious rooms than they currently have, hopefully located so teams don’t have to cross an access road in order to enter the playing arena. It looks as though they are going to be undefeated throughout the regular season, so for the seniors the task of winning 3 out of the last 5 is a little more difficult. Us reserves don’t have that problem yet (winning this week will ease a lot of pressure on us to get just 1 more win out of our last 4 games), but again BITS often play senior standard players in reserves making our task before finals more complicated given our team seems to have a favorite 20 that play each week in the seniors regardless of form, then rotate between young fringe players and Under 17 hopefuls to fill the bench. Did I just diagnose a problem our club is facing? One wonders, but no matter who goes on the field, thinking about what lies ahead starts with this weekend.

Before I do go I have to mention a story that happened on the training track on Tuesday night. As a favor to the club we were drafted in to help our women’s team (The Sisters…..well we are known as Brothers) get some match simulation practice before their first game in a couple of months this Saturday. Now with all of the controversy about sling tackles and the dramas that supposedly causes (typical over reaction from the AFL in my opinion which stated in 2006, but that’s for another story at another time), what happened to me on Tuesday may warrant further investigation. When the girls/ladies were being taught to tackle, they are obviously instructed to watch the hips. Well one of our players decided to use me to take that instruction one step further. Just after receiving a handball she decided to lock her legs around my hips and her arms around my neck before a gentle descent to ground. It has to be said that the positioning of my body on top of her’s was interesting to say the least. At least it gave some people a laugh for the day, they actually thought it was an unintentional 27th birthday present (27th birthday being on the Wednesday). Personally let’s hope that no pictures were taken for I am sure that the those that were involved in the training game would remind me about this episode for a number of days and weeks to follow.

About Mick Jeffrey

32 Year Old, Bulldogs Member and tragic. Reserve Grade coach after over 225 combined senior/reserves appearances for Brothers AFC in AFL Capricornia. 11 time Marathon finisher, one time Ultra Marathon finisher and Comrades Marathon competitor 2017.

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