Not ex­actly sporty

Shepparton News - Country News - - OPINION - By Ge­off Adams

My blood ran cold when I heard the word ‘‘sport’’ men­tioned.

Although raised on the farm and hav­ing been sub­ject to the rigours of early morn­ings, the oc­ca­sional long day and hav­ing three brothers, I was of the more gen­tler per­sua­sion.

It all started when the vis­i­tor to our new Rochester farm was stand­ing on the back pa­tio, ex­plain­ing the ben­e­fits of the ju­nior foot­ball club to my mother and fa­ther.

Some of the most in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions oc­curred here.

Farm­ers sel­dom went into the house for a good yarn and never went into the lounge room.

They were al­ways more com­fort­able sit­ting in the ute, lean­ing on a fence or stand­ing on a ve­ran­dah; not will­ing to make the com­mit­ment to a for­mal conversation, but go­ing with the flow of the weather, the gov­ern­ment and the footy.

Some of the most re­mark­able news un­folded in the back­yard or near the back door.

When I was in the kitchen (where all the im­por­tant farm de­ci­sions are made) I over­heard the bad news about a fa­tal road ac­ci­dent just up the road. I must have been open-mouthed as I di­gested the conversation.

So it was with some in­ter­est that I heard about the sug­ges­tion that I might like to play foot­ball.

Up un­til I was 12 I had never played much and, be­cause of my slight physique and lack of ag­gres­sion (I’d never even bro­ken a limb by then) which were painfully ob­vi­ous, I put the sug­ges­tion down to pure char­ity on the be­half of the hos­pitable farmer.

But the dream of find­ing a good foot­baller among his four sons lin­gered in my fa­ther’s heart, so he had me signed up for the un­der-16 sec­onds.

Cu­ri­ously, although I was very ap­pre­hen­sive about the idea, I en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence.

It was more of a trib­ute to the com­mu­nity than any de­ter­mi­na­tion of mine that kept me go­ing.

I found the ca­ma­raderie in­fec­tious, the dis­ci­pline of train­ing a good ex­pe­ri­ence, and the odd suc­cess was heart­en­ing.

De­spite my lack of to­tal com­mit­ment (foot­steps thun­der­ing be­hind me turned my heart cold) the slight­est hint of praise on the field was en­cour­ag­ing and oddly enough the team went through to win a grand fi­nal.

Thank­fully, I never did fig­ure out the whole deal.

When the op­po­si­tion knocked me down, I felt per­son­ally af­fronted, and I found it hard to de­mand a pass from my team-mates — ‘‘over here would be good thanks, chaps’’.

I re­mem­ber one win­ter’s morn­ing wak­ing, and hear­ing rain on the gal­vanised iron roof, think­ing: ‘‘good, won’t be any footy to­day’’. Dad laughed.

I also de­vel­oped a great deal of re­spect for um­pires as I fre­quently was asked to turn my foot­ball jumper inside out and run the bound­aries. I thought all teams did that.

But the dads run­ning the club were a good bunch who took care of us all.

Au­thor Steve Bid­dulph, who writes about men’s is­sues, would call it things like role mod­el­ling and bond­ing.

At the end of the sea­son when the tro­phies were handed out and I thought only em­bar­rass­ment would come my way, the club ex­ec­u­tive must have tried ex­tra hard to be creative.

The last one to be awarded had my name on it: ‘most im­proved’.

Me, point­ing out to my younger brother how sport­ing en­deav­ours can get you into a load of trou­ble.

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