On the streets

As a journalist I’ve had a couple of national drafts for which it was my job to interview prospects at the draft combine. I have misgivings about appraising 17-year-olds, so I’ve shied away from this task since then, but I must say that I enjoyed speaking to the young fellas about their lives and hopes in general when I had that opportunity.


They’re so open at that age, so unaffected by life and media managers. Despite hearing a handful of startling life stories, the interview that has caused most reflection was not startling at all. It was set in a happy home in the suburbs. This is the basis of its poignancy.


Hayden Crozier gained national fame when he leapt halfway up a goalpost to take a mark for Vic Metro in an under-eighteen championships match against WA at the MCG. His mark featured on television sports bulletins around the country. Part of its appeal was that Hayden was so skinny. He was just a kid!


As it happened, the mark derailed his season. His classmates at school wanted to talk about nothing else. Every time he took the field for his suburban club or Victoria all eyes were on him to see if he could stand on another opponent’s head.


The pressure got to him. He stopped flying for marks. He stopped getting the ball. He spent a month doing not much at all before finally finding form again when he was sent to the backline.


Hayden is a bubbly character. The gravity of the story was apparent when he paused at the end of it. He betrayed a mixture of self-knowledge and confusion. The ball is oval. Life’s like that as well.


We got on to other matters. It’s my practice to ask every teenager where he learnt to kick, whether there was someone in particular who taught him technique, whether he kicked at a power pole, or a swing, or a significant tree.


Hayden shrugged and said he learnt to kick with the kids in his street.


What kids?


All of them.


He said if he wanted a kick he just stepped out the front door and there would always be someone to kick with.




This struck me. It reminded me of my childhood. Hayden grew up in Rowville, in Melbourne’s outer east. I grew up in what was then an outer suburb on the other side of town.


When I was growing up there was always someone to kick the footy with. My brothers. The Lookers. The Rayners. Tommy Hughes. We had a match in the park in Judith Street every night. You weren’t allowed to push anyone into the roundabout. The match stopped when it got too dark to see the ball.


Hayden’s story was just so suburban. The suburbs have lots of kids. I felt a pang of nostalgia for those suburbs and the many kids and the chances they offered to kick the footy.


I’m now in Northcote, Melbourne’s goat’s cheese capital, and while I love the area, it’s not as if my kids can step out the front door and find some friends to have a kick with. In a year or two they’ll be able to ride over the busy road to track down some mates, but for now I have to fill the breach by taking them to the park myself.


I do my best to teach them how to drop the ball on the boot. Sometimes we aim for a pole. Sometimes we aim for a tree. No one ever gets pushed into the roundabout.


Hayden Crozier was selected by Fremantle with pick 20. He’s played a handful of games to this early stage. He’s looked quite bouncy. He reminds me of my childhood whenever he touches the ball.




  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A poignant story Daff in that I reckon the majority of us played on the streets sadly today we as parents in general can’t take that risk meanwhile social skills drops off obesity rises , Daff you have given me another youngster to follow go , Hayen Crozier
    Thanks Daff

  2. Daff, you had me until “Fremantle”.

  3. Sean Gorman says

    A measured, erudite piece if ever there was one. Cmon Pete say it with me Crozier……Crozier……u can do it. Fyfe is easier off the tongue. Fyfe…….Cmon Pete …try.

  4. I say “fyfe” often Sean. I am a keen weekend social golfer, but have a bad habit of shanking my chip shots.
    As the ball flies off to the right at 45 degrees to the intended path, I am often heard to yell “another bluddy fyfe”.

  5. Corop Rocket says

    Thanks Daff for this piece.

    Alas no kids outside the door willing to have a kick with me on the stubble paddock at Corop….
    so I had play make-up matches by myself avec commentary.

    Always tried to emulate the great Bendigo radio caller Dick Turner of “I’ll-call-the-board” fame. Or the Captain and the Major.

    Rochester and St Kilda were never beaten in my games…
    I was always able to kick the goal from the impossible angle after the siren.
    Even if it took numerous attempts. I was also the umpire.

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