Round 18 – Geelong v Brisbane: Forgotten Pleasures

Cats v Lions

Saturday July 31st, 2015

Simonds Stadium

 

It’s a clinker of a game. Both teams are hard at it. Mums and Dads stand on the sidelines with the resigned looks of committed parents. Feet are stamped and arms slapped against sides. It’s freezing. The sun has been rubbed out as grey clouds circle overhead. The breeze is attacking in a pincer movement, squeezing the life out of both kidneys at once, and the drizzle tumbles in light sheets and settles on the lens of my glasses obliterating the view at regular intervals. The joys of Saturday morning sport.

 

Comments are muttered between spectators, advice bellowed to the boys, and the game’s spirit is good. Earnest and honest.

 

A few minutes before half time the scores are level. The ball has been ricocheting up and down the pitch for 20 minutes as the defences hold fast. Suddenly it’s in a dangerous area. There is a cross; a flurry of sticks and legs and arms. Crack! Stick on stick, then “plonk” as the ball hits the back of the goal. Its home! Liam emerges from the pack rejoicing as team mates congratulate him. His first goal of the season and what a time to deliver. At half time it’s 1-0. Our boys go in ahead.

 

The oranges come out. Nothing has changed in 35 years. I remember the oranges that Marty Ward’s Mum used to bring every Sunday morning to our football games. Some days it was so cold I could taste the orange in my mouth but I couldn’t feel it. The boys go into the huddle. Ms Banks issues instructions for the last half of this game and the last half to be played this hockey season. She’s done a superb job. The boys not only trust their own games more, but are trusting their team mates too. Their development across the season has been obvious. A coach can only bring out an athlete’s best.

 

The second half is intense. Well, as intense as schoolboy sport can be. Watching these young men engaged in an activity that means something to them is reward in itself. The balance of the scoreboard is a bonus. Our team looks steadier in attack and more robust in defence but they can’t get the sealer home. The opponents scrap hard. There are penalty corners to both. Neither can convert. Opportunities lost.

“Come on boys!” yells a Dad, “Play the game on our terms.”

 

I look across at the other team’s gathering of parents. There’s a Dad I know from my kids’ Primary School days. At that time our kids battled on a basketball court together, but now we wish the other will not prevail. Sport is mystifying like that. Brilliant and absurd. The colour of the jumper divides. But it should only be the colour of the jumper.

 

“How long left?” someone asks.

 

“About six minutes.”

 

Suddenly out of nowhere there is a fast break. Our boys bolt, spreading to get into position; a well drilled manoeuvre. They work it into a corner and smash in a passing shot. The crack of sticks. The plonk of a goal. 2-0. That’s probably the game.

 

“Let’s go again” yells the coach, trying to keep the boys focused, but there’s no wiping the smiles from their faces. They know they have it. Their opponents stoop like they’ve acquired spontaneous dowager’s humps. It’s the stoop of defeat. Our lads have had plenty of that too. They knock another one in for good measure with 30 seconds to go. The 3-0 score line didn’t reflect the tussle; a clash that was played with joyful, youthful endeavour. A game that was unshackled and light on its feet, fuelled by untarnished testosterone.

 

I watch my own lad darting up and down the pitch. He’s lean and slight but quick as wink. The man is emerging from the boy. It’s beautiful to watch. He will, I hope, recall these mornings with fondness in later years. The results help, but it’s the faces and the voices and the names that stick in the memory. Like Marty Ward and his oranges.

 

At home I turn on the radio and listen to the start of the Cats encounter with the Lions. It doesn’t hold my attention. Instead I go for a run around the local footy ground and pull my calf muscle on lap 5. I limp home like Captain Ahab.

 

Sitting on the couch with ice on the calf and sniggers coming from behind me (children take great joy is watching their old man disintegrate) I watch the Cats dismantle a disappointing Lions outfit. My heart doesn’t race. The hair of this game is immaculately combed, the shirt tucked in, the shoes polished. It’s bound and parcelled up and shipped off to the viewing audience, complete, defined and finished. I feel like I’m watching “Terminator 2” for the fifteenth time.

 

There is, however, one moment of pleasure, a moment that made the game worthwhile. When Stevie J kicked his second he pointed up to the grandstand at Billy Brownless, whose goal kicking record he has just surpassed. They smiled like kids with a secret and clapped each other’s achievements. It was silly, jovial fun within a tough encounter for four points. That’s what I want to see back on the footy fields.

About Damian O'Donnell

OK - which is the odd one out: Love the Cats and flannelette shirts, especially in winter. I get on extremely well with red wine. We just seem to hit it off. Love horse racing in Spring. Used to love cricket. Go to Stawell every Easter and contemplate life around the fire. Love water skiing, especially in summer. Get meaning from catching a beautiful curling wave. Love a great oil painting. Will read most things put in front of me. Thought 'The Sopranos' was the best TV show ever made - by miles. Run an accounting practice in Melbourne's suburbs.

Comments

  1. Grand stuff. Thanks Dips. I reckon StevieJ has undiagnosed ADHD since childhood. His impulses alternately magnificent and malevolent. I can see him in school winning every event at the sports day, while dipping girls pig tails in the ink wells.
    As for the weather – played golf in short sleeves in Perth on Saturday. Time to move the population north and west. You know it makes sense.

  2. PB – we’ve had a Dickensian winter here in Melbourne. I’ve heard it said that a city’s weather is always in stark contrast to its people.

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Beautiful work, Dips. “I limp home like Captain Ahab” Gold. Watching your children slowly morph into young adults can be thrilling and a little disconcerting because it means we are turning into older adults. Keep up the great work Liam and Pop.

  4. E.regnans says:

    “Watching these young men engaged in an activity that means something to them is reward in itself.”
    That’s it.
    Hats off for embarking on the run.
    Terrific photos out of Tassie this week, with snow down to sea level in Hobart.

    I can recommend a massage from Lisa at Brunswick Heads, NSW.

  5. Thanks Lads.
    Phil – the mind is willing but the body is weak.
    ER – NSW is a fair trek to go for a massage. Brunswick Street perhaps!

  6. Peter Flynn says:

    Did you see any Smedts work?

  7. Calf muscle = Old man’s injury !!!

    There is a curious mixture of wonder, pride, sadness and regret in watching your children grow.

  8. PF – Smedts was awful. AWFUL.
    Smoke – does that mean I wasn’t officially old until lap 5 of my jog?

  9. I’m glad there was a question and an answer on Smedts. It saves me asking. Is Kersten playing ?

    Glen!

  10. Kersten was on the ground.

  11. “The man is emerging from the boy. It’s beautiful to watch. He will, I hope, recall these mornings with fondness in later years. The results help, but it’s the faces and the voices and the names that stick in the memory.”

    Sweet stuff Dips, experiencing that very much on weekends, as the boy far surpasses my efforts as a sportsman. Enjoyong every minute of it though, and you set a very tangible image of the Sat morning sidelines

    Sean

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