Day 209: Austin’s First Game

Austin’s First Game
Matt Zurbo


It was the first game of the year.
(Boundary lines being marked, goal padding being put on, in driving rain.)

The other mob were all a year or two older. Bigger, stronger.
(Small, likeable kids with their footy bags walking past cocky, bigger, mean-looking kids.)

Only one of the away team wasn’t scared.
(One of the smaller kids, content, putting on his footy socks (odd coloured) in rooms.)
“Who’s that new kid?” asked Boof.
“That’s Austin,” Louie said.
“The kid from the Outback farm?”

“What are you so calm about?” Boof asked. “You’ve never played a game in your life.”
“No, but I really want to be good at footy!” Austin said.
(Boof and a few others standing over Austin, still putting boots on.)

“Who doesn’t!” Louie laughed.
They all laughed.
Except Austin.
(Other kids laughing.)
“I’m the only kid on the farm, it’s true. But Dad says never let anything stop you!”
“So what did you do, Mr Invincible?” asked Boof.

“Well, to practice my handball, I got Dad to tie a tire to a rope on the tree.
(Dad and Austin on farm, tying rope to tire, to tree branch.)

“I’d make it swing, then try to handball through it.”
(Biting tongue, one eye shut, handballing.)

“Then, I’d do it on the run.”
(On the run.)

“Then, while scooping up the ball…”
(Leaping through the air, giving off a handball.)

(Image, no words on page, of whole team now looking at Austin, who’s head is down, tying boot laces up.)

“To learn to kick I’d leave the dog at home and herd the cows by aiming at the bum of the one of the left. Then aiming at the bum of the cow on the right.”
(Austin kicking ball into bum of startled cow.)

“Fifty good kicks would steer them home. Bad kicks I’d be there all night.”

“To learn to mark was fun!” Austin said.
“Fun’s good!” Boof cheered.
(Austin looking up from shoelaces. Boof hands in air, cheering.)

“I’d kick the ball onto the wheat silo roof, it would always bounce down on a different angle.”
(Wide shot of Austin leaping to mark ball rolling off 10 metre wheat silo roof.)

“I’d throw the ball up and mark over bushes.”
“The landings would be rough, but that was the point, I guess.”
“Land on your feet.”
(Austin bending sideways through air, to mark ball over rough bush he is going to land in. Eyes tightly shut.)

“And, to practice marking against people, I’d kick the ball up and mark while bumping into the floodlight pole.”

“The floodlight was great! I could practice all night.”
(Kicking ball up under floodlight in middle of night, moths in air around him.)

“To get my reflexes good, I’d handball into our back wall. The ball would bounce back everywhere!”
“It drove Mum and Dad mad!”
(Austin running away with ball while Mum and Dad chase him.)

“To get fit, I’d run to get the mail. Fast, slow, fast slow, like in a game. It would take an hour.”
(Austin running, through panorama of semi-desert.)

“Sometimes, I’d take the footy. Drop the ball, pick it up and run. Drop the ball…”
(From behind, image of Austin, with desert panorama, balking through dead trees/stumps.)

“Well, we’re a long way away from the desert now,” Boof said.
“I hope you brought your flippers!” Louie said.
(Boof and Louie standing on change room bench, holding high ledge as they look out window at hard rain.)

“To practice playing in the rain, I’d pump water up from the creek until our backyard was a pool of mud…” Billy said.
(Austin picking up ball, both covered in mud. Pump in background.)

“To tackle, well, anything would do…”
(Austin leaping through the air to tackle a startled goat.)

(Austin tackling tractor, losing. Dad in it, giving Austin a confused look.)

“As long as I went hard.”
(Austin tackling Dad.)

(Dad chasing Austin again.)

“Oh, and yeah, to practice goal kicking I’d shoot for this narrow gap between the trees.”
(Austin doing a banana kick though two eucalypts.)

“I’d kick the ball just as the breeze picked up, so the rustling leaves would sound like the cheer of a crowd.”
(Austin running, fists in air, celebrating a goal. Startling a kookaburra into flight, and frightening a goanna.)

“So, yeah. The other mob are bigger, stronger, better…”
(Other kids parting for Austin as he starts to walk towards door.)

“It’s cold, wet, miserable…”
(Austin running onto oval, mud and water splashing with each step. Rain coming in sideways.)

“So what!?”
(Close up of Austin running, smiling.)

“I can’t wait!”
(Austin with ball, putting out the big ‘don’t argue’ – arm to fend off – as two really big kids come in to tackle him, in mud and rain.)


The End

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