Some say footy is just a game.
To them, I say you’re not looking hard enough.
To me, Aussie Rules Football is more than aerial ping pong; it’s controlled chaos on a grey-green battlefield. It’s a hard fight in the blazing sun and belting rain. It’s the song you sing arm-in-arm with your fellows in victory or defeat. It’s the speed of soccer and the roughness of rugby. It’s a bastard of a sport but it’s our own.
Some say footy ovals all look the same. To them, I say, you’re wrong. Each are as unique as the human body. Some curve out ever so slightly, some slender and long, some dip at the ends and rise in the centre. Some home to the hard rolled earth of a cricket pitch, cracked and cratered. Others a mountain of swampy mud masking the concrete hidden beneath. And finally those rare beauties with no cricket pitch at all, unblemished and perfect.
Some say footy takes no skill. To them I say, you’re right. Anyone can play. But prepare yourself for the hardball, the battle of wills that asks every man and woman the question: Who wants this ball? And forty others answer in chorus. Me. Be prepared to curse the heavens when the ball strikes the side of your boot sailing sideways to bounce off the bonnet of a car. Or the sweet hollow thud as the ball hits your bootlace out, tumbling through the air towards the intended target. Be prepared for the bruises, the burn of the grass, the swollen ligaments, the fire in your lungs, and the taste of dirt. It doesn’t take any skill to play football, just the will to persevere.
Some say it requires no thinking. To them, I say, that’s the point. Once you step onto the field the world strips away, nothing matters but that red spheroid full of hot air. Once you cross that chalk line you are no longer a labourer, a student, rich or poor; you are vaulting ambition in a jersey, you are only the person you want to be. The war colours plastered on your breast draw the battle lines, determine friend from foe. Your greatest enemy becomes your greatest ally as you take the field together. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers, in victory and defeat. They push you to work a little harder, run a little further, stand a little taller, until battered and bruised they speak of your deeds over a beer-soaked bar-mat. The world is never so simple a place as on the footy field.
Some say footy is just a game. To them, I say your right, but this game saved my life.
Words by Mark Vawser