What Do You Tell Your Son On The Eve Of His First Grand Final?

Reflection. Our Jack is living the dream, I thought to myself. Here he is, 10 years old. It is our first year back in Australia. To my supreme enjoyment he decided to give footy a go, after being a very strong and skilled soccer player overseas. We settle in the town of Inverloch where we have had a house for a few years. “Nothing better than playing footy in a local town” I would say to him (I did not influence him that much, really). Our other boy Sasha has continued with soccer and so he should; he is quite good.

The Inverloch Under 11’s have made it strongly into the grand final, wiping away Phillip Island last week. Jack is up and about all week, as are all the boys. They have been beautifully coached all year by Al Scott, Jason Dennerly, Peter Butcher and John Muir. I get to training when I can and miss the coaching. The kids attack the footy hard on Wednesday night. I join in circle work. Hamstring is going fine. Biting cool air about, the kids breathe hard and fast in the winter chill. They come in when Al demands it, they wrap arms around each other and heads are at the coach, they urge each other on. They are hungry.

That night I talk to Jack in the car on the way home. I am not sure what to say. He turns the music on and loves to sing. His uncle David has shared the story during the week to him about the fact that he can remember his own Midgets grand final all those years ago, in Bright, like it was yesterday. I also say to him on the way home that I can name all the players in the Bright under 16 team that I captained, all those years ago. A winning grand final stays with you, forever. No one can take that away from you, I say. Despite all the years of footy I played after U16 I did not get to taste one more, but I am grateful for that one. Now here is Jack playing in his first ever in his first season of footy ever.

We go inside and he goes straight to the laundry to polish his boots. He comes back and shows me his boots and is very proud of them. I am really not sure what to say to him about Sunday. I start up with a simple phrase, just do your best, enjoy it, attack the footy hard and do what coach Al asks. I know this is a bit simplistic.

Maybe I should listen to him, I think. So I ask him how is he feeling and what is he going to do on Sunday. He tells me he is going to do what he has to do for the team. He is probably going to play on the half-back line. It is not his favorite position. All kids want to be on the ball or forward. I commend him for that comment. He also tells me he is going to go all out and talk and encourage.

I pause for a moment. “Jack we are all so proud of you”, I say. I talk about winning and losing and that fine line. “If you win great, if you lose and you have tried your best that’s great also”. I add finally that if anyone does a mistake or the other team lose, don’t blame him or her. “It might be a close game and we don’t want to go blaming each”. I leave him with that and I think that losing or winning is such a vast valley for some kids, but we do need our kids to see life’s realities.

Country footy clubs are carried on the shoulders of some amazing people and such is true at Inverloch. The junior committee there is amazing and the mums and dads are incredible. Al’s wife Belinda and Jason’s wife Theresa are salt of the earth mums. Photos of the kids on the wall, signs on the way to Phillip Island, the oranges, the tape, the water…it’s been all there, all season.

Our kids play a fine game of total concentration against Corner inlet. My brother Ab and family have made the trip down and Uncle Don and Auntie Jen are there. Footy clubs are about families.

I am glad they are there. The final siren comes and it is a strong win to our kids. I look to Lynda and see Jack’s beaming smile as he jumps around and pumps the air. Today he is king with about 28 others (all kids played all year). I see respectful behaviour by our kids, shaking the oppositions, hands. On the way home Jack is playing his music loud again.  As I go over the San Remo bridge and look out to the blue water I think for a moment. What a magic scene this is, father and son in car.

Jack continues to bop away to his hip-hop and sings.

About Haje Halabi

Born in Bright Victoria, went overseas for 2 years and stayed 18. Tiger tragic, father of 2 fine young men, teacher and obsessed with sport and the good it can bring.


  1. Muhammed bin Rocket says

    Wonderful heart-warming stuff.
    Good fatherly advice Haje
    Well done Invers

    Now can you get Sasha to play footy as well?

  2. Haje Halabi says

    I would like to mate, but he is sold on the round ball game, and as you know he is good at it. He played footy at his school and his soccer coach found out and was not happy. cheers mate.

  3. Earl O'Neill says

    Great tale, thanks.

  4. Well done Jack, great story too

    Remember well my boy losing the Under 10 GF, then backing up to win the U11 in a thriller.

    Prelim awaits this Sunday in U15.

    You always get nervous for them and I think they get more aware as they get older too.

    Lovely story Haje


  5. Simon’s going to be playing in his first GF Sunday week Haje. Timely words for him. At times he has been a bit overawed playing against bigger/older kids, (again after changes to the age division meaning he has played two years as the junior year of two year brackets), but he has had a crack and some satisfying moments playing for a team that has come on in leaps and bounds. We are lucky our kids have nominated preferred positions and have been able to change around a few times when the games have been won. The best thing is they have really grasped the concepts of team play and while some other teams (with overage players) have challenged them, they have seen that ‘team’ trumps individual size and/or skill. Can’t wait!

  6. Well done Jack!!!!!! Woohoooooo!!!!!

  7. Haje Halabi says

    Thanks Gus, all the best to Simon. Jack says wish him all the best and says to him “see ball get ball!”

  8. Lindsay Collison says

    Love your writing Haje, I played footy with your brother at North Bendigo, champion bloke and mercurial and tough footballer, my 2nd son is playing a GF this Saturday, your sentiments are particularly relevant

  9. Thanks mate, Ab was a very good footballer, lovely skills, some of my best memories are growing up in Bright and all us boys playing footy and cricket for the club and the backyard games also. Good luck to your son, they grow up too quick, Jack lost his grand final just recently by 2 points for upper gully, boys dominated but could not bring it home.

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