Poetry: Ride Them Like Jockeys



Ride Them Like Jockeys.


I’m at the airport, waiting, footy showing in the departure lounge.

Stevie Johnson gathers the ball in a pack,

taking them on.

He is spun 360degrees, without spotting a target,

or maybe momentum is taking his fist from the ball.

Finding his footing, he runs three steps forward.

The bloke still has him, though. Not a lot,

but enough.


On steps five and six, after his full whirl,

Stevie goes to handball,

but the tackle is sticking, he swipes at air,

the pill falling from his open hand.

“Play on,” the umpire calls.


We all moan to ourselves.

Collingwood supporters, Geelong supporters,

Freo supporters, people who don’t give a damn.


I watch the old man next to me.

exasperated breath leaves his mouth,

a sad, defeated thing,

  1. “Wasn’t that holding the ball?” a kid asks no-one,

and no-one replies.


They’ve taken away the knuckle, which is good,

the bump, which hurts,

but no matter how shitty our lives

we call “Ballllllll…!”, then “Yeahhhhhh!!”

and are victorious,

so simple.

And are unique in the world.


Who are these people

fucking with our DNA?

Our  lives are governed by rules,

not the aesthetics of where a footy falls.


The boarding call goes out. Some passengers leap at it,

others linger as long as they can.
I watch some of them ride the players like jockeys, others the rescued,

as the footballers go about their jobs, trying make order

of the chaos of it all.


  1. I don’t pretend to know too much of what is going on out of the ground, but as you have so ably put it into words above, you don’t have to to know that holding the ball or incorrect disposal is completely stuffed and is ruining our game.

  2. mickey randall says

    Matt- it is ridiculous that everyone hates the current interpretation of holding the ball; yet it persists. What principle or aesthetic does the current version serve?

    Nicely penned, as always.

  3. Are you playing the man and not the ball? Genii like Steven and Garry deserve an extra fraction to make the sublime choice. That’s what fills seats and tv ratings…

  4. Matt Zurbo says

    Gus, g”day mate. Not at all. There is a difference between Gazza taking a few extra steps and, while in a tackle, being spun 360, taking six extra steps then dropping it with one hand. Or countless times players have taken them on, clearly, with ten or more steps, then been pinned in a perfect tackle, and dropping the ball. If it lands under them it is holding the ball, whether they can get it out or not. If it spills free it is play on. A rule should not be based on where the ball bounces after the fact. Tackling is a pillar of our game, and should be rewarded, as it has been for 150 years. I would be filthy if I laid three perfect tackles in a game and each time the umpire called play on. Just as i would if he called play on from a mark, just because it bounced into open space when I hit the ground.

    I also wonder if it is leading to more congestion, not less.

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