Way Down South

Way Down South


Ayden’s 19. I was playing my 16th season of senior footy when he was born. It’s been a big day at work. Caked in dry mud, we lean on his ute tray discussing the season ahead.
“There’ll be roadkill,” I tell him.
He gives me an awkward look that’s almost a smile.


Both of us are living well south of Hobart, building coastal cliff walking tracks. I’ve rented a shack in Port Arthur, he’s doing the same with his family in Nabeena, just up the road. We slog it out in the bush, long walk in, pushing gravel and splitting rocks. Within a month or so the track will get too far from the dirt road. Then, as winter settles in, on Mondays we’ll be helicoptered in with food supplies to a makeshift camp out on Cape Raoul. The spectacular third of Tassies famous Three Capes.


The nearest footy club with seniors, reserves, juniors, is just over an hour’s drive away. A constant wind through bush, along bays, inlets, dens, sunsets, half built bridges, dot towns, empty dirt roads, at least one white goat, wildlife and ranges to all horizons.
The club seems worth the effort – good coaches, the best blokes, lots of wry grins, mostly locals. A welcoming love of footy. A great sense of community.


Ayden and I discuss it.
“Yesterday I went out to do some preliminary chainsaw work around where the camp sight will go,” I tell him. “It takes 1 ½ hours to walk out, but I gave it the lot up the mountain, ran down the other side and made the carpark in 50 minutes. If we start at dawn and knock off at 4, I reckon, with the drive, we can get to training by six.”
“How far is the walk?” he asks.
“Seven ks. Maybe further from the actual tip.”


“If the ‘copters are lifting in gravel we might be able to catch the first one back the next morning,” he says, hopeful, then admits. “That probably won’t happen.”
“Getting out will be a piece of piss,” I tell him. “A bit of purpose and all that. The walk back in, middle of winter, 5.30am, raining, near or below zero degrees…”
Ayden laughs dryly.
“To get to work…” he says.
“I won’t be running back in!”
“Maybe mountain bikes…”
“Uphill’s too steep. That bloody mountain…”
“Then we’ll just use them downhill at the end of each day. Push them back up, hide them at the top each morning…”
“Yeah, dunno. Downhill’s steep. The bikes will need pretty good breaks!”


We picture ourselves flying off some downward bend or corner. Ayden just sort of smiles again, even more crooked.


“Morning, coming back in it will still be dark, we’ll need head torches,” I tell him.


At its peak, the track rides the coastal cliffs. To the west you can see Shipsterns, one of the largest surf breaks in the world. Big wave riders from all over the planet make pilgrimages to test their steel against it. I like the thought of skirting the edge of their lives on the way to challenges of my own.
“Bugger running in steel caps,” Ayden says.
“I thought about that. We can wrap our work gear in plastic, leave it in there. Shorts and sneakers out.”
“Work boots would be much safer climbing over the rocky stretches,” I suggest, “but we’ll probably have built most of that part of the track by then…”
“There’s a small dry lake out on the cape,” Ayden tells me. “If it doesn’t fill up we can kick on it after work and only travel to train one night a week…”
“It’ll be full in winter…”


There’s a moment’s silence between us while we get our heads around something that will take one torn hammie or broken bone to bring tumbling down.
“Not a chore, and adventure,” I smile, taking the piss out of both of us.
I have another reason to run out every second night. A woman. Elena’s moved down South with me. She’s from Venezuela and knows nobody here, and little of the culture. It’s love, and I’ve spent too many years alone on mountains to let her do the same in southern Tassie.


“You two are pretty different. What do you like about her?” Ayden asks.
“Remember when you once visited a house, decades before, and then you were trying to find it again? You’d see one and go – Hmm, I’m not sure, maybe… and then another – I dunno, the colour’s the same, but didn’t it have a hedge… and you go on, some real nice houses, just not quite, maybe, the one you’re searching for, some you even knock on the door of… Then, the second you see it, it’s like – Oh, man! Of course! How could I have thought it was anything else?
“Sort of,” he says. Kids.
“Well, that’s her to me,” I tell him.


He gives a corker grin. I worked alongside and played footy with our boss, his dad, in the Otway Ranges almost 30 years ago, we became mates. Now it’s my and the young fella’s turn.


There’ll be no stopping for rain on this job. It’s going to be a hard come winter and the injuries are niggling, but that’s footy – brilliant, life giving, a challenge, anything but easy. And that’s why we like it.
To step out of the isolation of days of greys skies, muddy browns and surf, into the warmth of a good footy club, the brilliant red of their jumpers, then sweep into my woman’s company, will be a thing of glory.




  1. djlitsa says

    You should erect sign boards along the track to document your season. Give the tourists a bit of history as to who made the track for them. Good luck for winter.

  2. Yvette Wroby says

    Have a terrific season of footy and a life lived with love. Happy for you.

  3. Mark Duffett says

    Shame you can’t play in two places at once. I see Tasman Peninsula FC had to forfeit on the weekend – this when the Tasman Peninsula supported an entire Association as recently as 2001. Seems a pity to have to drive past them to get to Dodges.

    Hopefully I’ll get a game at Shark Park soon – it’ll be nice not to be the oldest bloke running around out there :)

  4. On ya Matt. We’re back in for another season. The eldest, Ferret, wasn’t going to play, but I was asked to coach at another club, so back in the saddle. Our club was a little team was a little short of numbers, so merged with another in the same boat. As luck would have it, the holes in our team have been neatly filled and vice versa. They had talls and inside nuggets, we had lighter, faster frames, so nice balanced team is the result. Their coach, Damien, is brilliant, so I’m only doing Tuesday nights, when the club’s train at our own grounds and asistanting on Thursdays and game day.

    He is big on fitness, with the kids doing a lot of hard running, almost always with the ball and with a game day purpose behind it. My job has been to organise the midfield, particularly setting up, and then running messages on game day. Damien has got the kids focused on doing the the things they need to get the ball forward and/or stop it going back and not worrying about the scoreboard. Result: 3 good wins out of 3. One game against strugglers, but two against more imposing teams, that we have significantly out scored against the wind and in the second halves. It’s already a better season than last, where the (new) coach, coming from a background in elite U18s, didn’t coach the kids who weren’t in the top tier. As a result the majority of the kids didn’t feel included, didn’t now what to do and didn’t improve. Frustrating. This year, you wouldn’t know which club the kids come from, goals/good play celebrated by high fives from all near the action. Heartwarming.

  5. Malby Dangles says

    Good stuff Matty! Good luck getting to your training sessions

  6. Mark Duffett says

    And wouldn’t you know it…I’ll see you on Saturday, Mr Zurbo.

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