Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Up There, Cazaly

I am re-submitting this post because, for whatever reason, the video I had attached was no longer available...so here it is again, video AND accompanying post....

Yesterday the kids were looking for items to play dress-ups in. I scoured the cupboards to see if there was anything appropriate, for that purpose. All was almost lost until I peered into one of Ashley’s drawers, rummaged around a little I found two Australian Rules football jumpers.

One was black and white, with the Port Adelaide Magpies team emblem emblazoned on the front; the South Australian team of choice for both my husband and I, prior to Port Adelaide forming a national team –The Power, and opting for the colours black white and teal (there was already a national black and white Magpies team - Collingwood boo hiss).

The other jumper was red and white striped, baring the moniker of the Ramblers Football Club or “The Roosters”, as they were known; a jumper Ashley had commandeered from the golden days of his country football playing youth.

For the moment I sat clutching those rough, synthetic knit guernseys, an array of football memories bloomed forth in my mind, like imprisoned buds on a sunny day.

I am not a sport fanatic by any means, but football is so ingrained in my personal history that I have possibly developed or inherited some kind of appreciation gene for the game.

Aussie Rules Football is quintessentially masculine. The game is rough and the culture surrounding it inspires a similar coarseness. I grew up with the passion for the game all around me; both grandfathers were players, as was my father and brother, along with most men in my community. But for me, football was more than a game; it was, and still is, a multi-sensory, multi-layered experience.

Football brought our small community together during the winter months. It brought excitement and activity to the town and surrounding region. To me, as a child, football meant long family drives in the car, as we travelled to remote towns within “the league”, to follow the football.

It meant hanging out with my childhood friends and wandering around the ground to the sound of cars honking their horns on the sidelines, whenever a goal was scored. You could hear the harsh voices of men and women screaming, “come on, get up ya useless bastard”, and other profanities, to umpires, opposition players and supporters, along with their own team players; voices that were hoarse from too much yelling, too much alcohol, too many cigarettes and too many hard knocks.

Then there was a whole other harmony. The sound of thundering feet scrambling after an erratically floundering leather ball; so unnerving was the collective sound of nearby galloping feet, panicked and urgent voices; that it sounded like a herd of screaming, stampeding brumbies were about to hurtle through the sidelining crowds, to trample us wee ones in their frantic, fleeing wake.

There was the thumping sound of leather against damp soil during the centre bounce; the smack and slap of a boot walloping the living daylights out of the ball, and of course, the shrill reverberations of the umpires whistle.

Then there were the smells of the game. Such as the sickening, yeasty pungency that wafted through the air, signalling to all that the bar was open for business, and the amber fluid was flowing abundantly; the suffocation of cigarette smoke catching in our small throats, making us splutter and gag; wet leather; bruised damp grass.

There were other smells too, ones that lured children from the snug quarters of the family car; meat pies and pasties, the hot golden buttery goodness hanging in the air like the sun on a winter’s day. That smell taunted us kids, and we would pester our mothers until we had each managed to secure one of those heavenly pastries in our eager hands, along with a packet of salt and vinegar chips, and an extra 20 cents jangling in our pockets for a white paper bag brimming with an assortment of homemade cupcakes, for later on.

There were also the games – not just the bone crunching, mud bath battering and clash of men on the official ground, but the sidelines games; the climbing in trees, hide and seek in the bamboo forest, the escape into a fantasyland of kings and queens, sisters princesses, “Gone with the Wind”, castles made of bridal creeper and moss, and hanging out in the playground, inventing new tricks on the monkey bars.

Now, as adults, my husband and I would make a habit of cozing up on a winter’s night to watch a game together, whether it is fish and chip Friday with a bottle of wine, or another time when our team was playing. It was the history of our involvement with the game that drew us to it, week in week out, season after season.

Here in Canada we rarely see a game. Occasionally we might see a game telecast on FOX sport, but it isn’t live; the results of those games are already known. I can not watch it, not without the vibe, the hype and expectation, speculation, and subsequent jubilation or commiseration with my fellow country men, living in the moment that is fresh footy lunacy. Consequently, my passion for the game fell into hibernation, and receded into a mere glimmer of its former blazing self, and I told myself that football wasn’t all that important to me.

But when I handed over the football guernseys to my children, they slipping them on and running around in them, the sight made me smile, but I shrugged and happily went back to what I was doing, until they inquired into the history of the “soccer jumpers”.

”Oh! But these are not soccer jumpers. These”, I declare proudly, “are Australian Rules Football guernseys”. And at once the stories of football and my passion for the game unfurl like an exquisite Japanese fan, and my enthusiasm was eaten up and absorbed by two wide eyed children who announced that they would “like to see that”.

And since it is impossible that I take them to a game here in Canada, and there was no telecast showing today, I downloaded a song long regarded as the unofficial Aussie Rules Anthem; a song, that has, for generations, inspired many a young Aussie lad to dream of playing footy on the big grounds, with the big boys and the crowds – that song is Up there Cazaly.


Scotty said...

Aaah, great song, great video clip, isn't it?

And speaking of Port, if it hadn't been for that last-second goal by Dominic Cassisi, I would have had a perfect round of 8, grrrr (yes, I backed Geelong)


strauss said...

I don't blame you for backing Geelong - they are on top aren't they? We actually got to view that game live over here, occassionally there is a game on around the traps and this was one of the few times we have been able to catch a Port game - I guess becaue they were playing Geelong - Ashley was very vocal in the final seconds.
I do miss the vibe of the game...maybe next year :)