Football Diary – Part 4

2017 – A Year in the Life…. (cont…)

 

Tuesday 13 June

Tonight’s the night.

The night when he finds out if he’s playing in Game one, against Western Australia in Perth on Sunday.

Yep, Sunday.

Which means a Saturday morning flight, followed by a Sunday night return flight.

Nice to be given plenty of time to plan things…..

Off to training he goes; with strict instructions to let me know as soon as he finds out if he’s been selected, or not.

The text comes just after 7.30pm – ‘Not playing, but you won’t be happy’.

Hmmm……

A quick phone call.

One of the boys has a broken thumb, apparently.  Apparently, it happened a couple of weeks ago.  Apparently, they’re going to see how he is on Thursday at training.  Apparently, an extra two days could be the difference between him playing, or not.

Apparently, I must be an idiot, because I just don’t really get it.

Anyway, Riley now needs to train with the team on Thursday.  If the other kid doesn’t get up, Riley could be in.

‘Could’, be in.

Fantastic…..

What, if booking flights on a Tuesday night for travel on Saturday, along with accommodation, wasn’t short notice enough, it could now be down to just 36 hours notice.

Fantastic…..

Yipeeeeeeeeeee………, just loving this rollercoaster……..

As the night goes on, it becomes clear that he’s not happy.

I thought, and he kind of implied, that it was because he was left hanging, not so much that he wasn’t originally picked.

I’m not so sure, now.  I think he’s bitterly disappointed that they don’t consider him to be in their best twenty three.

It will be interesting to see how he deals with this.  I reckon the last time he wasn’t picked for something was an under 14 cricket carnival.

Ever since then, he’s ‘made’ everything he’s tried out for. Under 15 and 16 cricket carnivals, Under 15 and 16 Oakleigh, Under 16 Vic Metro, Under 18 Oakleigh as a bottom ager, and played every game bar two (one injured, one rested), and then finally Under 18 Vic Metro.

How he responds to this will be interesting.  Hopefully it’s the right way, but I’m not overly confident of that.

Hopefully it inspires him to lift it to another level.  Get out of fourth gear, and get into fifth.

Regardless of where he plays this weekend, he’ll get an opportunity to show us.

Tear it up at Cramer street against Northern on Saturday, and show everyone that he should have been selected in the first place, for Perth on Sunday?

We shall see……

 

Thursday 15 June

I’ve been saved the best part of $2000.

He’s not playing, and I’m actually pretty happy about that.

Yes, not having to spend the money is nice.  Yes, not having to arrange flights and accommodation last minute, is good too.  And yes, not having to get up early Saturday morning to get to the airport, and then not having to deal with getting back into Melbourne at 11.00pm on Sunday night, is, well, very good.

But, the main reason I’m happy about it, is that this could be the wake up call.

Not sure that he had an expectation that he would be selected, but the fact that he wasn’t maybe came as a bit of a shock.

Perhaps understandable, seeing as it’s been a while since he was ‘rejected’.

So yes, maybe a wake up call to take nothing for granted.  A wake up call to not assume it’s all just going to happen.

Yep, it will be interesting to see how he responds.

 

17 June Round 10, Northern Knights at Cramer Street

During the warm up out on the ground, he tells me he’s starting up forward.

Hmmm, interesting.

I sort of expected he’d get an opportunity, but suspected it would be the token last quarter, or perhaps the second half if he was really lucky.

So, how was he?

Good.  Very good.

Took a big contested mark midway through the first quarter about 35 – 40 out, and converted it.

Kicked another one from a set shot, in the second quarter, from the pocket.  This one he actually kicked with his left, by running off his mark, which was interesting.

So, two goals by half time, but it wasn’t the goals that were ‘impressive’.  After all, it doesn’t really matter who kicks ‘em, so long as someone does.

It was the way he was going about it.  The way he was exerting a presence on the game.

He was taking it on, and he was hitting the ball, and the opposition, hard.

Which was good, but it was also to his detriment.

He hit the ground so hard at times that it knocked a fair bit out of him.  There were several times that I actually feared for his safety.

It’s not something that I see from him too often.  But it was nice to see.

He kicked another one in the third, which apparently was pretty impressive; left foot on the run in the pocket from about 30 out.

I didn’t see it, though.  I was too busy talking.

He can’t believe I missed his ‘goal of the year’.

So yeah, really good game.  Although, his second half wasn’t as good as his first.

There were probably a couple of reasons for that, though.

He kept making good space, and generally ran to the right areas, but was just burnt on more than a couple of occasions.  Was quite frustrating at times, and I think as the game wore on, he became frustrated at not being used.  This resulted in him perhaps not quite working hard enough to make extra leads.

The fact that he had been so physical throughout the game, was also taking its toll.  Halfway through the last quarter I could tell he was spent.

He actually said after the game that he’s never been so sore.

So yeah, a great way to respond to what had happened during the week.

And nice that he was given the opportunity to play the whole game up forward.

I thought after the game that it had only taken ten games for Oakleigh to actually do that with him.  To allow him to show, not only Vic Metro, but everyone, what he was capable of.

It turns out that it was Vic Metro who told Oakleigh that they wanted him to play there.

Will now be interesting to see what happens this week.

Is there a spot for him?  And did he do enough?

I have no expectations, and I have no opinion.

Shall see what the rollercoaster has in store……

While his game wasn’t deemed good enough to be included in the ‘best players’; surprise, surprise; he did get a nice write up the next day on one of those websites.

 

When I asked him if he was disappointed in not being listed, he said he wasn’t surprised that he was left out.

“They don’t like me”, was his response.

And I find that pretty sad.

But, I know he’s not alone there; as there’s a few that are feeling no love whatsoever from the hierarchy.

And that is even sadder.

 

Tuesday 20 June

He’s in!

He’s pretty happy, too.

Apparently they’ve made a few changes; obviously giving most of them a go; but he can’t really tell me who else is playing.

He was only listening for his name.

Also, found out the squad will be reduced to 25 after this game, for the final two games.

To make the 25, he’s going to need to show them something, so, it’s up to him.

Opportunity is there.

 

Thursday 22 June

He hates work.

Kind of knew that, but now it’s, “I really hate work!”

Wants to quit.  Wants a part time job.  Just wants to work two or three days a week.

Geez, this parenting thing just does your head in…..

Anyway, the answer is no.  No discussion, just no.

So looking forward to the next ‘thing’…..

 

Friday 23 June

He needs to be dropped off at the Vibe hotel, opposite Princes Park, by 5.00pm.  They’re all staying there before the game tomorrow.

Bit of a bonding session, I suppose.

The traffic, as you would expect, is horrendous.

And it won’t be any better when I have to turn around and head back home.

Not going anywhere fast, he turns and says, “This isn’t terribly convenient, is it?  Having to drive all the way in here at this time?”

Stunned at the acknowledgement, I reply, “No.  No it’s not”.

Three days later, I’m still shocked.

 

Saturday 24 June Vic Metro vs Vic Country at Punt Road

Ok, so he’s starting on the bench, and playing as the seventh forward.

Slightly interesting, as it seems they think he’s now a forward.

Anyway, a few minutes in he gets his chance.

Not sure he has a touch in the first quarter, but appears to do what he should be doing.

Feels like Metro is responding to what’s happening, rather than controlling things.  Country just seem more polished.  Cleaner and more skillful.

The second quarter is much the same.

It’s not until the last 10 minutes of the quarter that Metro finally seem to come good.  They now look the more polished of the two and at half time, they’re actually up by two goals.

Although, if there was no scoreboard, it would have felt that Country were leading.

His second quarter is much like his first.  Made the right moves but just didn’t get used.

And there were probably two or three occasions where it was patently obvious that he was the best option.  Well, it was to me.  But then again, perhaps I’m a little biased.

But then again, maybe he wasn’t doing all he could.  Maybe there was something else he could have been doing.

Seriously, I’ve got no idea.

Geez, it was frustrating.

Came out for the third quarter and he’s been moved down back.

Not the least bit surprised at that.

Finally got a few touches, and when he did, he did alright.

Took at least one mark and hit a couple of targets from a fair distance away.

Much better.

Still two goals up at three quarter time, but still not really looking the best of the two sides.

Strange game…..

Last quarter the boys started to put it all together.  And Country now looked the less polished of the two.

Still down back, he continued to play his role.  As he does.

Not as many opportunities as in the third, but did what he had to.

End result – a win by 22 points.

And him, overall?

Just couldn’t get into it.  Particularly in the first half.

His fault?

Don’t think so.

But could he have done more?

Probably.

I’m not sure he really did anything wrong; I just think it was a bit of a strange game.

And a game that probably didn’t suit him.

I’m not sure it really suited any of the forwards.  It was very much a mid-fielders game.

So, will he make the cut for the final 25?

If it’s based solely on this game, then not a chance.

Absolutely no chance at all.

But, if he does make it, well, then perhaps there are people with far greater opinions and plans for him.

I just can’t see it happening, but we shall see….

 

Tuesday 27 June

7.30pm; he rings me.

I know he’ll have just left training, but my first instinct is that he’s got car issues, quickly followed by expecting him to tell me he’s going to be late home.

“Hi, ummm……..”, bit of a pause, “ummm……, they’ve picked me”, said in a way that sounds like he can’t believe it.

And he can’t.  As I can’t, either.

They’ve named the 25, and he was named in the first 18.  At full back, of all places.

I ask who has missed out.

He’s not too sure, as after his name was called out, the rest was a bit of a blur.

Probably understandable…..

So yeah, he’s pretty happy.

As am I.

And just a little bit proud, too.

So, it seems we now have something to do on Friday afternoon; spend a few hours at Etihad Stadium.

Oh, and we also got an email from Oakleigh.

The Sydney Swans want to meet him, along with three others, for a one on one interview down at Oakleigh, in a couple of weeks.

Hmmm, starting to get a little interesting…..

 

Friday 30 June Vic Metro vs South Australia at Etihad

Well, the team had come out on Wednesday, and it appears he’s actually starting on the bench.

No problem with that.

Spoke to him last night after his ‘team meeting’, and yes, team is as listed.

But he’s been given a job to do; playing on one of their key forwards.

And absolutely no problem with that.

In fact, it’s a good thing.

When he gets given a job, he seems to concentrate more.  Plays tighter, and seems to have more intent.

Yes, it probably makes him a bit more defensive, perhaps even negative, but it’s the sort of thing that suits him.

He’s very much ‘team first’, him second.

Perhaps not ideal, from a selfish point of view, but more than happy to see him conduct himself that way.

Lisa and I get into Etihad by 1.00pm in time for a group meeting with the AFL and AFL players association.

Even though we are well aware of what this year could potentially bring, it’s a real eye opener as it’s a stark reminder of how close it all is.

Exciting, but also a little scary.

Meeting done, and still over two hours till the game, we head into the city for lunch.

Yep, life is good.

He’s playing a game I didn’t think he’d be playing, and he’s playing at Etihad.  And after not having had a great deal of luck in his previous game, I think today is his day.

Yep, really looking forward to it.

And then yep, that rollercoaster kicks in….

He actually starts on the ground, and while he’s in amongst it early, I’m not sure he actually has a possession in the first half.  Perhaps a tackle or two, but no real touches.

Oh, there was a kick in after the ball had gone out on the full.  Which he duly kicked into the man on the mark.

Geez, I was pissed off…..

The good news, though, is that the boys are doing it pretty easy.  Well up, and in complete control of the game.

Perhaps they’ll move him up forward in the second half to get him into the game?

No, they don’t.

He does however, absolutely nail a guy who tried to take him on.

Wrapped him up in a tackle, and buried him into the ground.  And then let him know about it.

It was nice to see, and at the time, thought it might be a bit of a turning point.

It wasn’t.

His game just petered out, as it was always kind of going to, when you win the game by 70 points.

Pissed off before?

Not like I am now…..

We’re supposed to go into the rooms after the game.  I don’t even want to.

I can’t think of anything to say to him, and I’m not really sure I even want to see him.

I’d be more than happy just to go back to the car and go home.

But, we do the ‘right’ thing, and head in.

He’s smiling and happy around all his team mates.

And that just makes me more annoyed.

We don’t stay long before heading home.  He’s spending the night back at the Vibe hotel, so we won’t see him till tomorrow afternoon.

That’s probably not such a bad thing.

Anyway, it’s a long drive home.  And pretty quiet.  It’s the elephant in the room, or car, and it’s just head shaking stuff.

One of the great things about playing in these championships is that you get the opportunity to show people; the people that matter; what you have.

This, however, is also one of the problems with these championships.

You also get to show people what you don’t have.

And I am firmly of the belief, that that is exactly what he did tonight.

No more excuses, no more ‘they didn’t use him’, no more ‘he ran to the right areas’, bullshit.

It’s now up to him, and no one else.

Yep, time to take some responsibility.

Pissed off to another level now, and really hoping that I feel better tomorrow morning.

I’m exhausted, and I’ve done nothing today but sit around.

Friggin’ emotional rollercoaster…..

 

Saturday 1 July

I don’t feel much better.  I’m still annoyed.

I honestly feel that he’s blown his chance, and I’m actually hoping they don’t pick him for Wednesday’s game.

I’m not even sure I want to see him get drafted.  For his sake, I hope it happens, but for me, I’m not sure I want to go through it all.

Yep, selfish perhaps, but I just don’t see it getting any better.

He gets home about 11.30am.  He seems reasonably happy.

I’ll try and keep him that way, so I don’t bring football up.

He actually starts talking about it.  More about other guys that played, but he’s quite chatty.

I do more listening than talking, and I certainly don’t bring up his game.

He then tells me that his coach was really happy with his game.

“Really?”, I say, trying to hide my disbelief.

“Yeah, he just said that he was really pleased with the way I went about it, and was happy with the way I played my role”, he says.

Hmmm, more confirmation that I have absolutely no idea of what I’m looking at…..

 

 

Sunday 2 July

Not long before he heads off to bed he drops the bombshell that he’s playing on Wednesday.

“Huh!?”, is my rather confused reply.

“How do you know?  When did you find out?  How did you find out?”, I stammer out, still, and quite possibly more, confused.

“The coach replied to my game feedback, because I’d said that I was frustrated with not getting any touches.  He said that he’d talk with me about that before the game on Wednesday”, he says.

I assume that the coach has just text or emailed him, which is a little confusing seeing as it’s after 9.00pm on a Sunday.

But no, he had messaged him yesterday, but Riley has only just seen it.

Forty eight hours earlier I was shaking my head.

Forty eight hours later, I’m doing the same thing.

Geez it’s hard sometimes……

 

To be continued…

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