This ANZAC Day we're honoured to share this 2015 piece by Andrew Ferguson.
Honouring Stan Carpenter...
2 days ago
So, the Eastern Seaboard of our land has seen its fair share of rainfall in the last week (thanks for that Captain Obvious!), and it started, in Sydney at least, Friday week ago fifteen minutes before scheduled kick-off between the Roosters and the Eels. I know this, because it coincided with the precise moment that I pulled into a parking spot outside the stadium. No umbrella ? check. No hood on my jacket ? check. Excellent forward planning - check!
My Parra mate and I sit in the car contemplating, and waving our fists at, the sky while the clock ticks down. Its relentless motion forces us from our refuge into the deluge, and that?s when the fun begins. The first obstacle, a grassy slope leading down to the level surface of the parking entry. Not for the first time I curse my diminutive stature, doomed as I am to a life of elevating myself upon heeled footwear, or else having every pair of pants I purchase taken up a few (or several) inches. I try traversing the gradient in my heeled boots before acknowledging the easiest way down is headfirst, so boldly charge, eyes scanning ahead for the inevitable puddle collecting at the bottom. Cleared it ? happy days!
We start to navigate our way around the mud-holes and puddles where only half an hour previously there was road. I?m bunkered down into the warmth of my jacket and only emerge when I hear a resounding splash followed by a string of curses alongside me. My mate has stomped into a puddle, which he?s now wearing all the way up the front of his legs. I, of course, laugh and am about to produce some wisecrack about this incident being a preview of his team?s fortunes to come, when of course I lose focus and the next minute find myself shin deep in water. Oh but the Universe does enjoy its little pranks!
We arrive at the gate, soaked to the skin, shoes oozing water with every step. ?You gotta love the footy,? he says. ?Too right,? I reply, a smile spreading across my face.
All around us people as bedraggled as ourselves are wearing the same foolish grin of anticipation, coupled with a steely resolve in their eyes. Even the few muttered and empty threats about how ?this had better be one cracker of a game?, sound hollow. Ah, breathe it in ? greasy food, cigarette smoke and wet dog!
We make our way to our seats and sit, rubbing our hands together, blowing warm gusts of breath into cupped palms. We discuss the upcoming game, both playing down the chances of our respective teams so as not to provide ammunition to the other in case of a loss.
The teams take the field, players saturated before they have made it fully out of the tunnel. The Roosters emerge to the fanfare of fireworks and as if the shooting light were a herald of the heavens, the rain increases until, between the smoke and rain, the field resembles a scene from a George Lucas film.
The game is torrid and mistake-riddled, as one would expect, bodies colliding with bone-crunching force, players slipping and stumbling their way across the field, water spraying from their boots leaving a wake behind them. Flashes of brilliance see the Eels hit the front, taking an eight-point lead into half time. During this period, when it seems I am to endure yet another painful episode in the Roosters season, I am plagued with thoughts of my impending pneumonia. However all thoughts of my inevitable future illness disappear in the second half when Ryan Cross slides from the ten metre line across the chalk to post the first Easts? points. When he crosses again a short time later to take the lead, adrenaline courses through me, reaching to the extremities of my sodden, numb feet. When we manage to hang on until the final whistle, I?m ten foot tall and bullet proof. ?Tis but a flesh wound!
As we make our way back through the carpark that has now become a lake, my Parra mate, still appearing a little shell-shocked, looks around at the soaking wet crowd ? ?Now this is dedication,? he says. I nod my wordless assent. For is there any other time that you feel so bound to the plight and fate of your players, than when you endure rain, sleet and snow for them? Why, it can make you feel positively Herculean!
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