Saturday night footy


The years click over, but the leathery crack of a good pack mark still makes me horny. It’s only reserves now, but so what? They can hurt you, and try to hurt you, but don’t know how to be a bastard with their bodies when the ball’s in the air. I lead with my elbows and chest, they give my arms that inch of breathing space.

   It still feels like small victories each time I deliver the ball. Flicking out a handball as the pack is busy landing, chipping out wide to, now, some awkward, fumbling kid who’s free on the wing. I could never understand the joys of bombing it long. Of just getting a kick. There’s a sweetness to one possession becoming two. Of linking it up.

   We’re playing a night game, or the seniors are. Like a lot of our careers, the Scoobies get dusk. By the time the sun sets, just after half-time, I’m already exhausted, but the dew gives me extra legs. I’m loving it. The lights, the crowd, the free barbie clogging up the air, drifting across the flanks.

   The oval is tiny, burried in rolling, dense, working-class suburbs, as if God lowered his thumb and squashed half a block, leaving a crappy, uneven, green surface with back fences for a boundary line. There’s a small, narrow rise between the two, so the crowd’s above you, and, when the game’s done and we’ve had our heads handed to us again, we’re watching the main game from right over the pockets, as if we’re in it. There’s a full moon and cold mist. The seniors clash looks like the stuff of legends.

   The crowd is five deep. Everyone we know from other clubs and other leagues, come to watch and kick off their Saturday night. Beer’s going down. There’s a seeweed sway to it all.

   With two seconds to go the opposition get’s a dodgy free kick on the wing. The player bombs it long. Their centre half forward is fourth in line, yet paid the mark, 40 out. The siren goes with the scores still tied. He roosts a point and their crowd goes off. Our blokes all fall to their knees or on their backs as if they’ve just been kicked in the heart.

   In the change rooms, the opposition sing their song as if shaking heaven and earth. I feel glad for them, and our boys, too. Somehow, these days, even the hurting feels good.

   We make for the bar. The clubrooms are packed, thumping with life. Someone’s re-playing on the telly. Sydney v Geelong, I think. Nobody gives a damn.

   I make to head back and hook up with a few of the boys in the bush. As I’m leaving I notice even the entrance to the place is small. A narrow, gravel lane, not ten feet wide, with a faded bus-stop of a sign. Brick veneer houses either side. That’s it. A few kids are on the street, killing time on scooters, staring dead-eyed at passers by, like kids do everywhere. Just kicking at the pricks.

   The club is a backyard, in a sea of backyards, one of thousands you drive by on the freeway, as if that’s no big thing.


  1. matt zurbo says

    Thanks John!!

  2. Pamela Sherpa says

    You describe the essence of footy like no- one else Matt. Love reading your pieces .

  3. matt zurbo says

    thanks, pamela, really glad you’re digging them!

  4. Pamela Sherpa says

    I showed a friend from Canberra who had been down to Bridport and Scottsdale for work your first article. She had been decribing the scenery to me and had photos of the beach and those fantastic rocks down there.
    Husband and I rode our bikes round Tassie -Christmas of 84. Said wed come back to live there after returning from overseas but lobbed in the Snowy Mts and are still here!
    Enjoy the beers, bumps and bruises for the rest of the footy season.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    There are so many ovals your apt description Fits and looking 4wd to lights at
    Bob Neil 1 aka Uni Oval next year as you are spot on does no matter what Grade is playing attracts People and with a lot of people disuloinsed with what is happening with SANFL next year I reckon it will be a huge winner
    I Love how much you Love Football !

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