Torn Thighs and Golden Boys

I tore my thigh muscle in a practice game a few weeks ago, nursed my way through Round 1, couldn’t really train, but rolled out for Round 2, where the opposition ruckman split the injury back open at the first bounce. I played through.

With about ten minutes left, I flew for a pack mark, getting both hands on it as an opponant came in from the side, ripping the already swollen thigh further with his hip bone. The hit pushed me up, sideways, further into the air, taking my feet out from under me. I came down from height, landing flat on the thigh. Fuck that Murphy bloke and his Law! I played out the game on one leg.
After, we went to our new sponsor’s pub. A real tough little ghost ship in an industrial street on the finges of the city. We laughed and made noise, stirring the five dusty locals. Joel got some spoons from the kitchen, a bottle-top stick from god knows where. Somebody nicked a road sign to use as a wobble board. We laughed and butchered a few disco songs, just to take the piss out of ourselves, then the whole pub fell still for the Sun’s first bounce ever, while the juke box carried on.
“What’s with that shit corporate thing on their chest?” Sammy said. “How can kids fall in love with that? Put a Sun on it, for fuck’s sake.”
By the time he’d finished his sentence Carlton had their first goal, the writing was on the wall, and the pub was away again, the AFL where it belonged, background noise to the seaweed sway of life and the living.
Only a few of us stopped for the Sun’s first major. The clowns took the piss out of it. The players, the footballers, Teddy, Rayner, a couple more, me, just watched in pub noise. As jealous as all hell.
We all knew that kid, even if he did his knee and never played again, had a slice of victory that would never fade.
That done, we drank more and didn’t care about the Suns all over again.
Most of the boys kicked on to nightclubs. I slinked home some time after midnight to bleed.

I don’t care about injuries like I used to. They’re annoying, but that’s all. To be honest, I like the pain of them. Maybe because I’ll soon be retired, and they’ll be gone, and I’ll have to find other ways to be alive. Maybe just because. I don’t question it.
I know the nineteen broken bones, the nine surgeries, the dislocations, snapped tendons, the fourteen concussions, the bloody piss, will come back on me soon enough. I’ve always known I’ll pay tomorrow.
My teeth are chipped, but each imperfection tells a story.

Right now it’s late Monday night. I’m sitting alone in my cabin on the mountain, watching soccer on SBS. Football is the only reason I’m still here, really. The only obvious one. But football’s a big topic. With it comes a way of life, a community. A place to belong.
The thigh is large and blue, making it hard to sit or put jeans on, but if I can run by Friday night, I’ll play on Saturday.


  1. I was watching it at my neighbours (has pay tv) waiting for the main event, Freo vs Geelong, while sticking pins into little bald headed dolls and dipping them in fresh chicken blood.

    I think it worked.

  2. Charlie Dixon. That will be a name for a trivia night in about 10 years…

  3. Danielle says

    i didnt see it. lol

  4. Australia Bar, Soi 11 says

    Matt Zurbo reminds me a bit of Andre Dubus. Legs and all.

    Wrote a paean in support of Phantom which ran to 1000 words of bile. Deleted it.

    Anyway, suck it, GC captain. Your team blows, it will blow for ages, you blow at least 150% more than you did last season, you definitely blow a lot more than Bomber and his shopping centre in %^&*()# Ocean Grove, your brother always blew, a million and a bit coins blew even when Jesus was alive, Queensland b-l-o-w-s, and so does every &^%$ who tells the Geelong Big Footy board that … aaah, not going to repeat their miserable little dried up capitalist arguments. They all blow anyway, and they know it, down in their jobs on the leaf blowers at Geelong West.

    Go Cats.

  5. Pamela Sherpa says

    I love reading your articles Matt. I love how you describe the earthy soul of footy down there.

  6. matt zurbo says

    Pamela, thanks heaps. Glad you dig them!

  7. Longabaugh says

    Zurbo, just make sure your knees remain intact for the glittering lawn bowl career still to come. The Commonwealth Games await. Do Tasmania proud.

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Love how you made us feel like we were there as usual Matt there are very few individuals LOVE the GAME like you do Matt you don’t play as many Games as you have with out the ability to carry injuries and absorb pain like you have
    As I await Knee op number 10 I am jealous of you not having any Knee problems
    As some 1 who also is heavily involved in.a Club when your not supposed
    to be I agree with you keep on keeping on and geez I am jealous that your still playing
    Glad the way you described AFL on in the background a superb way of putting it
    Zurbs I look 4wd to meeting you !

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