Ahead of Friday's #NRL game between Penrith Panthers and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, writer Rob C...
7 hours ago
A ringing bell smashes you back to reality from your trance like state. Once again you begin to notice noise around you. Clapping, hooting, hollering and shouts of instructions. You quickly think to yourself "the bell has gone, two minutes till I go out there and give my all for my country".
You again bow your head and return to your focused state of mind. Your memory flashes back to a childhood spent playing footy at every spare moment. Of hours spent in the backyard with your dad throwing passes for you to run on to, putting up bombs for you to catch. You think of the local park where you and your mates would play. You can smell the scent of freshly cut grass. Out on that park you became your heroes. You could pass like Stuart, run like Renouf... now it is you who children are pretending to be.
Instructions being bellowed out by the coach again snap you back to the present. "Simple stuff early on fellas, this is a test match... be proud, no stupid mistakes, no missed tackles, support your team mates, lets work on our completions... THIS IS A TEST MATCH". Nerves begin to creep in but a glance down to your strapping on your wrists calms you down. On your right wrist you have written your parents names, on your left is echoed the words of your coach - "No mistakes" and "Pride".
Outside the dressing room, the stadium is nearly full. A massive crowd has turned up as one great sea of Green and Gold. The punters all have their beers and pies and are ready and waiting to cheer on their country. The television cameras are pointed towards the field as the commentators go through the team line-ups to the millions of fans watching live.
A man and his wife sit anxiously 20 metres back from the halfway line. Neither speaks. They just stare forward towards the field, hands held in comfort. Their nerves are only matched by those of their son who sits in the dressing room below.
"You ready, mate?" asks your captain who has bent down beside you. "Ready?" you think to yourself... "I'm ready to tear these mongrels apart!" you again think. You look your captain in the eye and simply nod. He nods back, a wry smile appearing on his face, and slaps you on the shoulder as he stands and continues on around the group.
You look up just in time to see the dressing room doors open and the team manager's head pop through giving a nod to your coach. "OK men, everyone on their feet" barks your coach. "There is nothing more that can be said, there are only things that can be done. Actions will always speak louder than words and after tonight, it is your actions that will be remembered. It is your actions that you will have to live with for eternity. Now I know... I have stood where you stand today and all I can tell you now is to leave nothing to chance. Leave nothing to regret and nothing to wonder. The rest will take care of itself."
Some players yell out fighting words while others hand out quick hugs to other team mates. The dressing room doors open wide and you can hear the sounds of the crowd booing the opposition as they make their way onto the field. Your captain heads to the doors and team mates form behind him. Suddenly you have left the security of the dressing rooms and you find yourself in a tunnel, walking out to meet the enemy.
It is not so much the sheer noise that hits you as you run out onto the field... it is more the vibration you can feel under your feet. The whole stadium is rocking as fans scream encouragement to you and your team. You finally find the courage to look up and around at all the fans. Chills run down your spine and any nerves you may have had quickly depart.
The ground announcer screams out over the stadium announcing for all to stand for the national anthem. You join the line with your team mates, arms around each others shoulders facing the grandstand. As the opening strains of the national anthem begin you notice your parents in the grandstand staring back at you with a tear in their eye. You stand tall and proud.
Today, you are a Australia Kangaroo.