Twelve Months on a Pogo Stick (Part 3)


by Bill Walker

Sword Sharpening


Christmas is coming, players all get fat; first run in the New Year they’re all well tanned, but flat.


No such problem this year at Wynyard. Shannon and his bench coach Dan Smith had got them onto the track in mid November. The young recruits were like ‘Jack Jumpers’ on a hot day. Although there were a plethora of quality experienced players rotating in and out of the sessions there was a clear commitment made to all that every position was open this year. No one was safe.


This was a unique luxury as some times we had failed to maintain, or attract, good players. It is not a criticism of those who played; it was just how it was. This year appeared different and the club hierarchy had a new problem that would need close management. How would we hold players who had in the past played most senior games but may miss out or others who genuinely believed they would attain initial senior selection for the first match?


Shannon was like the ‘Energiser Bunny’; reloaded. He was ‘hypo’ in everything he did. He coached the local A Grade cricket team on Tuesdays and Thursdays and played on Saturdays and many Sundays. Footy training was Mondays and Wednesdays. Friday numbers were dropping off so they were discontinued. From the start the players were straight into the footies. They were expected to work hard but there was variation. Shannon, a local boy, had returned to the town he loved and he wanted to do everything. He still played in number 80, the one he had first been given over fifteen years before. He was the fittest and threw himself at every contest like a mad man. Some thought he was nuts. Some knew he was. He had in a short period of time generated enormous enthusiasm and belief into the playing group. He is our nut. We love him for that.

On the eve of Australia Day there was an intra club practice match. It was a balmy evening, Nev’s ‘Road Kill and Can Bar’ was open, people turned up and there was a sense of relaxed anticipation amongst the encouraging crowd. The drums had been beating. It was far from relaxed on the field, however. The two teams had different coaches and started from different sheds. The best available suspects played the first half. From the start it was obvious that no prisoners were going to be taken.


They bashed and crashed into each other. They ran hard to contests and arrived in numbers. Skill level was encouragingly high. Players were switched on. There was a carnival atmosphere amongst the can sippers and snag munchers. Sixty six players had turned up. There were very few bodgies. The crowd was as big as some recent match day ones. Those who had been at the club throughout the horrible decade smiled. Those who knew a bit about footy smiled and winked at each other. I felt a shiver run down my spine on several occasions. There were more that a dozen fathers watching their sons. There was even a sprinkling of past premiership players. Old and Grey.


The first game was two months away but there was an ‘I can’t wait’ look in most people’s eyes. We could have fielded three competitive teams that weekend.


One swallow does not make it spring it has been said, but no swallows clearly makes it winter. As I headed west into the setting sun the warm glimmer off the sea at the beach near the shack told me that winter was a mile away.




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