It may be the punch

by John Richardson

You know it’s going to happen. The ball will come. Maybe direct, maybe from the flank. More than fifty metres away, it is there, in their hands, in space, and the guiding hand does its job. The thud of leather on boot, a powerful strike and a beautifully weighted drop punt makes its way.

It’s only you and him. A sinking feeling descends. He tenses, calves bulk up, boots press into the soft surface. He wants it, he wants nothing more than to boot it over your head, watch it sail through those posts, and let you know, the difference between you and him.

He has stolen a pace on you. Damn. He’s ahead, making the running, you have to dance to his tune. You can’t work him under the ball now. Your options are narrowing. It can only be the punch. Keep with him, close, not too close, don’t let him use the body, to manoeuvre you out of the contest. Make up half a pace. Make it up.

The ball, its elegant counter intuitive spin, begins in terminal drop, his arms raise to hail the incoming, in anticipation, to take possession, body airborne and the hands come together to end the anticipation, it is here.

Stay out of the back, away from the arms. Too late for the jumper. Give him no excuse. Not now. The moment is now, and all breaths cease.

You rise, your half pace behind, eyes to the ball, locked in symmetry, and in your spring, you gain the lost half pace,  energy transfers from legs, through your torso, shoulder, swinging around the outside of the elbow, clenching into the fist, and in perfect motion the hit, is clean.

Fingers clutch emptily at molecular air. Surprise slowly registers in him. Stunned, unbalanced, he goes to ground, momentarily unable to grasp why he isn’t now in his hour of glory, turning to face those elusive four posts. The moment is thwarted.

You keep your eyes on the ball. Momentum is with you as your boots hit the ground. Your stops bend, flex and hold, your feet are kept and you are away, leaving a crumpled mess in your wake.

The ball, in front of you, rolling end, over end. Sit up, you bastard, sit up. Today, the God of Sherrins smiles on you, the ball bobs up perfectly. Accelerate onto it, run, haul in the spinning ball. Fingertips, palm, tuck it under the arm. It sits like it belongs.

Steady, scan wide, scan long. The calls come. Options open now; up the corridor? Wide to the wing? Don’t go back, you never kick across goal. Dish off? run through and carry? baulk? bounce? go long? chip? You are in space, time is yours.

High and long towards the netherworld of the wing, BANG, you launch the ball with rapier like spin, falling onto a friendly chest. Now, only now, you can breathe, turn, allow a knowing smile. A momentary lock of the eyes, and the recognition that this time, you have won out.

About john richardson

started barracking for north in 75, after years of "if you don't barrack for (INSERT TEAM) i'll bash ya up. first learned how to kick a footy at age 14, first game in the Hampton High School INtermediate team, U/17s (mainly emergency or bench until they ran out of players), played one full game on the half back flank, enough to get a mention in the Best in the local paper, and game ended with my knee buckling at about the 10min mark of the last quarter. went on to captain the HHS senior team, giving me a link to a Brownlow medal, in that Ross Smith also captained the HHS senior side. The difference between his side and mine, was his won the All High, mine ws the worst team ever to pull on the Navy and Gold. Retired after failing eyesight meant i couldn't see the ball coming, but at age 42 started running around a park in Elwood with a bunch of other guys who should know better on a sunday morning, trying to recapture past glories. And what fun it is

Comments

  1. Beautiful rendition!

  2. Dave King says

    Gold. Pure gold.

  3. Great stuff How did you get inside Geoff Southby’s head?.Now for the book John?

  4. Maureen Flannery says

    Ah, so that’s what that dreamy daydreaming is all about.
    Wierd Old Guys and kick to kick in the park makes all the more sense now.

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