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22 hours ago
I have a dream.
Many, many years from now -- I'm talking way down the road, like when Cronulla has finally won a premiership and Anthony Minichiello is the Vodafone pinup boy -- a young kid will recognise my face, tug me by my side and say "hey, aren't you that sports writing guy?"
Sure, it's a C-Grade dream that really lacks of fame and fortune, but you can't blame me for carrying such simple hopes. Sports journalists rarely attain fair credit. It takes a good start and a sizeable fan base to have a portrait accompany your articles in the papers.
But for that one moment in time, I'll know I made it.
There should be an easier way to define these moments that completely render people speechless, purely because they only happen every so often in life. We'll call them 'Momos' from now on (my new sluggish way of saying 'special moments').
I'm telling you this because last weekend I witnessed a 'Momo' - the completion of a young child's dream. Like mine, a simple dream.
Grand finals are complicated endeavours.
On the one hand, they're a thing of routine. Do what you've been doing all year, and you're likely to go okay. On the other hand they're games of the moment, the kind of things that are won by bizarre phases of luck and determination.
And yet through all this complicated mish-mash, one constant remains untouched: grand finals bring out the best in people.
I had just completed my regular training session early Saturday morning when I entered the change room the gymnasium provided. As I sat to contemplate my weekend ahead, I heard a meek, mild melody from behind an opposing divider.
"If you need to find a way back, feel you're on the wrong track. Give it time, Learn to Fly."
Confused, I sat in silence a little longer.
"Tomorrow is a new day; you will find your own way. You'll be stronger with each day that you cry, and then you'll learn to fly."
Identifying the Shannon Noll lyrics, I broke my silence...
"Is everything okay back there?" I politely asked.
For the space of two good minutes, deep thought-provoking silence graced the change room. The once near-mute droplets of leaking water from the showers now mirrored hail stones crashing to the Earth. The clattering of boot studs echoing from outside the cold, dark change room quickly reminisced firework explosions of New Years Eve proportions.
Eventually, a reply came...
"I sing it before every game" said the voice.
"Why is that?" I asked.
Again, deafening silence returned to the room.
"Because it reminds me of my Dad" echoed the long-delayed reply.
I knew exactly what that response met.
"Sorry" I chokingly replied through the divider before collecting my bag to leave the young voice that I had seemingly disturbed.
"My grand final is today, and coach said I'm going to play. If I'm lucky, I'll touch the ball. If I'm lucky, I'll score the final try. If I'm lucky, I'll learn to fly" said the voice.
Completely swept away, I slowly approached the once separating divider.
As I turned the corner, there on the bench sat a young nine-year old boy. As he turned to stare back at me, I noticed this boy was not like others. This young lad was born with a deformity; his arms failing to extend beyond his elbows.
I stood there, stunned, but cautious not to alert the boy to my surprise.
He soon picked himself up, and exited the change room.
I returned to the field adjacent the gymnasium that day, and saw the young boy standing on the sidelines, cheering on his team-mates with every breath he had. You wouldn't have known his team were losing 32-0.
With time running out, coach turned to him and said "Son, get out there!" Three plays later, he received the ball in his shortened arms.
Unafraid, he looked up and headed down field where the opposition had deliberately cleared the way for a run.
As the boy approached the try line, I glanced to the sidelines where the crowd chanted "Go Russell, Go!" Across the field, I noticed the opposition crowd similarly willing him on. As he crashed over the line, his team-mates embraced him in full swoop.
Rugby League truly is the greatest game on Earth.
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