What a crazy week. We all knew it was going to be a significant rain event, but the surprising thing was that we actually got to play in it. The football associations of New South Wales appear to have woken up to the fact that football is great in wet weather, and we were treated to one of those days that have people of a certain age misty eyed and remembering past glories of battles in the mud.
The weekend started with a lie in – a bye for Zach’s under 15s outfit, so a walk with the dog down to Meadowbank Park to catch some action, many of the Rovers 35s players wearing their coaches hats and directing the swarm on the mini fields. The beautiful sunshine gave the morning a feel of spring, but there was little spring in the step of the Over 35s as the 3pm game got underway. Nursing the shoulder injury from hell after copping some friendly fire the week before, the centre of defence was perhaps not the best idea, but being light on numbers in that department it was Hobson’s choice. Won a championship at Uni in the middle of defence, what could go wrong?
Fifteen minutes in, a simple ball bounces up into me and I lose track. By the time the ball is back at my feet, the attacker is on me and the attempted pass is intercepted. Before I know it, my Steven Gerrard moment is complete as the ball is tucked into the net. The shoulder begins to give out on me. Alas, with goalkeeper Matt off at half time with his own woes, there’s no option but to play on, moving to the left of defence but by now playing a stinker, trying to protect myself from any further damage. Luckily regular defender Mark, out through injury, makes the call to replace the replacement keeper Andy in goal and gives us an extra number so I can go off.
A third goal gives the scoreline a slightly unrealistic feel, but the bright spark of the day, debutant Sean, dances past his man and slots home to give us a lifeline. All of a sudden it’s all smiles, the final whistle goes and the post-match gets underway, socially distant of course. Being a team of various nationalities and origins, the beers are consistent in their diversity. This time Adam brings out the Polish brews and the esky is completely emptied amidst a pub-like atmosphere, a watching recycling hero collecting our empties as if he was a waiter. It’s a great end to a poor footballing experience, but tails are up and the team spirit is unwavering. Spots of rain begin to fall.
By morning, the rain had us waiting by the phone for news of a cancellation, but to our surprise it was game on. St George Stadium was the venue for the GSAP Under 13s, the Covid protocols being wonderfully implemented by the efficient lady on the front gate. The girls had never played in such conditions, and luckily the spectators had a section of undercover seating opposite the bleak shell of a main stand on the opposite site of the field. The rain was lashing down by kick off.
Aurelia was floored by a tackle, straight into the mud in the opening moments, coming up a different shade of off-white between the black stripes, and that stirred her and her team to great things. An early chance was spurned to take the lead, and the stalemate continued right to the death when St George finally scored the only goal. The Ravens battled valiantly til the end, and the general consensus was that we had just witnessed the best performance of the year, despite the blank scoresheet. Aurelia was asleep in the passenger seat in the warmth by the time we got home.
A quick turnaround and off to referee at Meadowbank Park. By now the rain was torrential, and field 9 was underwater. Game on! A fantastic display by Beecroft saw them crush their opponents Epping FC by six goals without reply in this AA3W clash, and the players handled the conditions brilliantly. There were comedy moments of course, the ball stopping dead on many occasions to bamboozle the players, but for me the game will be remembered for not blowing the whistle once, other than signalling kick offs and the end of each half. No free-kicks, no foul throws, no penalties, no offsides to call. It was by the 80th minute that I realised that I hadn’t once blown the whistle and I felt a little conscious that I should, but the remaining ten minutes passed without incident. That must be some kind of first. All credit to the players for their conduct on the day.
Training was washed out on Tuesday, but somehow the Over 35s training went ahead on Wednesday. We had to find a different field though, with ours completely bogged, so a hastily arranged run out against the AA14s saw us at least get a run. The shoulder situation hadn’t improved so I was taking it easy, hanging back, until the second half when it started to get fatigued again and a sudden painful movement stopped me in my tracks. A good call from a teammate to give it up was heeded and a premature end to training was the right move. As fate would have it, Aurelia’s training was moved venue and to later on Thursday, meaning the Sons of Pitches would be denied my services and my choice of beers in the early seven-a-side game at Olympic Park. It was a good idea to miss it anyway, give the injury time to settle. The boys won anyway, a handsome 5-2 victory giving us a final day outside chance of making the finals. Zach was back in action Thursday night too, the Under 15s training in the mud ahead of a much anticipated clash with Macquarie Dragons this Saturday at the premier field of Meadowbank Park, LH Waud. Finally, the week’s action was complete with Aurelia at Coerver coaching – moved to the later slot of 7.30 – a very late finish then, and Aurelia in bed with no dinner afterwards, shattered.
The final piece of football news for the week was a magnificent review received on Football Book Reviews from Jules. A week that saw NUFC denied a takeover, this was one big bright spot. I’m looking forward to more Toon fans discovering this book. Early reviews have been absolutely outstanding. Just needs a little bit of traction and we’re away! Stay tuned for next week’s update. Plenty more football where that came from.