Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Annual Player Awards - 2010

Your Ladyship, M'lord, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

at long last I am proud to present the Mighty Bras annual player awards for season 2010:

The Bilbo Baggins Award

Deb Wood

In the first few years of the Bras, Deb often voiced reservations about returning the following season. She hasn’t done this for some years now, and it’s not surprising. As well as her love of you lot, and her adoration of me, Deb continues to improve and this year she made many instrumental saves; one memorable dive against Plenty Valley at home, and another with her nose from point blank range. But as good as they were, her best save of the year occurred a day after we played the Roosters at Dallas. It was in the car on the way home that Deb heard an anguished scream from Helen: “Where is it? Where is it? They stole it from us! My preciousssssss.” A search of the boggy ground for Helen’s engagement ring proved fruitless, but Deb was not to be put off so easily. She returned the following day and, like the always industrious Bilbo, stumbled upon the ring of gold. When Deb fronted Helen soon after, and Helen asked her “What has it got in its pocketses” Deb had the best answer of all.

The Keep the Fire Alive Award

Jess Horey

This is freaky, but here’s part of what I wrote about Jess last year: ‘One of the most passionate Bras, poor Jess suffered a shocking injury on the eve of our opening game, snapping her wrist and scuppering her hopes of an uninterrupted, injury-free season. Things didn’t look good for Jess when the doctors recommended a full amputation. But Jess went ahead with a pioneering bionic arm and returned to the field to play most of the remaining half dozen games remind us of what we’d been missing for most of the year—her passion, poise and positional nous.’

Well, as you know, this year, Jess also suffered a shocking injury early on, this time, during, rather than before, our opening game. It wasn’t a broken arm this time, but the twanging of her planter fascia was just as bad, and it saw her reduced to a limp and a moon boot for much longer than she would have liked. But just like last year, showing great determination and drive, Jess —who screamed out ‘Keep the fire alive, Zebras,’ incredibly, without embarrassment during our narrow away win against the Lions— shook off the pain and deep frustration and made it back onto the field for the second half of the season. And just like last year, she, and we, were better for it.

The Eat Your Heart out Lady Ga Ga Award

Sue Giles

You couldn’t open a newspaper, browse a magazine, switch on the radio, or turn on the TV this season without hearing or seeing our beloved captain, Sue. Admittedly, she wasn’t wearing a dress made out of prosciutto or shooting fireworks from her nipples, but Sue did perform a series of accurate headers on live TV, an act which would certainly be beyond Lady Ga Ga, the only person on the planet who came close to the amount of media exposure Sue attracted this year. But while Sue charmed the nation it didn’t mean she rested on her laurels. As always she was as committed on the pitch as she’s ever been, and her skill set continues to grow. No one in the team works harder than Sue on the field, and if the definition of a captain is someone who leads by example every match, then they should cut out Sue’s picture and put it in the encyclopedia. For you young ‘uns who don’t know what an encyclopedia is, Google it.

The A Monkey Stole My Toothpaste but I’m Okay Award

Bridget McPherson

As we know, the world went crazy for the Bras this year. Pleasingly, every player kept a level head despite the adulation, with a few of you even deciding to give something back — even though it meant missing games. Oh the sacrifice! So it was that Rosie ran football clinics in Nepal, Frannie did likewise in China, and Bridget ‘Timmy’ McPherson took the good word to South Africa—and never mind the danger. Although she could have been driven quite mad by plastic horns, although full-scale psychological collapse was on the cards after watching the Socceroos lose 4-0 to Germany, and although she came within minutes of being snatched from her room by rampaging, flea-bitten monkeys, Timmy held her nerve. It was just the kind of gumption she showed on the pitch this season. More committed to the tackle, more incisive with the pass, more clinical in front of goal (scoring a commendable 7), and even more entertaining off the field, Timmy just gets better and better.

The Tip-Top Award

Jo Stanley

The past six months have made two things abundantly clear. One, if you want to build some freakishly large apartment blocks in Brunswick, for God’s sakes make sure Jo isn’t living anywhere nearby. She’ll be all over you like shingles, and by the end of it all you’ll get approval for is a one-room cubby house. The second thing the past six months have made clear is that you can actually turn back time. Despite being a Bra on and off for eight seasons, and despite in that time having given birth to two beautiful kids, Jo played the 2010 season with as much spritely energy as she did back in 2003. While you still wouldn’t back her in a 30m race against a chest of drawers, Jo showed more deftness with the ball, and more agility in the turn, and more accuracy in the pass, than she ever has. Not one to be underestimated.

The First Time for Everything Award

Marian Stoney

Being the oldest Bra in the team, Marian has had to endure considerable attention this season and she’s taken it with good grace, even when the media has added years to her age. These sorts of things spiral out of control and I’m sure some people out there expect Marian gets about on the backline with a Zimmer frame and oxygen canister. But as we know, Marian defies age. She has the sense of adventure and enthusiasm of a much younger woman and this year that led her to do something she’s never done before in her 70-odd years. She scored a goal — into the opposition’s net, that is. And what a moment it was for her, and all of us. Playing the Tullamarine Jets, with the score delicately poised at 5-0, Marian at first seemed to be on another one of her walkabouts, this time finding herself over on the left wing. But she knew what she was up to. An infield pass, and off she went, running into space, legs pumping, jaw set just so. And low and behold, the ball found its way back to her feet. Only the keeper to beat now, and so much time, too much time, to think. I even had time on the bench to beseech the gods. But Maz kept her head, picked the perfect moment, and calmly slotted the ball into the corner of the net. It’s a moment she, nor any of us, will ever forget.

The Keeps on Keeping On Award

Emily Johns

Unlike previous seasons, Em had a few hurdles to overcome this year, like library timetables and rare injuries — rare when you consider she gets routinely battered on the pitch. First it was a pre-season hamstring injury that didn’t really go away until the season was three or four games old, then came the bulging disc —a result of rearranging her trophy cabinet at home— that ruled her out of one game and stiffened her up for a couple more. But through all that Emily just found a way to keep putting the ball in the net. Five hat tricks, and 32 goals, to be exact, including a glorious over-the-shoulder snap against the Roosters at Sumner. But Em is much more than a goal scorer. She sets up as many as she scores, she tracks back, she makes important tackles, she puts her body on the line week after week, and her sense of timing is always impeccable. For example, she always times her arrival at Sumner so well that the nets are always up. Our top scorer, and, what’s more, the Golden Boot winner for the entire Zebras club: Emily Johns.

The Robocop Award

Rosie Wheen

Back when she was just a trainer Bra Rosie was far too accommodating on the field. She had a nice touch and a genuine desire to improve her all round game, but she wasn’t all that inclined to get involved in the tough stuff — hardly surprising when you consider her lovely nature. But through the seasons Rosie has not only improved her positional awareness and her skills —such as her shooting and passing— she’s also developed into a formidable physical presence. One who, just like Robocop, is tough but fair. This season, as well as scoring 7 goals, her biggest haul to date, she proved a rock in midfield, and she turned 50-50s into 60-40s, 63-37s and once even an 84-16. Against the Melbourne Knights in particular she was the best player on the pitch, the colossus of the midfield. Long may Rosie’s reign continue.

The Super Species Award

Jane Holroyd

For the second time in three seasons Jane has bounced back so well from the rigours of pregnancy and childbirth you’d swear she wasn’t born of woman and man but rather grown in a petri dish in some secret underground lab by US scientists creating a super strain of human in order to infiltrate and devastate our enemies. For the record, Jane’s and Andrew’s second, Greta, was born just before Round 6 and Jane played our Round 10 match against Brunswick City. Not only was she on the field but she was as strong, fast, energetic and committed as ever, and she proved ever adaptable, whether on the wing or in defence. How she escaped that mountain lab and made her way to Brunswick I don’t know, but geez it’s good to have her on our side.

The 110% Award

Lauren Richardson

Lauren may not know this but on the sidelines during our matches her name is constantly brought up — and not in a ‘Oh for crying out loud, do something Lauren, you muppet’ kind of way. No, Lauren is so regularly praised by those watching from the bench that it gets almost boring. Part of me thinks Lauren would be happiest playing higher up the field, stealing glory from the likes of Em and Rhi, but she has played so damn well at the back I couldn’t bear moving her. She runs like the clappers, she snuffs out danger before it rears its head, and she so often saves goals, and our bacon, with goal line clearances. Witness her game against the Tullamarine Jets on that frigid, wet Sunday afternoon. For the entire second half we were under siege but Lauren, and Kate A beside her, were magnificent at the back. Lauren stuck to the Jets’ big, dangerous striker like chewy to a boot, and annoyed her just as much. It typified the effort she puts in week in week out.

The Return of the Jedi Award

Rhiannon King

In early 2006 a laconic skateboarder from a mental space far, far away rocked up to training looking for a run. As we know, Rhi went on to play an instrumental role in helping us destroy the Death Star, or Whittlesea Stallions, and win that year’s premiership. Later, after a skateboarding accident that gave her and the rest of us a real scare, Rhi seemingly retired from football. But in 2010, succumbing to the power of peer group pressure, she returned to battle. Although she struggled early with persistent injury and dodgy batteries in her lightsabre, and although she wore canary yellow boots, she was soon in the form of her life. Playing only 3 of our first 8 games, Rhi went on to score a phenomenal 25 goals in our next ten. By the end of the season she’d scored five hat tricks and 27 goals in total —the best of them a goal straight from a corner against the Northern Roosters, and a thunderbolt from the edge of the box against Mitchell Rangers. To top off her wonderful season, Rhi finished runner up in the club’s Golden Boot Award.

The Are You Lookin’ At Me Award

Jenna Tuke

In eight seasons of football Jenna may not have developed the speed to match Lauren, or the balance of Em, but she has always given her best—and her best is getting better. Witness her positional nous, her timely interceptions, her increasing comfort at pushing upfield with the ball, and her calmness under pressure which allows her to make the right pass at the right time. Jen has also become more confident, and while she’s never been one to suffer fools, or foolish remarks, this season has seen her really assert herself, hence her securing the Are You Lookin’ At Me Award. Jenna had words with at least two rival coaches this year —the Yarra Jets’ and Watsonia’s—during the games—lacerating them with her sharp tongue after they directed stupid remarks at her and our team. And she famously had words to say to a Brunswick City bully that brought a glow to my cheeks and had parents everywhere scrambling to cover their children’s ears. It’s just the kind of gumption you like to see in a defender, and long may it continue.

The Barnstorming Buddha Award

Frances Farnan

Having come to the Bras direct from an ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas where she drank dandelion tea by the bucket and honed her acupuncture on the locals and their livestock, Frannie was, as you’d expect, exuding serenity when she first pulled on the black and white stripes. I worried that her easy-come, easy-go attitude might hinder her on the field, particularly on those occasions where you’ve just got to roll your sleeves up and get medieval on someone’s ass, but as it happens Frannie had an uncanny ability to shut off the incense just when needed and hit the greenhouse warming turbo changers. And so it was she muscled up and scored some very important goals for us this season, least of all our first against Plenty Valley, just when it began to look like we couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a shotgun. Add to that a wonderful volley against the Tulla Jets and Frannie had a first season to be proud of.

The Count Me In Award

Merissa van Setten

As we all know, it can be difficult to come into an established group with all its history, in-jokes and cliques. A lot depends on the friendliness and openness of the group, and whether or not the coach of said team has had published a kind of history of the team —available at all good book stores— thus giving the newbie something of a crash course. But even then, the newbie must make every effort to —how would Jess possibly put it— let her light shine, and, on this front, Merissa was a veritable lighthouse in 2010. In the same way she threw herself into the action on the field, showing us early that she had a cool manner and an eye for a well-delivered pass, which helped Em and Rhi to a number of goals, she embraced the Bras as a social entity and contributed smiles, witticisms and good cheer every chance she got. She was one of 10 players to get on the scoresheet this year —for which she owes a debt of gratitude to her knee— and I’m sure if she continues to grace us with her presence she’ll get her boots in on the goal-scoring action before too long.

The She’s a Good Pick Up Award

Kate Palmer

It took all of one pre-season training session to know that KP could make the Bras a better team. She was strong, quick, skilful and she had a kick on her to rival an angry mule. Well, she had all that and more. As soon as I moved her belatedly into a sweeper position, KP owned opposition defences, monstered strikers, and belted balls to safety as if to say, Get that Shit Away From Here. Then, when I gave her a rare opportunity up front, she showed she was a true all-rounder, scoring five goals including one hat trick. Despite a couple of setbacks — a raging hangover against Watsonia Heights that saw her take to the field with her sunnies, and a missed half of football when pliers were needed to remove an ear stud— her class continually showed. And any time another coach dropped by to watch with me from the sidelines they’d always say, with delightful understatement, the same thing. ‘She’s a good pick up.’

The I Played Shit Today Award

Helen Theocharous

Despite being one of the most improved players over the past two seasons Helen—who, in 2009, risked her life this year by confronting the scariest 13-year-old I’ve ever seen and, in 2010, risked her engagement by dropping her ring in the Dallas mud —steadfastly refuses to accept any compliments from her coach. A simple, ‘You played really well today, Helen,’ is routinely met with, ‘What? I Played Shit Today’. A measured, ‘I loved your determination today, Helen,’ raises a ‘Sorry, I Was Hopeless,’ and an honest ‘Your ball skills have improved out of sight’ prompts a ‘What have you been smoking, I was diabolical.’ Despite Helen’s objections I stand by all my comments. Hell, I not only stand by them, I raise them.

The What Can’t She Do Award

Kate Alexander

Once a sweet, reticent 19-year-old with a tendency to pick up every cold bug circulating Victoria, Kate is now a sweet, ebullient 21-year old with a tendency to pick up every cold bug circulating Victoria. Just why Kate is so prone to colds is not known but if I had to speculate I’d say it’s because she’s got her finger is so many pies she doesn’t get enough rest. Delightfully full of life is our Kate; an artist, a musician, a songstress, a wearer of interesting jumpers and headwear to training… and also a soccer player of much talent. My biggest problem with Kate is that she is so proficient in defence and attack that every week I’m never quite sure where to put her. But wherever she does end up I know she’ll come up with the goods. I’m also hopeful that when Kate becomes famous she’ll remember me. At least vaguely.

The Less Said About This Year The Better Award

Liz Cameron

In 2010 Liz became one of one of only four Bras to play every season since we formed in 2003 (joining Maz, Deb and Jenna). That’s the good news. The bad news is that her 2010 was dramatically curtailed when a mystery injury saw her play only four matches. In the time it took to not only diagnose Liz’s injury (was it her foot, her knee, her hip, her shin?) but repair it, the season was over. Her prolonged break did at least give her extra time to study for final year law exams which means should she wish to sue her coach for allowing her injury to occur she is now well placed.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Round 18, v Melbourne Knights, away

In the lead up to Sunday’s final match of the season against the Melbourne Knights I was a little worried we wouldn’t be battle hardened given we'd won our previous three matches in a canter. But my concerns were alleviated in the opening minutes when it was apparent we were mentally and physically switched on. And it was just as well, not only because we wanted to win to ensure we finished second on the ladder, but also because the Knights clattered into us time and again with abandon bordering on recklessness. (Not that the ref seemed to notice or care. Perhaps he was distracted by the Croatian easy-listening numbers wafting over the ground in Sunshine from a nearby, though seemingly deserted, marquee.)

Years ago our opponents’ tendency to approach a tackle in much the same way as a bowling ball approaches a set of 10 pins would have been enough to throw us off our game, but we’re much more willing to use the shoulder these days and to stand up for ourselves. In a very physical opening 15 minutes Rosie, in particular, showed the way. Perhaps driven by a need to impress her visiting brother and parents —who were surprised by the tension in the game and their subsequent nerves— she won every challenge on the ground and in the air and was instrumental in finding a teammate with a composed pass. As such, despite the physical nature of the game, we dominated both possession and field position and by the half hour mark had created, through wonderful teamwork, about six good chances. But either the final shot was mishit, flew narrowly wide or was pushed around the post at the last by the Knights’ very good keeper.

“Dagnnabbit,” I said to the Bras on the bench, after Rhi shanked one off her shin from close range. “We might regret these near misses.” Sure enough the Knights booted a long ball to their blonde centre forward who, such was her manic energy, brought to mind Tassie Devil from Looney Tunes. Still with plenty to do she beat three Bras before shooting from an acute angle but nevertheless finding the inside of the far post. Delighted with her excellent goal she ran about wildly then decided to lift her shirt over her head in order that we could all see what sort of bra she’d decided to put on that morning. In this case, a hot pink sports bra. Personally I thought it clashed somewhat with the Knights’ red jerseys but, you know, what do I know about fashion?

It was a goal very much against the run of play, so harder to take than most, but we hit back almost immediately. In fact, as we prepared for the restart I was still making a note of planned substitutions when I heard rising excitement coming from our bench. Had the Bras subs spotted a Mr Whippy van pulling in to the carpark? No, better. Milliseconds after I lifted my head from my whiteboard I saw Rhi finally getting one past the Knights keeper. One-all, and so it remained into halftime.

With third-placed Mitchell Rangers only a point behind us on the table we knew that the score as it stood may not be good enough to secure second. In the unlikely event Rangers upset ladder-leading Brunswick City later that afternoon, they’d overtake us. So only a win could guarantee 2nd, and we approached the final 45 minutes of our season accordingly. But the Knights were still very much up for the fight and, if anything, the momentum of the game swung in their favour. Suddenly they were dominating possession and field position and only a good save by Deb and some scrambling defence saved us going behind early in the second.

But in the 75th minute, on one of our rare 2nd-half forays into the Knights defensive third, Jane found Emily on the edge of the box. With typical aplomb, she turned on a dime, cut inside a scything attempt at tackle, and rifled a left foot shot into the bottom right corner. She had every right to show her undergarments but there was no sign as she was smothered by her joyous teammates.

We looked likely to add to our second over the next few minutes after we won a couple of corners. The second of these prompted Marian to yell out to Rhi (the corner taker) a little perplexing advice: “This time loose and floppy!” Echoing my thoughts Merissa remarked: “That’s not a catchcry you hear that often at the football.” Or, by the by, on the set of a porno.

In the final five minutes the Knights pressed for an equaliser and, as resilient as we were in defence, we were also perhaps fortunate their radar was askew. Twice they missed one-on-ones with Deb, slicing their shots wide. We looked to have escaped with the win we wanted when, with time up on my watch, Em picked up a loose ball on halfway and hared forward. But a Knights defender went with her and did everything but attack her with an axe in her attempts to rob Em of the ball. The ref blew the whistle for the clear and obvious foul but, inexplicably, gave the Knights the free kick.

We were still dumfounded and, it has to be said, hot under the collar, when the Knights pumped their free kick down field and, after a mad scramble, scored an equaliser. Oh cruel world! Oh pernicious fate! Seconds after the restart the ref finally remembered his watch and blew for the end of the game and the season.

Considering the circumstances surrounding the Knights equaliser it felt, in the immediate aftermath, like a loss. But we soon regained our equanimity and Sue led us in a stirring rendition of our newish team song which, to the untrained ear, must sound like a bunch of simpletons making deranged and very much random babbling sounds with no sense of timing, rhythm or script. Funnily enough, a trained ear would come to the same conclusion because that’s exactly what it is.

But it did the job of lifting our spirits and we realised that no matter what happened in the later game we’d had a wonderful season.

STOP PRESS: Turns out there were no shocks in the late game. Brunswick City did the business (7-0) thereby winning all 18 of their matches. They were in a league of their own. Congratulations to them. We finished second with 13 wins, one draw and four losses. Mitchell finished two points behind us. Apart from our premiership winning year in 2006 it’s our highest placing in eight seasons. So, hats off to us. Shirts too, if you like that sort of thing.

As for this blog, in the coming month I will find the time to deliver a summary of the season, including our annual player awards. Stay tuned. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and don’t forget to encourage your friends, family, colleagues and random people on the street, to buy The Mighty Bras. Christmas isn’t that far away you know.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Round 17, v Yarra Jets, home

Despite the first blue-skied Sunday in quite some time the Bras arrived at Sumner Park a touch out of sorts. Hangovers dominated. Myself and the older Bras were still recovering from Jess’ 30th birthday celebrations on Friday night (a wonderful night during which we ate much, drank more, revelled plenty and watched Jess’ sister, Mads —channelling Kick Ass’ Hit Girl— evict a bloke who appeared to be a drunken CIA operative)… and everyone was dusty from the previous night’s election count. Could the Mad Monk really be on the verge of ruining —sorry, running— the country?

Of course, in the meantime, we had to put budgie smugglers out of our heads and concentrate on matters to hand; winning a soccer game and remaining in second place on the ladder. We were at least assisted on that front when the 9th-placed Yarra Jets arrived at Sumner Park high in spirits but well down on troops. In fact, by the start of the match, they had only 9 starters and had to wait until the 15th minute until a 10th —and last— arrived.

Before that, however, just prior to kickoff, the ref gathered us together and advised the competing women —much as Tony Abbott has advised his daughters, as it happens— to "use your bodies wisely". By all means get physical, he said, but don’t get too physical. We smirked at that and then got on with The Hoof which I must say had a little less oomph to it on account of Sue’s absence due to work commitments. That said, Deb stood in as captain and won the toss, which is something Sue’s managed fewer times than the odds would suggest.

So we were running towards the city end with the sun and wind at our backs, and a delicious hint of Spring in the air, and it took just five minutes for us to get on the scoresheet; Rhi picking up a cross and turning the ball back for Rosie who whacked it into the corner. A productive 25 minutes later we had another four —Jess squared for Rhi to finish; Em put away a Rosie through ball; Rhi rifled one home; and Em raced away to finish after a deft header from Timmy lifted the ball over the Yarra backs and into space— and the game was secured. So it was simply disappointment for Jess and not critical to the result when, after we were awarded a penalty for handball, her crisp shot rebounded to safety off the inside of the left hand upright.

Being up by five before the break allowed many of our fans to lounge on picnic rugs and barely glance up from the sight of my cherubic youngest, Ada, shoveling food into her gob as if Stage 4 Food Restrictions were about to be announced and she wanted to stock up. It also allowed me to shuffle everyone around and it nearly paid off when Jane, Helen and Timmy all came desperately close to opening their accounts. But showing admirable pluck, the Jets kept trying and shortly before the break they were rewarded for their efforts —and we were punished for some sloppy defending— when they bundled home after a corner.

Although it may disappoint some Irish book publisher types, who feel the Bras are so defined by struggle they don’t know how to process our success, we went on with the job in the second half scoring another five goals to one, the best of them our 6th (a long ranger from Rosie that dipped just in time) and 10th, a left foot blast from Frannie that bulged the roof of the net. Sandwiched in between was another penalty miss, this time from our resolute fullback Jenna who will have to wait for another time to score her first ever goal.

But all in all it was very much a sunny Sunday romp and it now means that with one match left to play —a tough away game to the dangerous Melbourne Knights— we are still in second place, just one point ahead of a dogged Mitchell Rangers. With our second highest finish ever on the line next week there will be no place for hangovers.

[Result: 10-2 win. Goals: Em, 4, Rhi, 3, Rosie, 2, Frannie]

NEXT WEEK: Sunday, August 29, v Melbourne Knights, Knights Stadium, Somers St, Sunshine North, 11am.

STOP PRESS: Deb had little to do against the Roosters last week but still made the save of the year. On the way home from the match Helen realised she’d lost her engagement ring. Helen and a bunch of Bras returned to Dallas and despite turning the place upside down, including sweeping water out of muddy puddles, came up with nothing. With a heavy heart they all returned home and Helen wondered how on earth she’d tell her beau Michael, who’d had to sell one of his kidneys to afford the ring in the first place. Anyway, next day, Deb had to drop her son Jack somewhere in the vicinity of Dallas. Job done, she swung by the Roosters’ ground for another look, just for the heck of it. Ten minutes later she spied the ring pressed into the mud halfway between the ground and the car park. What a woman! Marriage saved! Huzzah!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Round 16, v Northern Roosters, away

It wasn’t the most polished start to a match —players bunched like grapes, Marian tip-toed through a muddy patch like she didn’t fancy having to wash her boots after the game, and Jane kicked the ball into her own head (not funny) resulting in, unbeknownst to her, a muddy facsimile of the ball imprinted on her face (hilarious)— but by halftime we’d warmed to the task and trooped off with a 5-0 lead.

(This was thanks to an opener from Emily and four goals from Rhi, one of which she scored direct from a corner thanks to the delightful curl she put on the ball. More impressive than Rhi’s goal was the fact that moments before she took it I calculated the effects of a strong, icy cross wind and said to the Bras on the bench, “She’ll score here.” I know. Freaky.)

Such was my level of comfort I even allowed myself, at halftime, the luxury of getting a cup of tea from the Northern Roosters’ canteen, though this proved more difficult than I might have imagined since the elderly gentleman in charge was either deaf, not proficient in English, or suffering from the energy sapping and, I imagine, mentally distracting demands of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. (The Roosters are a Dallas (Broadmeadows)-based Turkish club and Ali, the young, good-natured club president, explained to me before the match that there were a lot of exhausted people around the place due to Ramadan.)

“Tea please.”


“No thanks. Tea.”


“No thanks. Just milk.”

He reached for the tin of Nescafe.

“No, no. Tea. Not coffee.”


“No thanks.”

Again, he reached for the tin of Nescafe.

“No, not coffee. Tea. Look. Over there. Tea.”

“Ah. Tea.”



“No. Just milk.”

He poured the boiling water over a tea bag and handed me the cup. I dingle dangled it until the water went as brown as a billabong. I waited for the milk. He looked at me like I was soft in the head. I waited a second more. He kept looking at me.

“Um, can I have some milk please.”


“No, milk. It’s just there. Look”

“Ah, milk.”


I was still thinking about this comical exchange early in the second half when I was approached on the sidelines by a short woman in a tracksuit top and headscarf. “So how do you think they are going?” she asked me in a soft, almost sleepy voice. She wasn’t enquiring after the Bras, but her team, the Roosters.

“I’m impressed with their tenacity,” I said, “and that, as Ali explained to me before the game, they’ve been turning up every week and maintaining good spirits and enthusiasm despite their results. If you can keep them all together and they grow into the game together things will improve I’m sure.”

Also in the Roosters’ favour, I said, was the fact the Roosters’ coaching staff and supporters seemed to be the encouraging type and not the dispiritingly-common lambasting type. Considering most of the Roosters’ players were 15- and 16-year-olds with little to no experience before this season (the Northern Roosters club itself is only two years old), such a support network would make it more likely they’ll return next year rather than give the game away. “My husband is the coach,” she said proudly, but and she gestured towards the pitch, she added, smiling, “maybe he is too nice.”

Prior to Sunday’s fixture the Roosters had played 15 matches and lost all of them. They’d scored only four goals and conceded a whopping 119. In such a context —as most of the Bras have experienced in prior, less successful years— scoring a goal, let alone drawing or winning a game, is a victory in itself. Which is why the Roosters entourage on the sidelines roared them on whenever their charges came anywhere remotely near our goal. “You know, “ I said, to Frannie on the bench at one point, “I’d be happy for them to score a goal.”
“Me too,” she said.

Well, thanks to their tenacity and some largesse on our part, they got their goal midway though the second half, by which time we were ahead 7-0, KP and Timmy having added the extras. The young Roosters celebrated wildly, and who could begrudge them? In fact, with their sails now filled they came desperately close to a second, first shooting wide from point blank range, then missing a penalty, given to them by a referee who made, in my mind, a host of decisions I couldn’t begin to fathom.

Sadly for the Roosters that was as close as they came to a second. And with 10 minutes remaining, and me all but frozen solid such was the freezing wind buffeting my face and knackers all game, we added an 8th, Rhi running away to place a shot in the corner. Then, with seconds remaining, Timmy latched sweetly onto a loose ball in the box and the ball was still spinning in the corner of the net when the referee ended the match.

Both teams, as you may have gathered, got something out of the match. And I got a cup of tea. Eventually. A morning well spent.

[Result: 9-1 win. Goals: Rhi, 5, Timmy, 2, Em and KP]

NEXT MATCH (and our last home game for the season): August 22, v Yarra Jets, Sumner Park, East Brunswick, 11am.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Round 15, v Plenty Valley Lions, home

Such was the drama and excitement of our win against Fitzroy you’d think we’d be hard pressed to find ourselves up to our necks in another epic encounter just one week later. And you’d be right. Sunday’s match against Plenty Valley Lions was, by comparison, about as memorable as the trip you made to the supermarket on June 16th. Can’t remember it?* Exactly.

Some football games, like many days in life, are mere gap fillers. And that’s okay. If every game or every day of our lives was bursting at the seams with action and adventure soon even those days would seem run of the mill. It’s the unremarkable that gives context to our highs and lows.

This isn’t to say Sunday’s game was a bore, merely that it lacked tension. By as early at the 20th minute, in fact, it appeared we had the game in the bag after the Lions helped us to a 2-0 lead. The first came after Emily challenged for the ball near the Lions’ penalty spot and the panicking centreback looped a clearance over her goalie and into the net. Then, in the 20th minute, Rosie had a strong crack on the edge of the area (that sounds like a euphemism but Rosie is not the type to air her dirty linen in public if you know what I mean) and a Lions defender got a leg to it, only to deflect it past her keeper. I would have put them both down as own goals but the referee, obviously feeling magnanimous (to both attacker and defender), credited the goals to Em and Rosie.

With the sun and a strong wind at our backs we continued to dominate for the remainder of the half and added two more goals, both to Rhi. Rhi’s second goal was nice. Too, ahhh, laconic to sprint back into position after the Lions’ keeper got the ball in her mitts Rhi at least had the presence of mind to stick out a boot and intercept the keeper’s punt. The ball fell nicely and Rhi skipped inside two defenders and thumped the ball home from near the penalty spot.

A sweet goal no doubt but the biggest cheer of the first half came at the other end of the field when a Lions striker cut inside our defence and fired a shot toward the corner of our net. Spotting the danger Deb, wearing her son Jack’s boots, dove to her left like an especially agile jungle cat allowing her to get an outstretched hand to the ball; just enough to push it around the post. It was a marvellous save that would have got me to my feet had I not already been standing, and Deb influenced the game further some 15 minutes later when she deflected a goal-bound shot around the other post with an outstretched leg doing a wonderful impression of a boom gate.

Despite the wind in our faces we went on with the job in the second half and there were pleasing performances all round. Marian stuck to the Lions’ no.7 like a tick, Helen and Jane were impregnable at the back, Jess kept the midfield in order, Merissa and Jo ran hard and laid off some telling passes, and Timmy was having one of her best games in ages. The Socceroo-loving, gluten-intolerant, funny-blue-beanie-at-training-wearing mental health professional beat defenders consistently, made a couple of excellent through balls that created for Em and Frannie one-on-ones with the keeper, and got herself on the scoresheet with a well-placed drive from inside the 18-yard box. After Em added a second for herself, our sixth, we could even afford to help the Lions to a consolation goal toward the end.

So in the end a comfortable 6-1 victory and a measure of the excellent season we’re having that I could call it unremarkable. How we would have loved some unremarkable wins like that in seasons past.

* In the unlikely event this was the unforgettable day you got into a take-no-prisoners fist fight with a hatchet-faced grandmother over the last packet of frozen peas then pick another date. Say, April 29th. If that was the day you locked eyes with a ridiculously good looking bargain shopper and you ended up getting it on in the delicatessen stock room … well, good luck to you.

[Result: 6-1 win. Goals: Em, 2, Rhi, 2, Rosie, Bridget.]

NEXT MATCH: Sunday, August 15, v Northern Roosters, Gibb Reserve, Blair St, Dallas, 10am.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Round 14, v Fitzroy City, away

So lacklustre were we in the first half of Sunday’s away match against Fitzroy that, as the Bras slouched off at halftime, Sue suggested I take a swig of water so I could give the team a good ol’ fashioned spray.

“A good coach doesn’t need water to do that,” I told her. “He can generate an abundance of saliva without help. In fact, when he’s riled it bubbles and spits like burning oil in a pan. So, yes, pass me a water bottle.”

Certainly the halftime break was an occasion for raincoats in the front row; during that first half we were half-hearted at best. After the false dawn of a 2nd minute goal to Rhiannon there was only one team that appeared interested in winning the game. And despite our rise to second on the ladder —and seeming intention to stay there beyond one week— it wasn’t us. Securing every loose ball and running with speed and purpose Fitzroy dusted themselves off after our early goal and dominated possession and field position thereafter. And we didn’t seem to mind one bit. I dare say had they given us a collective wedgie we would have meekly accepted it. Thus we could have no complaints that they scored in the 18th, 25th and 38th minutes.

So there we all were at halftime; me, pathetically lacking in spittle and rage, and the Bras needing a verbal rocket up their jacksies. Clearly I had only two options: 1. strip down to my Mr Incredible undies, fall into a foetal position on the ground and weep big fat silent tears. Or, 2., tell them the cold, honest truth, however much that hurt. Well, it was rather cold and wet underfoot so I went, less memorably, with the latter option. “I don’t know what’s up with you lot but we’ve been very, very ordinary so far. Terrible even. It’s like you don’t care. I mean, you barely seem to be trying. I haven’t seen us look this disinterested since Jo suggested we make a nude calendar of ourselves for fund-raising purposes.” Etc. Etc.

“But for all that,” I went on, seeing their sad little faces, “I actually think we can retrieve this game if we apply ourselves (And I meant it, too). We’ve got the ability, we’ve got the goals in us. It just comes down to whether or not we actually want to win this game or not. Well, do we? Do we actually want to win?”

In movies this is the point where the playing group lets out a primal scream. But I’d hardly prepped them for that with my melancholic intonation, so I got what I deserved. “S’pose,” said KP.
"It would be nice," added Deb.
"Why not?" offered Sue.

It wasn’t exactly an earth shaking response but nevertheless something changed after the break and we were a different team, not at all the wombles we were for the first 45. Instead, we were committed, passionate, vocal, enterprising and adventurous. It may have been Ian’s faith is telling everyone he had $50 on the Bras to turn it around but suddenly it was us dominating proceedings and field possession. Suddenly it was us scrapping for the loose ball and coming up with the goods. Suddenly it was us passing the ball around confidently, controlling the pace of the game. If we could just nip a goal and get ourselves back to 3-2 behind with a sniff at winning this thing, well that’d be something.

And just like that it happened. With 35 minutes to play Jane harassed her opponent and forced her into a mistake. Nabbing the ball Jane took off down the left wing like a home invader with a pinched iPad under her arm and an irate homeowner on her heels. Despite the pressure she found Em inside. Em then slipped a lovely short ball through to Rhi and from close range she drilled it beyond the reach of Fitzroy’s excellent ’keeper.

After the restart we again asserted our new found authority. Our midfielders had recaptured their old verve, our fullbacks were defending well and linking with their midfielders, and Em and Rhi were reaping the benefits. It was our determined push forward that saw us awarded a corner with 21 minutes remaining. Rhi took it and curled it in wickedly and Fitzroy could only clear it momentarily before the ball was shuttled back to Rhi. She crossed again and Em brilliantly nipped in to volley it into the net. Hello! 3-3 if you don’t mind!

Technically the game was now up for grabs. But it didn’t feel like that. All the momentum was ours. Perhaps it’s the wisdom of hindsight but it almost seemed inevitable when, in the 80th minute, Jo cut back inside, found Emily in space and our little magician squeezed a pass through the Fitzroy backline giving Rhi a 45m run to goal. Though she had a long time to think about it —and Rhi doesn’t like thinking too much when it comes to scoring goals— she kept her calm and smashed the ball into the bottom left corner.

Well, that was really something and our fans went wild, which is to say Jess’ mum and dad stood up and clapped heartily, Ian and Michael hollered from the far touchline, Tony laughed, Vic smiled, and Loz’s dad got out of the car for a second time to soak up the euphoria. Yessir, 4-3 up with only 10 to go!

Ten minutes can seem like an age in such circumstances and normally I’d be a quivering mess, pessimistically thinking it would all be snatched from us at the last. But on Sunday I just knew we’d hold out, and I wasn’t even that nervous when Fitzroy had three consecutive corners with seconds left on the clock.

As it happens, we’d just dealt with the third of them when the referee, wearing sky blue in defiance of the gloomy weather, blew full time.

A famous, famous victory.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Round 13, v Watsonia Heights, home

To the rest of the nation Sunday was the day we’d finally get to see who’d win MasterChef and thus avoid the runner-up’s ultimate ignominy of being glazed in duck fat and eaten by Matt “Sticky Fingers” Preston. (Of course Sunday was also the day Julia Gillard would debate Tony Abbott on TV but such is their collective talent for empty sloganeering that if there was something more compelling on another channel —like static, The World Browneye Championships or Bondi Accountant— who’d bother watching?)

For us Bras, of course, there was much to do before then. Prior to the match, for instance, we had to have our team photograph taken — and it’s tough looking your best before 10am on a Sunday, that’s for sure. (Personally speaking, it’s also tough looking your best after midday, too, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for posing for half decent snapshots.) But the real business of the day was to erase the memory of a very disappointing Round 4 loss to Watsonia Heights. In the annals of Ones That Got Away that game is highly ranked so I was determined to —how would the Prime Minister put it?— Move the Zebras Forward.

Twenty minutes into the match, though the score was still 0-0, things were looking promising —for everyone but KP, that is. She was stuck on the bench unable to take the field until she managed to remove her ear stud, something that would require the purchasing of pliers from Kmart and a certain amount of brute force. On the field, however, we were indeed moving forward whilst simultaneously turning Watsonia’s boats back. Our fullbacks had barely been troubled while up front, ably assisted by Timmy, Jo, Jess and Sue, Rhi and Emily were running riot. Though we had spurned four great chances, not including a missed penalty, it just seemed a matter of time until the deadlock was broken. And so it proved, much to our relief. Just before the 25th minute Emily —though still struggling a little with a bulging disc in her back— turned the Watsonia fullbacks inside out before laying the ball across to Rhi who found the net.

Oddly, as we celebrated our goal I began to hear a whining noise that would end up lasting for the duration of the match. Naturally enough I first suspected low flying aircraft taking an alternate route to Tullamarine, but the warm blue skies above Sumner Park were free of aircraft. I then wondered if one of the many dogs milling about the sidelines was grizling about being tied up on such a pleasant day —but the gathered canines seemed more focused on the sun stroking their flanks than the leads around their necks. But five minutes later, after Emily bamboozled the defence with her quick-stepping before shooting home smartly, I finally worked out what the noise was. It was the opposition coach. Instead of thanking his lucky stars his team was only behind by two goals instead of six or seven he was vocally questioning the referee at every turn —as if only the ref’s decision-making was responsible for the score— and he shrouded himself in the heavy dark cloak of the aggrieved for the duration. It was thus even more satisfying when we scored a third before the break.

With KP finally reefing out her nose stud and joining the action for the second half we soon re-established our domination. There was a moment of concern when we conceded a soft goal from a corner to give them a sniff at 3-1 but we didn’t even look like getting the wobbles and by the 65th minute mark Rhi and Em both had hat tricks, the result of us dominating in midfield. Twenty-five minutes later Em had added another two to bring the final score to 8-1.

But just when I was thinking the ghosts of Round 4 had well and truly been put to rest I was summoned to the referee’s room. It didn’t sound good and it wasn’t. Seems someone (well, okay, me) had forgotten to write Helen’s name on the team sheet. The ref said he had no choice but to inform the FFV of this oversight and as I write we can only hope the FFV uses its discretion and doesn’t punish us unduly for this clerical error.

How did it happen anyway? Well, Helen had been ill with glandular fever and hadn’t intended to play so I never wrote her name and registration number on the team sheet prior to the game. But Helen turned up to watch in any case and, what’s more, did so in full uniform (shirt, shorts, boots, shin pads and all) because that’s what she’d worn for the team photograph prior to the game. Anyway, with 10 minutes remaining in the match she said she was feeling okay and would like to play the final moments of the match. You sure? I said, thinking of her health rather than the fact I hadn’t entered her details on the team sheet.

“Sure,” she said, “What harm could it do?”

Let’s hope not much at all.

[Result: 8-1 win. Goals: Emily 5, Rhi 3]

NEXT MATCH: Sunday August 1, v Fitzroy City, Fairfield Park, Fairfield, 11am

STOP PRESS: Another reminder: As part of the Talks on Moreland series, I will be chatting about The Mighty Bras at Brunswick Library on Thursday, August 5 at 7.30pm. It’s free. Bookings: 93898600.

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