The Game of Life

The Game of Life

It is never ideal preparation for a big game when you leave your footy gear at home, so for an away fixture up in coal mining and lumberjack country three hours away the problem is compounded. It was true the young bloke had a bit on his mind this week. Heaps really.

Doing the warm up on the grass behind the flood levy in street clothes was less than satisfactory but his gear was on the way, he hoped. In the end he just leaned on the fence and watched. His face was blank. He was somewhere else but he knew he had to play today. He had made that decision on Thursday morning after the phone call. It was important. The older bloke noticed through misty eyes from a little way away.

The bag arrived just as the final address from the coach before they ran onto the uneven slope between the posts and the circle of cars. The older bloke missed the start. He was behind the sheds looking south to the sheer sandstone escarpment, and the trees. Emotion had finally got him. Deep breath, mop the eyes and off to the railing where the crowd welled and yelled.

The young bloke was on the ground by then. He had run on with a tear or two but no one noticed. Well someone did. She saw them. He needed a friend today. He set up a goal with an early hand ball and was in the play but things got hard when the home team got on top. It was all uphill from there.

The queue of drying out druggies, thugs and blue-armed bogans lined up on him for the rest of the day, five in all.

‘He gave you a flogging’ said the next bloke, referring to the last bloke he had just replaced.

The kidney punches and lower leg kicks continued unabated. Arms chopped, head hit at every opportunity and of course the vile yap. Super heroes those boys. Just following coach’s instructions I suppose. He was challenged just be out on the ground and didn’t need this crap. It was hard enough to concentrate without it. But he stayed and he played. The umpires had obviously heard the horror stories of sharpened screw drivers in tyres at country grounds and appeared more interested in making good an escape after the game rather than good decisions during it. That’s bush footy I suppose. Survival of the fittest.

He took a few grabs, kicked a couple of goals in the third quarter to give them a chance but the frustration showed. He wasn’t in the best on the ground but at least he was on the ground.


The young bloke and the old bloke sat together on the wooden bench under the tin roof after the post mortem. The winter darkness and chill were taking hold outside. It would be a long slow trip home but at least they weren’t driving. Looking straight ahead they both distractedly sipped a beer. It didn’t taste all that good. A fifty point loss after being a couple of goals down at the last break hurt.

The usual collection of post game detritus littered the floor as the sheds cleared. He unstrapped the ring of black electrical tape from his left arm. It tore hair from his strong young bicep. The feeling was gone. He threw it into the pile. Sadness leached from his face.

He loved his grandfather. He had been there all his life. He would miss him; a lot. The funeral was on Monday. His mother and grandmother would need a hand.  He would be there. He would say a few words and help carry the coffin. A young bloke has to do what he has to do when the team needs him.

He took his aching body to the shower. By now it was cold. Bugger!


  1. Peter Fuller says

    Congratulations, that’s a beautiful moving story. It is so much better for your resisting the temptation to sugar-coat any aspect of the experience. Well done the young bloke for getting through the day. I once read a mantra about running a marathon, which I think can be pressed into an analogy for this chap’s experience.
    “There are three classes of winners in a marathon, first across the line, anyone who crosses the finish line, anyone who makes the start line.” He’s managed the last two footballing versions of that achievement, and demonstrated that you can win by competing when the odds are stacked against you and displaying resilience. He lost (or was on the losing side) but he wasn’t beaten.

  2. Good one Phanto. You are only even beaten when you stop getting up. Regards to the young man.

  3. You’re on fire Phanto.

  4. G’day Phantom.

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