My last game of football

The last 24 hours have been hell...

It started with a hangover, a complete shock to the system. Clambering out of bed, I shuffled across the cold lino, stumbling over empty beer bottles, pizza cartons and a motionless human body in the hallway. I checked for a pulse and then wandered into the kitchen. The fridge door had been left open, forming a small pond amidst the rubbish and stench that had become my way of life.

One of the neighbours emerged from the bathroom. Bleary eyed, unshaven and sporting the worst Mohawk I?ve ever seen, he zipped up his fly and said, ?You look like crap.?

I then remembered the night before?. ?oh sh*t? the car!? It took me a full 15 minutes to remember where I left it. Through the throbbing, I vaguely recalled parking a panel van on Gilligan?s Island, in the middle of Taylor Square! Still ringing in my ears were blaring horns and the words, "ya f**ken imbecile!"

I packed my football gear into my brand new TAA airways bag and meandered up Bourke Street. My car was where I left it, sadly ?marooned? in the middle of one of Sydney?s busiest intersections. After being verbally abused by one of the island residents, I removed the parking ticket, negotiated the gutter, and literally hit the road.

I smelt like the Tempe Tip so I decided to head east and hit the Coogee surf. That cleared a few cobwebs but I still didn?t feel right in the head. Nevertheless, it was a moment of clarity in an otherwise miserable day.

Feeling slightly refreshed, I scoffed down a meat pie and made tracks westwards where I was due to take part in the annual Miller v Five Dock League match.

Now this was a football game steeped in tradition, several years in fact. Players from the outer-west would meet their inner-west cousins and belt the living crap out of each other. Originally, it was run by school teachers but it evolved into a get-together with high school mates trying to keep the tradition alive.

Five minutes into the game I took the ball at pace. That?s right, I nominated myself to meet the defence head on? I told you I wasn?t feeling right in the head. To my horror, I was the recipient of the first high shot of the game.

With double vision, slight concussion and a zinging cheek bone, I got up and played the ball. More anguish and pain followed. For some inexplicable reason, the dummy at dummy half ran forward and passed the ball back inside to me. This time I stayed down for a minute. I decided this was for the best and would give my teams mates a breather? or perhaps it was to give them a chance to think things over and find a more intelligent option than passing the ball to me.

After that I was allowed to bludge for most of the first half. But just before half time, we packed down on our opponent?s 25 yard line. The ball came out our way but was left behind by our dopey half back. I summed the situation and won the race for the ball. This must have really pissed off the bloke who came second because he promptly decided to do a spot of knee stomping. As was the fashion at the time, I got up and thumped him. All was going to plan until he decided to hit back. Being built like brick sh*thouse, he made sure his introduction wouldn?t pass without notice.

In a final humiliation, the referee sent me from the field. I thought this was a bit harsh but given the day I was having, it was almost an act of mercy.

Five Dock went on to win the match, convincingly. We then met at the local where it was my shout, repeatedly.

A spent force, I headed back to Darlinghurst and to French?s Tavern. A girl walked up to me and said, ?God? what happened to your face!? You look awful!?

This is what it was like to be a westie living in the city, stuck between cultures and not a football supporter in sight.

I resigned myself to the evening, drinking cheap cider and popping panadeines. Any hope that the day would end painlessly were soon dashed when the band broke into a thrash version of ?Those Were the Days? - and the singer was off-key.

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