Moments and Friendships

Moments and Friendships.


Either summer’s hot and long, or today was. Sometimes it doesn’t matter which. Work’s done. My skin’s a combination of grime and sunburn. No slip, slop slap, no heroics, Just a stupid man who was too lazy for sunscreen.

Down at the footy ground the sun’s baking big cracks into the goal square. There’s nothing more than surrounding mountains and a sole sprinkler. Everything’s timeless.

Young Rex walks up the backroad from town for a kick with me. Everybody else is already in the pub, but I haven’t earned my beers, and am not yet in the mood for people.

When Rex gets here I’m standing in the sprinkler’s spray to cool the sunburn, waiting for him with the footy.

“You look like an idiot,” he tells me, as I lob him the first warm-up kick.

“Water off a duck’s back,” I reply, as he returns one.

Every now and then the sprinkler complete’s its full rotation and starts cutting into me.

“I mean it, Old Dog. You look like a goose.”


“Lead or something,” he insists. “You’re making the ball slippery.”

“It’s a wet weather sport, isn’t it?” I tell him.

“Old Dog!” he insists, but without venom. Everything’s gravy.

Warm-up and cool down done, Rex starts to lead. I put the ball too far our front, yet he marks it. For a big kid he’s got the most amazing closing speed. Athletically, he’s a natural. I wonder what I was like 27 years ago? No bloody idea.


The nature of Rex and I baffles me and gets me thinking. This footy book I’m working on. The best stories, to me, are when one footballer talks about another.

The friendships.
Big, tough St Kilda ruckman, Lazar Vidovic started in the North Under 19s with small Tony Libratore, under Pagan, who would gather the 100 best juniors from everywhere and train their guts out until most had quit, then topped up with fifty others and repeated until one solid team was left. It was a war of attrition.
Lazar was always around at Libba’s place, eating his Mum’s homemade pasta. All Libba was interested in was weights and kicking the footy.

When they were old enough, the two of them and Lazar’s brother went on a cruise boat. Libba said: “Let’s ignore the girls, train all day, then, when we land on the islands, go for runs.” Eventually, a hot girl came up to Lazar and said, “Excuse me, are you blokes gay?” Lazar said. “Good-bye Libba!”

Man, I enjoyed talking to Lazar. He was up there with the absolute best!

Boat cruises aside, a young man half Lazar’s size, half his weight, taught him about what it takes.

True to obsessions, when one went to St Kilda, the other Footscray, they barely spoke again.


Rex just keeps on leading with these impossibly long strides. He could be anything, but here he is, kicking with a small town hack.


In ‘72, at North Melbourne, Ross Henshaw, a wide-eyed kid from the bush was struggling under Ron Barassi’s first year. But there was a new bloke at the club, Duel Essendon back-flanker and duel premiership legend, Barry Davis.

“Did he know you worshipped him as a kid?” I asked Ross, in his lounge.
“There were pretty obvious clues,” he replied, with a smile. “I always stayed out and did the extra training he did, I always followed him in circle work.”

“Why?” I asked.

“So I could learn how to read the ball like he does, where to run to, and how hard.”


“When he asked about why I was following him, I said: Barry, I want to play in a Premiership with you.

I laughed. Ross was the third North person I’d heard of who tagged Davis in circle work. I pictured Barry doing laps of Arden Street, chasing the pill, young Henshaw, Shimma and several others chasing.

Barry Davis’s last game of VFL football was holding a Premiership Cup, reinvented at 31 as a ruck-rover. Captain. And Ross was with him.

40 years later they still keep in contact, regularly.


Rex lobs a few further and further out, but I keep leading back into the sprinkler. The cows on the surrounding hills look jealous.

The kid and I have been teammates since he was in nappies, he’s already learnt everything I could teach him. We’re the opposite of Henshaw and Davis. He keeps showing me how to be young and seize life. To be strong. How to keep up, until the age difference falls away.

All that’s left, on this timeless Friday, is friendship.

“Get out of the bloody sprinkler!” he rages, as I lead back into it.

Down at the pub momentum will be picking up. It can wait. The falling sun won’t budge. Dusk is going nowhere.










  1. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Thanks Matt.
    This is just rhythm. Falling in and falling out and back in again. And I went with every move. Beautiful.

  2. How good is it to get lost in those kick to kicks… Takes me back Zurbs from both perspectives.. Ripper

  3. No better way to spend a hot afternoon!

    Thanks for another great football story Turbo!

  4. Do not go gentle into that good night of sensible slippers and front bar reminiscence. Rage, rage against the dying of the light (beer).
    Good one Matt.

  5. Malby Dangles says

    Goes to show that the Old Dog can learn new tricks! Great piece mate.

  6. Matt Zurbo says

    Cheers bois!

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