1045am : Racing toward my first football game for the year : an intra-club practice match.
I have worked very hard over pre-season doing a lot of running, swimming and gym. My BMI is the lowest it has been for years and my aerobic capacity way up. I’m nervous but excited. I know I can run with most guys on the park and know I can execute the skills well enough.
In the past I have lacked confidence in my ability to read the play and run out a game. If truth be told, I am scared of being hurt by some brawny mug. For the most part this is an irrational fear. The physicality of a Superrules (over 35s) football match is nowhere near the crash of AFL (or even club level) and the pace of the game has slowed right up to suit the older participants.
An intra-club game will be just the tonic I tell myself to get into the swing of FOOTBALL : 2007. A good place to stare down those fears I reason because the opposition are my own teammates !
I have joined a new team this year, Eastern Rovers, in a metropolitan wide competition. Some of our ‘away’ games involve travelling to Frankston, Beaconsfield and Werribee. I have trained well and want to impress my new team. No wonder I’m nervous.
Wolfmother’s ‘Joker and the Thief’ is playing on the radio. I turn it up loud. I’m not sure whether I will be a joker or a prince of the football world by the end of the day.
1130am : With the current drought, the poor state of most grounds and the Councils ban on playing on them, the ground we had arranged to meet at was forbidden from our use. We drive in a giant conga-line of cars to a nearby suburb and find a spare ground that we can use.
1215pm : Half the squad is playing in the Eastern Hawks jumpers (brown and gold) and the other half in East Ringwood’s Roos (blue and white). I am playing in the blue, on a half-back flank. This is a great result. I should be able to run hard, use my defensive experience to ‘run with’ my man and turn defence into attack. By not playing a central position means that I don’t have to worry about the expectation of being a key target.
1247pm : The first quarter is nearly over. Our team has dominated possession and followed the coach’s orders by playing up the middle. The other team have constantly gone wide, not direct and have found themselves under pressure as a result. Neither team can kick straight with my team kicking 5 points and the other mob only 1 point. I have collected the ball a few times and dished off handpasses to teammates. My direct opponent is one of the other very fit fellows at the club and he is running everywhere. I follow him up to our half-forward line.
I find myself in space at about centre-half-forward. The ball bounces out of a pack and lands near me. I pick it up and take a few steps toward goal. Nobody has jumped on me yet. The good news about Superrules is that nobody moves that quickly. I decide that the goals are within range and I kick truly. The first goal of the game to me. A pump of the fist, a big smile on my face and I give our coach (playing for the other side) a razz as I go past.
My fellow members of the back-men’s union celebrate a goal by one of their own. The defensive players have often felt that the forwards need to be shown how to play the game.
230pm : By the end of the game I wonder if I could have done more. I look as though I have been in the wars which is impressive to teammates. A giant ice bag is strapped to my left thigh following a “corky” in the third quarter. Quite how I got anywhere near a pack in the first place was by accident.
My stats for the game were something like 3 marks, 8 kicks (4 of them on target, 4 of them not) and a few handballs. Not bad considering some of the “quiet” outings of 2006.
I felt comfortable playing the game and mixing in with this grade. I could have done more defensively but was quite happy with my attacking skills.
915pm : I have iced my leg a second time. I have doubts whether I really ran hard enough during the day by fall asleep on the couch and don’t stir for 90 minutes, after which I wake up and go to bed ! That answer’s my question as to how hard I worked. The first round of the season is in two weeks.