Thirty Metres

Thirty Metres


Two years ago we were building cliff tracks across the southern Tassie coastal wilderness. I was working with the most ripper, laconic young bloke. Sometimes we’d get out of the bush too late to make the 1 hour drive to our club. On those nights we’d go to the tiny Port Arthur footy oval, and do training for two.
We’d stroll in, jimmy the lights with a frightening spark, and do sprints, competitive work, lead and mark, tick lead goal kicking – 2nd, 3rd, 4th effort stuff. Just a couple of reserves players who gave a shit.
It always felt like gold.


There was no rush of team environment, plenty of time, between sucking in air, to simply talk, look around – to know our footy, in the half dark and drizzle of far south winter, cruising between drills in shorts and sleeveless jumpers, aware everybody else was at home, listening to spurts of rain on their walls, hugging their fires.


With only the scoreboard end lights working, when we stopped to breath, you could see the wallabies, the occasional wombat, and if it was clear, mate, the stars! Everywhere. You could hear the rumble of a wild coast, the crash of waves into the Remarkable Cave.


We were free. Invincible.


Mostly I’d take in the oval, like all the others in that league, short, with no reserves, juniors, netball. Just small crowds of locals, just history I didn’t know, but imagined. That I was jealous of.
Anything done out there in winter is defying the odds. The people of the Peninsula who followed the footy had a bond, they knew things.


Maybe, there was a time loggers and whalers made it a hard, proud club, but everything’s changed. They were losing by heaps and folded last year. It was a damn shame. Battling clubs like that, to me, are football. Getting around the potbelly fire with a few beers after training, a shitty little telly on in the background. Coming out of the rooms to the Milky Way and frosted over ute windows. Functions cut off from the world.
Those nights of training hard on waterlogged grass that sinks to your ankles, with a bloke almost 30 years younger than me, were some of my most memorable footy moments. Top 5, easy.


After bouncing around Oz, when our crew came back to do some touch-up work on the track down here, my family and I jumped ship. The track builders went to Kakadu without us. Elena wanted solid ground under our feet for a while, and I wanted to play for Dodges Ferry again.


But having broken my back early last year playing in Townsville, then having done my ribs coming back too soon in FNQ, I have a lot of catching up to do. Without the young fella to kick with, and no-one answering the Facebook call, I decided to do sprints on my non-training days. Something that will let the baby be close, mucking around on an oval, or on the sand of any dozen spectacular, often empty bays in the region.


    • Just practice taking off again. 30 metres across the goal line, point post to point post. Five or ten hard steps, then ease up towards the other end. Repeat back. 50 a day until fit, then double it.


    • To do last night’s, I stopped in at Port Arthur. It was heartbreaking. Since the club folded, thistles are invading the oval, rabbits have burrowed wherever the white lines were. The playground is empty, unused. The scoreboard blank, both scaffold stands on the boundary starting to rust. Everything is still in its place, waiting for crowds to come back, waiting to fall down and fade. Just plain waiting.


    • I know most of the reasons, and am not fighting them. Times change. Outdoors work gets automated, people move to cities, weekenders buy the houses locals used to rent, kids aren’t into footy.




    • I’m old, but don’t want to be old, not like that, hunched and complaining. I don’t want to hear it.


    • I just wish the Peninsula Crows were still around.


Elena found a patch without thistles and played with the baby – 17 months old, and already hugging full sized Sherrins.


“Foo-y, Papa! Foo-y!”


Twenty sprints down and I was knackered without sweating. The muscle memory kicked in, but the lungs were struggling. Pathetic. The season’s a week away. I finished the 50 angry with myself, sucking in air while drifting back over to the family.


“20 more,” I told her.


For no reason, for every reason. Not for flags or B&Fs, or even winning. To be the best I can at something I’ve committed to.


To satisfy the pride in me.



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  1. Great stuff,Old dog love your passion and yes we supposedly progress while sporting clubs die and governments and society in general just don’t realise how,VITAL they are for social well being no wonder mental health problems continue to escalate

  2. There is something about the grass roots, the raw basics, of our great game which is quantifiable to only those of us who have experienced it.
    I admire your determination and passion, Old Dog. It is inspirational.

  3. Rory Mansell says

    Love it mate, definitely gonna get down to watch a game!

  4. Matt Zurbo says

    There should be a study/report on the correlation, Rulebook. I totally agree.
    Indeed, Smokie, and cheers.
    Bruz, the sooner you and family get down here for a day, the better!!

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