The Reclink Community Cup has been going in Melbourne for some years now. It's an annual charity Aussie Rules football match that's played between members of Melbourne's media and it's music scene. A couple of years ago it expanded to Sydney and this year, it began in Adelaide. Doing work at Fresh 92.7 meant I got to play for the media team, even though no one knows who I am. Trainings were held on Monday nights. But because I had to produce my show that night, I could never make it. Luckily, the show got cancelled three weeks before the game (priorities, right?). So I could get down to the last few trainings and ensure I earned a spot on the team.
I needn't have worried though. We had players pulling out of our team left, right and center. Either they had media commitments or they had injuries or (in a rare case), they just didn't want to pay the $50 registration fee. There was a point where we had to go on a last-minute recruiting drive or face forfeiting the game.
And personally, I faced other problems. I talked about the game to my friends, I spruiked it on Facebook where I tagged all the other people I knew who were playing... But somehow the existence of the game just seemed to fall on deaf ears. Multiple times I started talking about the upcoming game and my friend would stop me and ask "So wait, what's this game you're talking about?" My best explanation for this behaviour is that of the eleven people in this world that I consider to be true, close friends... two of them have any interest whatsoever in football. Of the other nine, one seems to take joy in not knowing even the simplest thing about it and two have an active dislike of the sport. It meant that no one was available to come and watch, which made me quite sad.
But enough of that, this is a happy post. The lead-up to game day was really exciting. It was held in Norwood Stadium, an arena that houses a professional football club and seats 22,000. It got air-time on Fresh and some other stations around Adelaide, both community and commercial. Channel Nine were also involved in some capacity. We even got digital footy cards made for each player in the game.
|It's meant to say "No Refunds Please" under my name, but they forgot to put it on :P|
We got there at about 11 in the morning and after receiving my socks and shorts, I went out onto the oval and had a bit of a run-around. Then I had a kick with one of the members of the opposition before going back inside and firing up with the rest of the team, who had all finally arrived.
Our captain Jay (another member of Fresh) told me I should get my ankles strapped. Not to alleviate an injury or anything, just as a precaution to help avoid one. The physio on hand thought that was a novel idea, but he agreed to strap both my ankles anyway. It felt more supported and less like I could bend it the wrong way.
After that was guernsey presentations. I'd chosen number 12 because it's a great number mathematically and also has religious meaning. Not many people got the number they wanted, so I was lucky. Then it was time for last-minute pep-talks and then out onto the field.
|Us in the change room before the match.|
|This was the opposition - The Rockatoos|
|And this was our team - The Anchors - with captain Jay at the front.|
|Federal Minister Penny Wong opened proceedings.|
|This was our team manager Lauren. How cool does she look?|
|Paramedics on standby. Let's face it, we're all out of shape.|
Here are some of the photos during the game.
|The Rockatoos jumped out of the blocks early, but we stemmed the flow and were never more than four goals behind.|
I surprised myself by playing quite a good game. I'd played one season of football for a club before and I would maybe get the ball once every three to five games. I couldn't mark (catch) the ball, couldn't kick and couldn't tackle. I was also much lower on confidence back then, which hindered my ability to work well with the rest of my team.
This time was different. I'd discovered skills which I didn't realise I had - particularly my ability to get the ball out of a big pack situation and get it out of there. I'd gone from having one possession every five weeks to having maybe 10 in half a game (we had a lot of players on the bench, which meant we had to swap regularly). One of the commentators new me as well, which meant that my name was one of the few that was called when I got the ball. Twice I managed to dodge would-be tacklers and break into space in a way that reminded me of my favourite AFL player, Port Adelaide's #9, Robbie Gray.
But did the photographers get any photos of my slick moves? Did they catalogue my endless running around the ground to play a part in every contest? Did they snap a shot of the certain goal that I managed to stop by leaping in front of the player just as she was kicking it? No. Instead, there was a moment where I grabbed the ball out of the middle, started running towards our goal, and saw a team mate to my left with an opponent between us. I tried to hand pass the ball over the opposition player to my team mate, but didn't get any height on it, so it went straight into the arms of the opposition, who turned and ran it back the other way. I swore and turned around myself to give chase...
|And all the photographer saw was the wussiest attempt at a tackle of all-time.|
There were a lot of antics later in the game. Some players started a brawl for fun and everyone else on the field joined in. I was standing on the other side of the field with a very short, butch looking girl from the other team. We saw the fight break out and she turned to me with a look on her face that said "Let's do this." She reached for the collar of my guernsey and I batted it away, saying things like "What are you doing?" and "I want to keep this later, don't rip it!" She gave up and ran over to the brawl to get her action fix.
There were also two separate streakers in the last quarter. The first one was wearing just a beanie and a scarfe wrapped around his genitals like a Sumo diaper. He also had a prosthetic leg, which was interesting. The other was a woman who was wearing underpants and a Darth Vader mask. She cut across my path - boobs flying everywhere - as I was running back onto the field from the bench. It caught me by surprise, but I didn't lose my focus on what was happening on the ball. I'm a professional.
Like I said, we were never more than four goals behind. And because we were behind, the umpires gave us as much help as possible. But we could never hit the lead and ended up losing by three goals.
After the match we all headed down to the pub for celebration drinks and handed out awards and thank yous. I added new friends on Facebook and we all shared stories from the day. I felt like a hero and I'm SO making sure that I'm back in my #12 guernsey next year.