First Time

So the long wait is finally over. Summer has passed in a haze of sunshine and insect repellent; sight of sunbathers like so many rotisserie swine rotating for maximum UV exposure; smell of barbequed beast blending with the pungent smoke wafting off mosquito coils; sound of double-pluggers flapping against the pavement, a thin veneer of protection against the burning asphalt. All are going the way of our hard-earned tans; fading to memory.

Now we find ourselves once more, like so many Alices, peering, leering and jeering through the looking glass. The prelude to the footy season always reminds me of that tiny crack in the window of time before a first date when we can utter such statements as, ?I really think that this might be it?, and almost believe it. ?This is going to be our year.? ?We?ll take out the premiership this season.? All thoughts of past disappointments and broken hearts are for the time packaged in moth-balls and stuffed to the furthest recesses of our minds. Optimism is a rapacious animal insisting on nothing less!

So called media ?experts? and bubblegum celebrities pull out predicted finishes for teams from their proverbial posteriors, sparking off a myriad of debate amongst so called ?experts? on the forums. Punters pry out the lazy ?hunge? from their wallets they drop at the beginning of every season, only they do so with more enthusiasm and hope of a return, as this supposedly is the season where ?any team can win it.?

So how do I personally know when the football season is nigh?

For one thing, I again find myself knee-deep in d?collet? and derriere (or T & A) as I wade through the ?men?s? section of the newsagent to find Big League (good to see some of my favourite cover girls have kicked on into the new season: bless their cotton socks, ironically as much couture as they?re likely to be wearing!).

I also find myself talking to a much larger quota and cross-section of strangers in my day to day life, rediscovering the bond that ties all League-heads together as part of a broader community. Suddenly I?m rubbing shoulders (not with any great force or around the head region, heaven forbid!) with security guards at the local court, registrars, solicitors, shop owners, sandwich artists and ?Hello My Name is Dolly? register attendants at the local Bi-Lo. There are good-natured jeers and jests on my part, while all the time I ignore the polite hardness in their voices and steely edge to their eyes once they find out the team I support.

Then there?s the anxiety gnawing at my insides and the small muscle beneath my left eye, whose twitching, much like the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, is a reliable and accurate marker to the start of a new season.

And last but by no means least, as a Rooster supporter I know the footy?s returned when we?re getting hammered from pillar to post in the media, by television commentators and radio talk show hosts, around the drinking fountain at work and on the forums. Actually, fairly or not, (a debate for another article, preferably one that doesn?t have a word limit attached to it!), Rooster-bashing is the clearest sign out of the lot for me. I?m only glad that the weather isn?t bad enough yet for some twerp to scrawl across the fog-shrouded rear window of my car the words ?Roosters Sux? (plenty of cold, frosty mornings ahead, my grammatically challenged nemesis!).

So Round One kick-off arrives and we take our seats at home or at the grounds and, just like that first date, our hearts pound; mouths are ?cotton-wool? dry, and pulses race. Similarly, like the awkward, sticky fumbling at the apartment door after a night of beguiling smiles, hooded looks, not to mention a litre of Dutch courage, we watch as our respective teams bumble their way through rehearsed plays, fingers less sure under ?game pressure? than they were on the training paddock only the week before. The ball hits the turf more times than the cheergirls? pom-poms, while players struggle with the strain of rusty skills and lack of match fitness.

And so, just like the ?first time? where the main act has not lived up to the hype of foreplay, we walk away from the game a little stiff and sore, a bit jaded and unsatisfied, but determined that ?it can only get better from here.?

Me, I?m just glad to be getting? some!