DAY 209: Watering down footballers

28 Mar

The mountain's called 'Arthur'.

“YOU’RE not putting lipstick on, are you?” Old Dog growls.

“Only a little bit. Why not?”

We’re in Lilydale, a Tasmanian mountain town, and Old Dog’s arranged for me to be watergirl for the home team reserves in their first game of the season. They’re playing Old Scotch, who have a nasty habit of kicking arse.

I’d pictured bush footy as being a bit of a jolly boot around in a paddock – having not actually given it much thought – whereas in fact the whole town’s turned out to scream community-spirited abuse, likely between mutters of “who’s this sheila fannying around the oval in her jeans and lipstick?”

I go and sit down away from the thumping commotion and musclebound nudity of the clubhouse changing room. Bucket comes over and sits by me. Thank you, Bucket.

Bucket looks how I feel.

It’s safe to say everyone here knows the etiquette of Aussie Rules but me. I’ve lived in Australia for five years, but I’ve never barracked for anybody, and whenever I’ve gone to a match I’ve wound up glassy-eyed, thinking about sex. Not because of the aesthetics of the players; just because those are my default thoughts when I’m bored stupid.

Old Dog takes me on the oval and runs through the rules – no being in the semi-circle when the bloke’s holding up a flag; no being in the square when they’re throwing the ball in the air.

“I take it I’m only offering water to our team?” Yep.

A young lad is also acting as water carrier, so I take the opposite end and decide to just mirror what he’s doing. And we’re off!

“Water?” I apologise to sweating footballers with thousand yard stares. They grunt like buffalo, barge each other and ignore me. I feel like a crazed spaniel that’s run onto the pitch in a panic.

“Oi waterboy!” one of the crowd hoys, to laughter. I ignore him.

“Are you a scotchy?” some bloke from the opposition’s interchange box asks incredulously as I reload. I’ve no idea what he’s on about, but I suspect the answer is 50:50 yes or no.

“Yes.”  I run onto the pitch.

An old dude runs after me, takes the water bottles off me, and furnishes me with two from my own team’s supply.

No.

By halftime, our team’s down 88 to 1 or something, and there’s a fair bit of spewing, spitting and gasping going on as the coach bawls them out. Old Scotch have won the last four premierships and have not lost a game in over two years. Our boys, meanwhile, have been thrown together this week. Old Dog points out that their half-forwards are pushing down to half-back and making enough numbers around the contest to run the ball forward and over our loose men with handball. (Actually, that’s a direct quote – make of it what you will.) His coach’s answer to this observation, however, is to keep it simple:

“They’re college boys. Hurt them.”

It seems to work. With half a game of playing alongside each other under their belts, the locals go the man a bit, and match Old Scotch in the second half – regaining a bit of idiot pride and, while not close, making the scoreboard far more respectable.

The seniors are up next, so I get to experience life in the crowd – with all its inventive violent abuse. Whenever someone bellows out something particularly murderous and foul, everyone laughs like they’re at the panto. I’m introduced to Porto, who has hands like rusty shovels, and he and Old Dog discuss a bullyboy on the other team.

“Thinks he’s up here,” Porto says, raising his hand high, “when he’s down here.” He mimics fucking someone rigorously from behind.

The seniors win their match and we all crowd into the clubhouse to hear them sing their song – I might be ambivalent towards footy, but I’m not averse to soaking up a bit of glory. Lilydale wear the same colours as the Melbourne Football Club, so the song’s the same.

It’s a grand old flag, it’s a high flying flag, it’s the emblem for me and for yoooou…” they yell, and I nearly shed a tear.

Nusty, Old Dog’s partner-in-crime with a physique made sturdy from drinking, has played as hard as he can with no pre-season. He’s exhausted and has been chucking up ever since the reserves game ended.

He reels outside for one last spew.

“Bloody oath. Can’t be good with blood in the cunt,” quoth he, regarding his mess in sorrow.

Keeper? Not sure how useful I am on the pitch, so I’ll be angling for a physio role next time.

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