Football Diary – Part 3

2017 – A Year in the Life…. (cont…)

 

14 May Round 7, Dandenong at Dandenong

Four and two, against Dandenong who were three and three.

I hoped for a win, but I wasn’t sure the boys could do it.

Thought it was perhaps a 50/50 game.

They won by 15 goals.

See, what do I know……

The boy?

Dunno.

Good?

Yeah, probably.

Average?

Yeah, probably that, too.

He got a bit of a mention during the week on one of those websites that follow and discuss the TAC Cup, amongst other football competitions.

He’s kicking efficiency percentage is the second best in the whole of the competition.

And he’s fifth in contested possession rate.

I think that’s pretty good, and it’s nice to see his name out there.

So, his game.

First quarter was good.

Apart from kicking into the man on the mark, at one point.  Geez I hate that…..

In the second quarter, he couldn’t get close to it.  Not even sure he touched it.

Not totally convinced it was all his fault, he just couldn’t get into it.

Third quarter he was back, and good.  And then the last quarter just petered out a little.

Seven goals to two will do that to you when you’re stuck down in the back line.

With the result beyond doubt, an opportunity to be moved up the ground a little?

Of course not.

Yep, I’m still shaking my head at the five minutes he was given up forward a couple of weeks ago.

Apart from his drifting in and out of the game, I noticed something in him yesterday.

He looked comfortable, like he belonged.  Composed, even.

I get the feeling that he has a belief.  A belief that he is up for anything that any team, or anyone, can throw at him.

Which is good, I think.

But then again, is there some complacency there?

Is there an expectation that it’s all just ‘going to happen’?

I don’t think so, but I also really don’t know.

So, to sum up his day, when he got it, he did good things with it.  He just didn’t get it enough.

And again, that wasn’t entirely his fault.  There were times when he just didn’t get used, and really, he should have been.

Lack of awareness, or perhaps ability, of one team mate in particular, resulted in his demands for the ball going unanswered.

Frustrating.

The fact that he also plays the team game, well before any thought of grabbing a stat for himself enters his mind, also doesn’t help his plight.

But then again, maybe it will pay off for him.  I just hope the people that matter are noticing these things.

Anyway, regardless, I am incredibly proud of the way he goes about his football.

And in particular, the way he’s holding himself this year.

While he was a bit disappointed with his game, the write up on him from the same website that issued the stats earlier in the week, did improve his thoughts on the matter.

Again, nice to get a little recognition.

 

21 May Round 8, Murray Bushrangers at Wangaratta

Hmmm, tough one this week.  And it really shouldn’t have been.

Very early start; left home at 6.50am; with Lisa taking him down to Oakleigh so the whole team can go to Wangaratta by bus.

We then left home at 9.15am.

Stopped about halfway for a coffee.  Should have made a note of where we stopped, so as to remember to never return for arguably the worst coffee I have ever had.

One bad coffee doesn’t necessarily wreck a day, but it’s not a good start.

We continue the drive and as we get closer to our destination, Lisa begins navigating with her phone.

I’m told to take the next exit, which doesn’t seem right, but I do as I’m told.

At a ‘t’ intersection I’m told to turn right.

I do.

I’m then told that we should have turned left.

There are no words…..

We eventually get to the ground.

He’d been told at training on Thursday that he’d be taking their key forward.  He wasn’t that happy about that as he knew he’d be stuck in the goal square for a fair bit of the game.

And, as it turned out, that’s what happened for a fair chunk of the first three quarters.  Although, at different times, he did find himself a little further up the ground.  At one point, he was even as far up as the wing, where he took on a high bouncing ball.

Running hard at it, he leapt up and gathered it cleaning, before composing himself and driving it deep into the forward line.

Looked impressive because it was, and it just showed people what he is capable of.

But it’s a bit hard to be doing that when you’re sitting in the opposition’s goal square.

So, at three quarter time the boys were an impressive 28 points up.  And it was impressive because Murray had only lost one game for the season.

And while I had stood there for much of the game feeling frustrated, actually, no, more annoyed than frustrated, at where they were playing him, I was now nervous about whether they would be able to hang on.

They should be able to, but the game was anything but over.

My nervousness was intensified when I realised they were moving him up forward for the last quarter.

Which may not necessarily be a bad thing, so long as they replace him with someone of similar ability or experience.

They didn’t.

If you’re going to do something like this, then I would have thought last week was the time you’d do it.  Ten goals up at three quarter time against a pretty ordinary side.  Not this week when you’re five goals up against a side that has only lost to the current undefeated team.

So anyway, we now had a back line that consisted of four or five kids that, if private school footy wasn’t being played this week, wouldn’t be playing in this game.

Up the other end, where all the cool kids hang out and have praise and acknowledgement heaped upon them, we had two 19 year old’s, two that will likely get drafted in November, another that will play every game this year regardless of school footy, and now the boy who is one of the most experienced TAC cup players in the side.

Yep, and while I’m no expert, it just seemed a strange move.

Less than 50 seconds into the last quarter, Murray had kicked the first goal.

Here we go……

They then continued to control the quarter, fortunately without doing too much scoreboard damage, before the boys managed to settle things down a little.

The end result was a 15 point win.

Not great, but considering the last quarter changes, definitely a pleasing result.

Happiness should have been the overriding emotion after the game, but it’s actually hard to be happy when you’re shaking your head.

Even the bird shit that landed on my shoulder during the last quarter didn’t faze me as much as what I had just watched.

And how’d he go up forward?

Kind of like he’d never played there.

Which isn’t surprising.

He also rotated through the middle, and again, didn’t really have any impact.

He seems to run around not really knowing where he should be, which again, isn’t surprising.

He also doesn’t seem to want to work as hard defensively when he’s not in the back line, which is strange, and more than a little concerning.

Although he did lay one really nice tackle.

Following the after match post mortem with a few parents; and most agreed the moves made in the last quarter were quite perplexing; we hit the highway for the long drive home.

We were meeting the player’s bus down at Euroa, where we’d pick the boy up from.

With the result we wanted, a feeling of contentment should have been the overriding emotion for the next three hours while heading home.

It wasn’t.  I was pissed off.

We finally reached Euroa, along with three thousand others it seemed, and his first words are about how the boys really aren’t fans of the coach.

He’s given them a spray after the game, and singled out a couple of them in front of everyone.

And one of those is just completely unfair, as well as unnecessary.

I’m now even more pissed off.

Our drive continues, and he sleeps a fair bit of the way.  Which is good, because when he’s awake, he’s shitty.  He’s not happy with his game, and life is just crap at the moment, apparently.

We finally get home at 7.30pm, and it’s not long before his shittyness rises to a new level.

He wants to call in sick for work tomorrow, and wants to tell his boss just to pay him for the days that he’s there, as he needs to take days off from time to time.

I explain that both of those scenarios are not options.

He’s not happy.

He then says he no longer wants to be a carpenter.  He wants to quit and focus on his football.

I’ve gone from frustrated to pissed off, and now I’m angry.

Angry with him, angry with football, and pretty much angry with everything.

Chocolates to boiled lollies in a week.

And I’m not expecting it to get better over the next week.

In fact, I expect it to get worse.

 

25 May

Returned from Vic Metro training.

He’s playing forward pocket in the trial match; the match that will determine the final Vic Metro squad; against the Allies on Sunday.

Forward pocket!

This is either a well thought out plan to show case his talents, or a ‘thanks for coming and allowing us to field a team’, thing.

We will see, but I suspect there’s no show casing.

 

28 May Trial Match against the Allies at Princes Park

He, as well as I, are both of the opinion that he is very little chance of making the Metro squad.  And while it certainly isn’t the be all and end all, it will be a little disappointing seeing as he was part of the initial squad first picked.

The one positive, however, is that there is now no pressure.

He can just go out there and have a bit of fun.  And playing the ‘key position’ of forward pocket, means he can do something that he really doesn’t get a chance to do.

And that is, be a little selfish.

Anyway, he starts well.

Makes some good leads, and gets himself a little space.

At one point, he leads back into the goal square and takes a mark.

Nervous?

I certainly was.  And I find out later that he was, too.

Fortunately, he kicks it.

It’s his first goal since the one and only goal he kicked last year, and just his second goal since his game in 2015 as a 16 year old.

Which all just goes to show what an unusual decision playing him in a forward pocket, is.

Anyway, second quarter continues on like the first, and he ends up with another goal.

He’s been good, and he actually does look like a forward.  The goals are nice, but it’s the way he’s going about it, that is pleasing.

Looking forward to the second half, and hopefully another goal or two.

But just when you think that you know what’s happening, things change.

First off, it starts raining.

Second, he’s moved to the back line in the third quarter.

Seriously, I give up……

He goes back to playing his role, and does it well.

At the end of the game, I have the opinion that he really couldn’t have done any more than what he did.

Others are also of that opinion, and he is happy with what he has done.

It’s a pretty good feeling, and the decision is well and truly out of his hands, now.

We will find out Monday afternoon if he was just making up the numbers in that game.

Either way, I will be happy, and while he will be disappointed if he doesn’t make it, I’m not sure he’ll be devastated.

It may be a blessing anyway, as it will give him a couple of weekends off, which he mentioned he would like.

We shall see…..

Oh, and it finally happened.

He had a drink with me!

It’s only taken almost two months, but I had my first drink with him as an eighteen year old.

He came out with me while I was cooking the BBQ.

It was nice.

It was bloody cold, and he spent a fair bit of it looking at his phone, but it was nice.

I can now tick that off the list.

 

Monday 29 May

Well, he made it.  He’s in the squad.

He’s rapt, and I’m prouder of this achievement than I thought I’d be.

Again, it’s not the be all, but it does make you think.

Was he in before Sunday’s game?  Or did Sunday get him there.

Who wanted him in?  The Metro selectors, or did it come from higher up?

Who knows, and if you think too much about it, it just does your head in.

Go with the flow, do what you’ve got to do, and see where it all takes you.

While, to a certain extent, he has a say in how things go, he essentially has no control over the whole process.

So, while it’s nice to be rewarded, the big question now is how many games he will be given.

And that may well answer a question, or two.

 

3 June Round 9, Western Jets at Oakleigh

A win.  And a pretty substantial one at that.

But, for the second Oakleigh game in a row, I left feeling pissed off.

I was so looking forward to this season, and now I just feel frustrated.

He started off down back again; no surprises there, I suppose.

However, he’d received a text on the Friday, saying something like, ‘Have the mindset that you may get an opportunity to play forward at some point’.

Right…..

Anyway, down back for the first quarter, and at the break, less than a goal up.

Second quarter they took control of the game.  They weren’t playing that well, but they were still able to take a five goal lead into half time.

He’d been good in the first quarter, but didn’t really get near it in the second.

With a five goal lead against a pretty ordinary side, surely here’s the chance to move him up forward for the second half???

Nope.

Frustrated?

Yep.

And by the end of the third quarter, he looked frustrated, too.

Struggling to get involved, as well as getting crunched just before three quarter time, didn’t help his cause.

And the fact that Western actually won the quarter, well, that just added to it.

But then, in the last quarter, it finally happened.  He got moved up forward.

Kicked a goal about ten minutes in, and gave off one or two to others.

Like the trial game, he pretty much looked like he felt at home up there.

Then, with about ten minutes to go, he led out and took a mark in the pocket.

With an extremely crowded forward line, as well as nothing much on, he went back to take his shot while pressed up hard against the fence.

Just a ridiculous angle.

He kicked it!

Someone even tweeted about it, too!

Who knows, that may have made some people stand up and take notice.

I suppose we’ll see over the next few games…..

 

Monday 5 June

Doing a job around the corner from where Riley was working, I decided to drop in and see the progress that had been made on a very large house renovation / extension.

They were all having lunch, so I had a look around.

As I was leaving, Matt, his boss, chased me out to the car.

He wanted a chat, but in particular, he wanted to know how our grumpy, moody teenager had been at home.

Grumpy and moody, I told him.  Although he had been slightly better the last few weeks.

Matt’s concern about him was twofold.

One, he was worried that his work was impacting on his chances of getting drafted.

And two, he was becoming frustrated with his attitude at work.  Particularly on a Monday, after he’d played footy the day before.

But hang on.

He’s worried that his work could be impacting his chances of getting drafted?

An employer that is trying to help his employee leave his employ?

Yep.

Although Riley had previously mentioned that Matt wanted to see him get drafted, I didn’t realise the extent of that desire.

A young guy of about 30, married with two very young kids, and running his own building / carpentry business.

Yep, wow!

He wants to come up with a solution to a perceived problem; what can he do to help the boy get drafted, and what can he do to help him work productively following a game.

And, he’s obviously spent a bit of time thinking about this.

One of his ideas is that he is prepared to give him an hour or two off a week, to allow him extra recovery time if it will help, and he will still pay him the same weekly wage.

Seriously, I didn’t think people like this existed, anymore.

We chatted for quite some time, and I said I would speak to him on the way down to Oakleigh that night; yes, I still occasionally go down with him, as I can’t completely let go.

I also said that I would speak to the talent manager about the possibility of the two of them talking together about what might be a possible solution.

Matt’s keenness to get something sorted, is just incredibly commendable.  Huge respect!

So, the drive down to training….

We talked.  And when I say ‘we’, yes, he talked, too.

It was probably the most we had spoken in a single sitting.  It was nice.

So, the end result is that I spoke to the talent manager, and as well as being more than prepared with working out a possible solution, he too was blown away by the extent to which Matt is prepared to go to, to help the boy achieve his goal.

It’s left me all warm and fuzzy, but at the back of my mind, I’m just waiting for the wack to my stomach, which, if it comes, will be from the boy.

Negative, cynical?

Probably, but I see no end to this rollercoaster we’re on, at the moment.

One thing I did find out during the chat down at Oakleigh was a bit of an insight as to what they think of the boy.

There’s apparently four of them that are all the talk amongst the clubs.  There’s two that they’re very confident with, and then Riley is the third.  But they seem really hopeful of getting all four over the line in November.

And yes, it seems that there is a fair bit of work that the TAC clubs do, to actually push the boys’ case.

Interesting….

And nice to finally get some feedback.

Even though I wasn’t looking for, or expecting, it.

 

To be continued…..

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