The Earlybird

I am four years into my Late Life Attempt At Football – otherwise known as LLAAF. Yeah that’s right, it sounds like a laugh. But laughing was the furthest thing from my mind last Saturday morning when I rose early to prepare for a 9.20am game in leafy Glen Iris. I had keenly studied the weather charts all week, trying to find out exactly what temperature it would be when the siren went to start play. Estimates varied but all hovered around the four to six degrees Celsius mark. This was a concern.

So, as I said, I rose early in a dark and cold house, tip-toeing around the rooms so not to wake up my sleeping 15-month-old son. It would be the first success of the day, he wisely stayed asleep. Who, baby or otherwise, would voluntarily rise that early on a cold June morn? Smart kid. Takes after his mother.

As the car warmed up I saw something I had never seen on the car dashboard before. Next to the temperature of 2.5?C was a little icicle icon. Such confirmation of the low temperature was unnecessary by that stage.

As the car snuck out of the Independent State of Watsonia North and headed south, there was a certain purity about the streets. The air seemed clearer, maybe that was just because I had my contact lenses in.

By about Rosanna I spotted the hot air balloons. They looked higher than I had ever seen them before. Imagine how cold it is up there I thought to myself. Will they ever make it back down?

Around Heidelberg, kaleidoscopes of cyclists were bunched up at red traffic lights, fog billowing from their smiling faces. The smiles were nervous ones, even absurd ones, and they hid chattering teeth. I thought, what the hell are these guys doing out at this hour, obviously forgetting that soon I’d be out there too, and I wouldn’t have the luxury of wearing long sleeves top and bottom, gloves, and a beanie. I’d effectively be in short shorts and a singlet.

Driving through the back streets of Camberwell I was ushered on my way by towering trees on either side of the road. Trees that, months earlier, were dripping with colourful Autumn leaves, but now had haunting branches that reached towards the morning sky like sinister fingers and made me feel like I was driving through the front yard of the Addams residence.

The Third XVIII that I am part of has come under a new regime this year. We actually have more than three or four of us at training on a Thursday night. In fact, we train in our own group. The idea of this was previously unheard of. Buoyed by this improved showing, the coach has comfortably threatened that anyone who turns up at the ground later than 8.30am will spend the first quarter on the bench. I’ve been named on the bench already, so I’m not sure where this leaves me.

However, I do as I’m told and arrive before the mandated time. My punctuality seems to have been rewarded, I’m starting on the ground. This pleases me more from a keeping warm perspective than any kind of misplaced nod to my ability as a footballer. The first few steps of the warm up were tentative but then I slowly eased into the task at hand. Like a cold Victorian beach, once you’re in it’s not too bad. Although that old cliché is part fallacy – the water is still bloody freezing.

We start well and seem to take control of the game early, peppering our goals while they struggle to get near theirs. Footprint by footprint we unwittingly wick the dew away from the ground. We eventually win the game by just over 10 goals. While there’s something kind of strange about linking arms with 20-odd blokes to sing a song before midday whilst stone cold sober, the early start was totally worth it.


About Ged McMahon

Ged McMahon has been a Bombers fan for as long as he can remember. With a Grandpa who grew up just a spiralling torpedo punt from Windy Hill he didn't have much choice. When his junior football career resulted in almost as many possessions as games he eventually had to bite the bullet and give up his dream of captaining the Bombers to a Premiership. So his weekly footy fix became confined to the stands. He yearns for the next Premiership.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Not sure if you’ve got kids Ged, but they play at similarly unsociable times.

    Seems a bit cruel for adults though. At least you get to start your recovery early.

  2. Yeah I’ve got a one-year-old Mark so bracing myself for many more early sporting starts in the future!

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