Junior Footy: The Final Stretch II – Going Out On A High

In the previous instalment of The Final Stretch, Nick the Stats Guy reminisced on a seven-year football career, from the cold Saturday mornings at the local park for Auskick to the final home game of his career. On the edge of beginning his last finals campaign, he reflects on the lead up since the last post.

I’ve always been nervous at football games.

It’s just a part of my brain, but I am the most likely to freak out ahead of a football game of anyone I know.

Aged eight, at Auskick, I was liable to start crying at the end of games when we’d lost. I was so invested in these games, that losing was simply unthinkable to me.

In the six years since then, I’ve gotten better at losing. The only games where the tears come are narrow losses and, in one case, a game when nothing went right.

However, I’d never been crying before a game.

Instead, a week ago, in the change rooms for the last home game of my career, I sat in a corner and struggled to hold back.

The team photo was given to me. In order to clear my head, I decided to go for the long walk to my dad, who was on the gate.

“Hey Nick, what’s up?”, he said, before I collapsed into his chest in a hug. I explained the nervousness and uncertainty I was feeling ahead of the game, and also tried to give him the photo.

Instead of taking the photo, he told me to put it in the car, and also told me to just treat it like another game. After all, it wasn’t going to be the last time I went to the ground.

The coach decided to place me on the bench for the first quarter, “on account of my nerves.” I told him that was probably the best idea.

My teammates, understanding what this match meant for me, let me run out first. As much as I protested, saying I wanted it to be normal, they insisted. I ran out onto the field, and during a brief bit of five star handball, the captain told me to go out and do the toss.

“No, you’re the captain. You do it.”

He was having none of it, and in the end, we went to the toss together. The opposition called wrong, we picked with the wind, and after the coach’s speech, I went to the bench.

The nerves were gone by quarter time. We’d been on top for the term, and led 1.4 to 0.0. I was thrown in at the back pocket, the place I’d been making my mark this year.

Our midfield just wasn’t the same as it was going with the wind, and we didn’t score in the second. They kicked 2.1 to hit the lead.

The third quarter, we had the wind, and attacked consistently. They got a free kick that they scored off near the end, but we led 4.6 to 3.2.

I could hardly help it. There were still nerves, so I made a brief impromptu speech.

“Two kicks. That’s all that’s keeping them from the lead. If they don’t get those two kicks, then we’ll win. If we win, we’ll almost certainly make the finals. Who wants to make the finals? [Cheers from the team.] Go out there and get the win.”

I was put in the forward line for the final term, and tried to impose myself on the game, but I didn’t make the most of it. Regardless, we still added another goal, and were 17 points on top when the siren sounded. I’ve never seen bigger celebrations from my teammates. For my last home game, we’d gone out in a great way.

Leading the team back into the rooms, it felt great, a feeling doused slightly in multiple ways when a teammate poured a water bottle on me. Standing in the centre as we sang the song, it felt awesome. I was given the game day medal, mostly because of my role as a ‘heart and soul player’ of the club.

Training Tuesday night. Training Thursday night. Away game Sunday afternoon.

This away game was against the team on the bottom of the ladder. The last time we’d played, in the previous season, we lost by 148 points. We were out to make sure that didn’t happen.

Usual banter in the rooms, in particular me giving it to a Richmond supporter after the horror at Manuka the previous day. (He’d been harassing me about the Bulldogs the entire season, surely it’s fair I get some revenge? {If you’re reading this, teammates, you know who you are.}) We must not have been switched on enough, though, because at the end of the first quarter, we’d kicked just one goal (admittedly after a lopsided free kick count).

I was put in to the backline for the second term, coming off the bench. We played better in the second quarter, kicking three goals of our own. Continuing on in the backline in the third, we finished up leading 52-1, almost the same quarter time score as GWS-Richmond.

Since we needed to rest some of our players for the elimination final the next weekend, we switched it up a bit, including me in the ruck. This caused some laughter from my teammates. Despite being one of the oldest in the team, I’m also one of the shortest.

The opposition ruckman could hardly believe it at the start of the final term, and made the most of it, getting some easy hitouts while they scored their first goal for the match. We scored a reply shortly after.

From a boundary throw in, I, near miraculously, won a hitout. I’d had my arm over the opponents, and had gotten to the ball first.

A teammate cannoned into an opposition player in an aerial contest, one which led to him getting a yellow card. From what I had seen, I was greatly impressed by the courage of the opponent when he got the spoil, and as we was lying on the ground, I said, “That was a heck of a spoil.”

The umpire, however, thought I was talking about my teammate, and told me “What he did was wrong, and don’t ever say that again.” I’m sure it was an honest misunderstanding, but I was lucky not to give away a free kick.

With thirty seconds to go in the game, and the result beyond doubt, it was charged into our forward line. There was a scramble near the goalmouth, with the ball staying in, but most of the ballcarrier not. He handpassed it to a teammate from the ground, who went for the handpass but was smothered. The ball sat on the ground, so I picked it up, and flung it on my boot.

The ball went up, and up, and up, and eventually cannoned down, bouncing just outside of the goals. It went up again, and a teammate watched as it bounced through for a goal in front of him.

I celebrated wildly. It’s not often I score a goal, this is just the fifth in my career, and the siren sounded shortly after. I was drenched with water again, this time by a different teammate.

I mildly considered retiring then and there, ending my career on a high, but thought better of it. I’ve stuck with my teammates since about April 2010, it wouldn’t be good to abandon them now.

Do not go gently into the night.


To be culminated on August 7, 14, 21, or 28, depending on when my team is eliminated from the finals.


I write about sports, mostly Australian football and cricket. Particularly focused on the statistical side of the game.

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