Water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink


by Avan Stallard

There’s a remarkable little documentary called Cunnamulla.  It tells the story of some of the less fortunate soles in the Queensland town of the same name.  If you’re not familiar with the place, Cunnamulla is a settlement 800km west of Brisbane in the middle of nowhere.  It also happens to be at the end of the railway line. 


With that in mind, there’s one particular quote from that film which has stuck with me: “My father always told me: ‘Never marry someone who lives at the end of the train tracks.’  Well, I did…”


So, guess where we Uni boys played on the weekend?  No, not Cunnamulla, but it was at the end of the railway line.  Beenleigh, where the first industries were growing cane sugar and distilling rum, and the largest today is slaughtering Daisy at Teys’ Abbatoir.


And, you know, I’d love to sledge Beenleigh.  I’m itching to, really.  But I can’t.  I can’t because they are a club with everything we don’t have.  It was a beautiful oval, proper size, had a dainty picket fence round it, and I didn’t even get stabbed by a syringe.  Their change-rooms were well-equipped – I’m simply not used to my own space on the bench and the luxury of flowing water out of a tap and toilets which don’t make you vomit (pay attention, Strathpine).  Then there was their clubhouse, replete with outdoor pergola in which their supporters could sup their XXXX a few metres from the action.  Oh, and a clubhouse wouldn’t be complete without a bevy of good-looking ladies kitted out in frocks, drinking champagne.  Tick that one off, too.


All that stuff was great, but you know what I was most jealous of?  Water.  The Beenleigh players had people running them water.  It’s not a big deal, just a few boys walking around on the field saying, ‘Hey Wing Wang: water?’  One of their fellas took pity and offered me some.  It gets better (or is it worse?): their water was chilled. 


You’re probably wondering why I would be jealous of that.  Simple.  Our boys had no water.  Not a drop, except for when our beleaguered physio, under a torrent of abuse from players cramping from dehydration, meekly ran a bottle or two out before retreating to our benches – which is, after all, where the physio belongs.


Now, I can’t speak for the other boys, but not having any water on a scorching day is a big deal to me.  Anyone who has ever given me a slap on the back regrets it, for I am a master sweater.  If I’m not drenched in sweat, please check my pulse.  So when I don’t have water and whinge about it, it’s not because I’m a big sissy, it’s because it changes the game for me.


By late in the third quarter I had cramps in both legs.  It made it a tad hard to run.  Other boys had cramps too, not to mention general fatigue (dehydration causes up to a 30% loss in performance).  So water helps.


The question is, then, why did these blokes who live at the end of the train tracks have water, and yet we didn’t?  Culture.  It’s all about culture.


It’s that sense of being part of a community which means Beenleigh can get supporters to the ground, can get helpers to the games, can get family to chip in, can get the dollars through the coffers to provide the boys some facilities.  I’m guessing they all stuck together after the game to celebrate their wins, too (yes, a shock, but we lost).


I’m not unrealistic. I know we’re a university club with a ridiculously high turnover of players.  But this season it seems to me something has gone a bit askew.  It just doesn’t feel like we’re all mates looking out for each other.  The culture we’ve had in past seasons seems to have slipped away.


The best thing about that culture of mateship is when you get on the field and you know that the blokes around you can be relied upon.  When you need that shepherd, you know he’ll put his body on the line to take the opponent out.  When you’re at the bottom of the pack you know your mate’s not just an observer, but is working to make the option to reward your effort.  That if there’s any hurly-burly then your mate will come sprinting from the other end of the ground to help out if he has to.


Fuzzy’s a great example.  He had a blinder on Saturday, and I reckon a small part of that was feeling comfortable with the players around him.  He knew he could rely on Huggo to reward his running with a handball, allowing Fuzzy to deliver up forward.  Cupcake knew he could rely on Fuzzy to be in just the right place so that when Marty tapped the ball into the perfect spot, it could be dished straight off without even thinking, and Fuzzy would deliver it… up forward.  That’s trust that comes with playing with blokes.  It’s trust that comes with being mates.


On Saturday, we played the best footy of our season thus far.  But are we mates?  Are we looking out for each other?  Not yet.


We’re never going to have the flash clubhouse, supporters flocking to the games, or hot birds coming down to be hit on by Fuz.  But getting together, drinking some booze, talking rubbish, and becoming a team – that’s what UQ AFC is all about. 


So long as I’m playing with mates and for mates, and their playing for me, then I couldn’t care less whether we win, or get thrashed by 200 points. 


We’ve got a fortnight to get it right.  The test will be how thirsty for water we are on the field, and how thirsty for a beer we are once we’re celebrating together after the game.   


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