Hard Yakka Crunch Time

Farewell Newcastle, it’s been fun!

With two wins and a loss, the 40s were staring into the hard yards of the tournament.  This is the engine room of tournies; frequently the teams that start strong show signs of frailty and weakness as injuries show, freak accidents happen, tiredness shows amongst even the fittest of players and random results often upset what appear to be sure-thing results.

The next two 40s matches were up against Queensland and then WA.  We knew QLD had to be a must-win game and it started super well.  So well in fact that I contemplated retirement two minutes in.  In a somewhat miraculous move, not witnessed by any crowd cos it literally was 2 minutes into a 9.45am start, I found myself with the ball in the 25, running the base line and into the D.

What was going on.

Nicole Date’s precision coaching took over and I looked up, saw Zinga on the spot, passed her the ball and she scored.

Like a well-oiled drill.

A couple of minutes later I had some hand in setting up a PC, which Sis/Shaz stepped up and slotted home.  Winning! Two nil up in the first quarter!

I literally should have retired.

Didn’t take long for more inconsistency from me to show through, give the ball away which a few passes later turned into a QLD PC which was taken with precision and the ball slammed into the backboard.

2-1.

Could we hold on?  Big question – or could we even get more goals, would have been the more positive outlook.  Our possession hockey became critical, and I’d probably rank our performance “OK” on this but it took a breakaway from our attacking PC in the second half for the high forward to change her line behind me, ball through, missed by defender and GK alike for QLD to latch onto the opportunity and equalise.

I definitely should have retired from hockey two minutes into the game. I got the well-deserved spray from the coach after my initial error and whilst I got myself back into the game, it will play on my mind for probably several years to come.

With that game finishing in a draw, getting into the 1v2 play off was looking like very hard work and needed some other results to go our way.  We had to bounce back against WA the next day.

Roomies!

The morning start against WA proved to be almost as challenging as QLD – the night before our QLD we had all dutifully gone to bed early, only to be woken up by a fire alarm.  Thankfully we weren’t standing around (on the street in our PJs) for long before we trekked back to bed to reboot the going to sleep for an early game process.  The following morning for the WA game we got to the grounds before they were even opened… but were jovial about the fact that yet another fire alarm back at the accommodation had got everyone else up early too.

Standard diet

To the game itself… WA started strongly.  Not least because as soon as I put my mouthguard in I felt a wave of nausea overwhelm me and I started to gag.  Seeing me not even remotely prepared, WA hit their push back straight to me and I struggled to gain composure and possession.  Note to self; if I am going to feel like gagging when I put my mouthguard in, at least get this out of the way BEFORE the whistle blows for the start of the game.  I don’t wear my mouthguard in the warm up at all..

Irrespective of my stuff up we were on the backfoot early into the game, I was finding myself struggling with their RW play down my left channel; with the right wing speed once she got to the ball they were playing the ball inside very well with quick passes leaving us running back.  I knew this was how they played from having watched them in an earlier game and I knew I had to adjust my game, what with being probably half a yard of pace due to fitness deterioration over the last few months with various injuries.   I was annoyed it took me half way through the second quarter to get to grips with it.

By which time I had been interchanged, done a mother of all spews, felt heaps better and bounced back.  In the second quarter WA went ahead via a PC but not be outdone, we equalised with Nanski’s effort.  Once again creeping further ahead in the goal-scoring tally. Later in the quarter a hit through from Nan found Jane floating about in the D, she vaguely swatted her stick at the ball and superbly deflected it into the goal.

2-1 up again… could we hold on this time?

Unlike the previous day’s effort, we were much more skilled in our approach to holding the lead.  And we almost did it.

George, the team’s seamstress, pincushions Katy

I had tried making friends with the umpire earlier on with my boundless supply of positive calling – well this is what we were told to do.  Nan had a shocking cold and was feeling dreadful, so when she half-hacked up a lung during the second half I yelled out “It’s only in your mind Nan, you can do this!”  To which the umpire my side of the field said to me “Pretty sure it’s in her chest actually.”

Despite this, it took a lack of discipline from me – a “Ball or player not both” moment resulting in a late challenge from behind from me and a slight shoulder = Green Card.  Dutifully I ran off to the naughty chair thoroughly ashamed at what I had done, and the timing of it.  Totally, not cool.  Or calm, collected hockey which is what we were supposed to be about. Interchanged as soon as my time was up I stuffed some lollies in my gob (the earlier spew had resulted in me seeing stars just before I got carded – which is in no way, shape or form an excuse.  It’s evidence of how badly prepared I was, and I am experienced enough to know better).

Following some strong attacking play down the left, a gap in our defence opened up and was exploited by WA as a result and the sad equaliser was slotted home from yet the breakaway effort. I returned to the field, even more sadly we then copped a yellow card for not being five, Bronwyn’s turn on the naughty chair, the goalie was taken off and we threw everything we had back at WA.  We even created some chances… it was probably the most attacking I have been at LH in terms of driving forwards, but it wasn’t to be.

No chocolates and another draw meant we resigned ourselves to a ¾ play off.

Whilst ultimately that is what happened, turns out it was only by one point – NSW ran out of legs and players and lost their last two games (they played two GKs throughout the tournie and ended up putting one of them on as high strike in one game).

We called ourselves the unluckiest team in the comp.

Our final round robin match was against ACT and it didn’t mean anything – but Victorian Pride.  Impact players Nan and Jane were left on the bench to start with, along with myself presumably to rest my various injuries, and as the game started I was prompted to recall how most matches against ACT are the scrappiest matches around.  And I’m not sure why.

We got ourselves a goal in the first half thanks to youngster Katy, who celebrated and partied like it was 1999.  And good on her too!  Always awesome to see those goals go in.  At half time us three benchers gave the crowd a masterclass in hitting up, something for them to admire, and slowly in the second half we were drip-fed on.

I made my entrance first and survived a shocking hack tackle in the D (oppo player was duly carded) and in the final quarter, Nan and Zinga took the field, we got two goals, and the three of us all then left again.

I like to think I was part of that impact, but not really.  Three zip it finished to the mighty Victorians. Then we all trolled off to our final recovery session in the Mereweather Baths – only to find all the water had disappeared.  Thankfully Nan, being a Newcastle resident of yesteryear, knew another spot, so off to the Nobbys we went where we precariously walked on the edge of a very slippery slope whilst watching a gannet swoop into the pool.

“Is that a duck or a bird?” said Sally.

Final game.  Against WA again.  I’ll keep it short and sweet.  We lost 3-1.

For me it was probably one of the better games of the tournament; it was hot and hard work.  We were on the backfoot again from the start but I got quicker onto the “right wing game plan” than in the previous game against them.  Two nil down in the final quarter we made a real effort in the final turn, with Shaz getting one back.  Everything was being thrown at them, Nan unfortunately was too injured to continue beyond the first half, but we just didn’t convert any more chances.  Meanwhile, Sally was interchanged again so she could work on her bird-watching, and even with brave Slapper in the kicking back role, WA got another goal from free play.

The game finished with me attempting a toma shot (not too shabby I might add but excellently defended); with all our effort and heart left on the field there wasn’t much we could do except just rue the chances that might have been.

So no rose gold for the 40s.  But there are some other commendable efforts that should be called out.

The Awesome 40s complete with daft hat and token Reservoir Dogs rep

To the 45d: simply immense.  The semi final against NSW, where they won 4-3 and had to cling on, having been 3-0 at one stage, that was incredible enough.  But to win in style as they did against WA, with more amazing goals (“What missing finger?” Lizzie Laird), was just a joy to watch.  Amazing effort, stunning win and fabulous world cup call ups for many, deserved.

The 35s, who had a fantastic grind-out win against Tassie in their semi, just had QLD come out harder, faster, stronger in their final but did come away with shiny silver medals and bag-loads of experience for many newbies.  Huge call out to those who have also got the world cup call ups too.

The 55s had to go to a shoot-out but missed out on bronze.  Play of the day was Spud’s shoot-out; from having missed the round-robin, she showed her metal and experience with a keeper lob.  Just amazing.

And overall, the Victorian contingent had their most successful contingent outing since 2005.  Every team finished 4th or higher (every team was in fact playing for a medal on the final day).  Kudos to all.

And for us 40s?  Doubtless like all sides we have struggled with the return to reality.  Julz celebrated her 40th birthday with us, then again with her home crew; Bachelorette updates have been filling the Whatsapp inbox; work has been hard to come to terms with… the unluckiest team around missed out on ½ by a point, then missed out again on a medal.

Surprise! Happy Birthday Julz!

An amazing bunch of girls and despite the hard work, a really fun tournament to have been a part of.  Incredible roomies, so a shout out to Nan, JD and George.  I made the entire 10 days WITHOUT HAVING TO WEAR A RIDICULOUS OUTFIT!!  How about that for flying low beneath the radar?!  Not sure how it happened, but having Nan’s ear for “I think such-and-such would be a good fines master” was a good tactic I utilised.

Paula, Jane, Nan and Sally have made the 40s world cup team which is just fantastic for them, what an exciting thing to look forward to for next year – a trip to Spain! Or possibly even Catalonia… watch this political space.

And as for me?

Well after several months now of managing knee pain (I’m banned from everything apart from swimming now), concussion from three head knocks, broken foot, inconsistent tournament performance… I was wondering if, post-tournament, it was time to take a break.  For a bit.  If not forever.

If those darned selectors haven’t picked me as a shadow for the world cup team… As I said to my boss, I put my chances of going at <10%.  But what an absolute honour to be even considered in the same mix as some players around me.

I messaged a non-hockey friend the night I found out on my shadow-ness; “I was going to retire!” I half-whinged.

“As if!” she replied.

Fair call.

Photos of Nan increase my readership on facebook

V for Victoria

It’s pretty hard to get motivated to write about hockey during a tournament when your entire focus of every day is playing, watching, talking – even singing – hockey (save for the 90 odd minutes you might spend at the movies… and even that is with hockey team mates).  But I’ll give it a crack.

Some of the Brunswick crew representing

So this year we are in Newcastle.  That’s Newcastle NSW, not Newcastle-upon-Tyne UK – a key difference when it comes to recovery time in the sea and “one minute for every degree of the sea temperature” theory of recovery. I might have ‘accidentally’ read out the temperature of the North Sea to Captain Nan instead of the Pacific Ocean saving us 5 minutes of recovery time. The team have yet to thank me for this.

To provide some structure to this blog I’ll batch things up.

The Matches

We, being the mighty forties, are three games in.  We won the first two – 1-0 v Tas and 2-0 v South Australia, then put in probably our best performance to date against New South yesterday and whilst we lost 2-0 there’s plenty to be positive about as we think about our early game tomorrow against Queensland.

The Tassie game – probably famous for:

  • Hotness: A big difference to the winter we’ve had in Melbourne, the jay cloths soaked in ice were draped around us every quarter by newbie physio to the team, Danni, and we were very grateful for that
  • The South ground: The confusing layout of pitches at Newcastle (certainly for the geographically challenged) meant that compasses were required to locate the pitch
  • First and hopefully only card of the tournament: a green card to Slapper in the first quarter as she valiantly took the player out as well as the ball in a defensive situation. We are happy for her to continue to do that, particularly for key opposition players.
  • Quarters: we are not used to playing quarters. In the final quarter the question was asked by someone “Is this the last quarter or do we have one more to go?”
  • First goal of the tournie to Nan: laying down the challenge for the rest of the team to find the scoresheet.

The South Australia game – probably famous for:

  • The darkness: the sun went down. And nothing happened. Nan had to request the lights be put on
  • A lesson learnt in respect the opposition: with SA losing 9-1 to NSW the previous day it is likely we had probably anticipated we would get more goals in. However, from a defensive perspective, I’m happy we kept a clean sheet
  • The West ground: The confusing layout of pitches at Newcastle (certainly for the geographically challenged) meant that compasses were required to locate the pitch.
  • Quarters: we are not used to playing quarters. In the final quarter the question was asked by someone “Is this the last quarter or do we have one more to go?”
  • Second and third goal of the tournie to Nan: laying down the challenge for the rest of the team to find the scoresheet.

Team dinner

The New South game – to probably famous for:

  • Hotness: again. I prepared with plenty of suncream yet in our warm up I was the opposite of hung out to dry – hung out to soak in the sprinklers, the suncream slip slap slopped off and I got burnt.
  • A couple of mistakes = a couple of goals. But we took the game to the powder puffs and we left nothing behind.
  • The East ground: The confusing layout of pitches at Newcastle (certainly for the geographically challenged) meant that compasses were required to locate the pitch.
  • Quarters: we are not used to playing quarters. In the final quarter the question was asked by someone “Is this the last quarter or do we have one more to go?”
  • No goals to Nan: no one else was able to make the most of this golden opportunity to catch up with her goal-scoring tally.

The facilities

Now I believe that the centre we are playing at is the International Newcastle Hockey centre, or something along those lines.  I might have been expecting international facilities as a result.  It’s not quite there, but the organisers did gleefully announce in the opening ceremony that the centre was about to be totally renovated and rebuilt after our tournament, making us feel incredibly special. One positive is that it doesn’t require the complexity of entry process that is the State Hockey Centre’s new-fangled entry system (“The barcode doesn’t work!”) that many of us have endured over the recent finals series.

Toilets seem to be few and far between, however given the toilet conversations certain team mates have had about poos and I have had to listen to this might be a good thing – I’m not sure.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was built on seven hills.  And so was the Newcastle centre.  Like randomly so.  The main bit is on a hill.  There are random hills dotted about the place.  And when you have a mending broken foot and are managing a knee injury, trolling up and down slopes all day long between hockey pitches is exceedingly annoying.

(Note, I come from a very flat part of the UK.  When I say “hill” I’m talking about anything from a 3ft mound upwards.)

Newcastle

I actually don’t feel like I’ve seen a great deal of the place; I do know that when I when I went to Liquor Land after a beach recovery session, dressed in a towel and not much else, I didn’t stand out.  The nightlife is pretty special, and some of us enjoyed an evening on the tiles of the Beach Club dancing our little hockey socks off in pleasant, but very drunken (not us) company.

The coffee is ok to great, we have got into our groove of finding the  best spots, and we are ‘happy’ in the knowledge that, as advised by the mayor of this city that’s not Upon-Tyne in the UK, we are merrily pumping $2.2 million into the local economy.  Hooray for them and wow, do we hockey players have leaky pockets.

We are staying at Quest version-West, relatively upmarket and almost posh but toilet rolls are few and far between – as our face cloths when you need them, unless you’re Coach Jimmy when other rooms’ tea towels will do the job.

Best On Ground day 1: for getting to Newcastle via Brisbane thanks to an overbooked Virgin flight

Injuries

It would not be a hockey tournament without some specialness occurring on the injury front.  I’m keeping myself together quite well thanks to some expert taping. Others are also getting special treatment – it pays to room with an osteo and a sports scientist! But the injury award of the tournie (so far) goes to the 45s, and Lizzie, who decided “Enough was enough, I want the most dramatic injury of the 2017 comp prize” and got her finger decapitated in their second game.

Poor thing also got fined for being the 12th player on the pitch.  As the game continued and she was rushed to hospital, a piece of her remained on the turf.  It’s probably still there now come to think of it… (Christian dropped another piece in the carpark.)

Don’t feel too sorry for her.  She came back to play in their fourth game today and didn’t look too shabby either.

What the 55s get up to… breaking legs

Fines

Of course these are being thrown around in great abundance.  I’m usually the one flying low under the radar but I’ve got myself into some sticky situations for which I’m blaming Happy Lynnie Gilmour who just keeps following me around and thinks I’m her personal dresser.  I leant her some lucky socks (don’t worry about feeling the need to return them Lynnie) and they got her two goals today, in addition to the barocca I also gave her the morning after the night before… when she just waltzed into our room and finished all the wine I had stashed away.

(I had a rest day today, I could drink what I liked.)

Currently our Dill of the Day is with Nan, who has already forgotten what it was for (wet shorts following a “leak in” situation whilst sitting on one of the thousands of hills at the hockey centre), Best on Ground is with Slapper for taking out (another) opposition player, who has since returned home – nothing to do with the hit in the face that she received from Victoria, and “GOAL” scored/saved award is with Sally who saved some stonkers against New South.

Serious pose from serious manager and coach

Quotes

Some classics have been heard around the hockey traps.  Simmo in our team didn’t know what the “V” stood for in the Best on Ground outfit; I was heard asking “Is that a fake chair?” and today, whilst supporting the 45s and their fingerless crew, Jacky Jacob was heard shouting “Blocky Blocky Block Block” shortly before comparing the height of two players and remarking that one player was “Half her size and double it.”

Wendy Vincent and I replied in unison with “So, what? She’s the exact same size?!”

What next?

Big game early tomorrow against Queensland; we are either wearing white or blue shirts and  blue or orange socks, we are in complete control of that, and I have no idea which pitch we are on but guaranteed we will need a compass to find it, I will not be asking Julz for directions to the pitch, nor getting Zinga/Simmo to drive/navigate, and I will go to the dugout that is the exact opposite to the one Mange Kevin advises.

I will get wet in the warm up no matter where I stand; I will get sunburnt no matter how much suncream I will put on; toilet conversations will be unavoidable no matter how hard I try not to listen to them; fines and silliness will continue… but we will put heart and soul into the 70 minutes (or four quarters of 17 and a half minutes) we play for the Mighty V.

That’s V for Victoria, Simmo.

Fun with the hockey family – all too familiar a family for some

Heartbreak and the Cranky Granny Pork Chop Violation

Like ripping off a band-aid I am going to deal with this swiftly: we lost our granny grand final in a shoot-out, with my final shot (or rather complete lack of) sending our season to an end.

It makes no difference to me that only one of our five shoot-outs went in, I will forever feel that it was me that let the team down at the end of the game and for the last few days I have been trying to come to terms with the absolute feeling of devastation that is losing on a shoot-out.  It is a glorious way to win; it’s the worst way to lose.

And that’s hockey.  Sadly, Hockey Victoria had forgotten to leave the medals and pennant for a presentation, because the same organisation had, once again, scheduled the HV Awards night on the same night so without HV representation and without medals the evening fell flat. But rather than dwell on that – because most of the staff have apologised – I actually feel now that this was HV’s loss.

Holding up my non-existent medal at post game drinks

Because despite it being a horrible way to lose, it was a cracker game to be involved with.  And that’s what I will try and focus on to move forward.  This happened…

Last year when we played against the same team in the equivalent grand final, Yesterday’s Heros [sic… again] aka Greensborough, we started, middled and ended the game like we had already played our grand final.  Greensie dominated us, got 5 (four of which I think were in the first half)  and we managed to get 1 back, but it was too late.  The prelim final the previous week had also been against Geelong – again like 2017 – and we had won that on a shoot out – again like 2017.

I was conscious that we shouldn’t make the same mistake again.  But having had such an incredible shoot-out win against Geelong, was it possible to go one-better and lift our game another notch?

We did better than that.  We not only lifted our game, we raised it so high we played on a higher plane (it felt like anyway).  The Brunswick grannies, spurred on by an immense crowd (relatively speaking), came out of the blocks with spirit and determination.  Key player Cuz didn’t start, but she hurridly took to the field once it became apparent that Brunswick meant business.  Once she was on, we adjusted our plan and effectively double-tagged her.  I tried to mark in front to starve her of the ball, and when she got it there was at least a couple of us running after her to try and derail her.

Eloise, magnificent on the wing again, was instrumental in getting the ball into our attacking D and winning a couple of PCs.  The first one Ceitlin and I tried a one-two…. I got the shot on target but it was saved… a few moments later another attempt on goal was casually saved by Greensie on the line… with their foot.  Lynnie waves arms around crying out “STROKE!!!”

Being British, I just calmly stood there provided some commentary; “Well that’s a stroke.”

And it was duly given.  Which I really didn’t want.  I hate strokes.  I stood there once again facing the darkness of the zoo thinking “Why me?  Again.  Another stroke in another grand final.”

It previously had happened to me in a golden goal GF situation in 2010 and it played on my mind.  I decided to do the same thing as then: aim for the bottom right hand corner.

The ‘keeper needed some help from another Heros player to tell her where to stand.  Surely I felt confident?

I stared at the left side of the goal and hoped that that would make her think that’s where I was aiming.

The umpire called us to be ready.  Whistle.

I stepped up….

AND AIMED DIRECTLY AT HER PADS.

It was the worst stroke in the world.  I felt awful.  I was so ashamed.

Because the keeper had lifted her legs, the ball actually went in – I had scored a goal in the grand final!!!  Did I celebrate like I had?

Nope, I just high fived a couple of girls and wanted to disappear into the darkness.  I gave myself a stern talking to.  That went on for the rest of the game, and I’m still filthy at myself now.

We had an opportunity to double the score with a very well executed PC, Happy Lynnie was beautifully situated on the left post and I managed a close to perfect pass, and her push was fanstic and almost inch perfect… but found the post.  The ball pinged across the goal line but there was no one running on to it from a decent enough angle to pop it in.

Half time came, I’m still beating myself up about the stroke, but we re-focused.  Second half, Greensie came at us and at us again.  We were finding fewer opportunities up front, and Cuz moved to various positions to get away from our tagging.  This was good because it meant she went deeper into defence, however it did mean she had more space to pick the ball up and run at us.

With 6 minutes left on the clock we dared to dream.  But another Cuz run through the entire team was leaving us exposed with the resulting PCs.  There were some incredible saves made by the girls, including one on the line… could we hold on?

The inevitable came, and a goal was scored.

We tried to set off again with renewed vigour but the energy levels were flagging.  I had already run myself into the ground, someone had even called out “Rachel can’t do everything herself!” but I should have kept something in reserve.  I knew my calling was fading too as emotionally I was spent.  With just 40 seconds on the clock the ball was hit into our attacking D and Sally nearly got on to the end of that, I nearly got onto the end of the clearance.  But it wasn’t to be.

Team with medals at vote count night

I won’t go into what happened in the shoot-out, other than Sally got her goal in, Dayle was immense again, but at 2-1 down with just mine left I knew I had to execute my plan.  But the goalie met me further out of her goal than expected and while I was trying to drag the ball right she kicked it clear. Season over.

It was an amazing, end-to-end frantic game.  I cannot thank the crowd enough, it was simply incredible to have friends and family supporting us, supplying us with compliments and cheering us up.  Dayle was by far the most popular funky team member, I was labelled as a ruck rover which I had to get someone to explain to me later on (after a google I have discovered I am Chris Judd which I am happy about).

HV missed out on a ripper game.  From Metro to Premier League, from mothers, sisters, aunts, grannies, the game had new players to state and even Australian reps across both teams. PCs, strokes and shoot-outs, physical and emotional exhaustion, what was missing was some controversy, which arrived in a mild and amusing format in the second half…

The umpires were also fantastic, again, and provided some mirth on the night which we unravelled at our vote count night on Friday.  Eloise accidentally collided with a Heros player and Heros were correctly awarded the free hit.  However the Heros individual started carrying on and on, like a pork chop, so much so she got called over by the ump who took her to one side.  Ceitlin overheard the conversation and it went along the lines of “Calm down, it wasn’t deliberate, you don’t need to carry on like that.”  This particular Heros lady is typically of the cranky type anyway hence we have now decreed the latest hockey rule to be “Cranky Granny Pork Chop Violation.”  I am sure that will get some air time in future matches.

In my player bios last week I left off, quite accidentally, two vitally important supporters and some-time players – Karella and Monica, who were there again with unending support and positivity on the side line.  They have been just awesome all year, Monnie was so helpful when I got knocked over in the first Greensborough show-down in the qualifying final, every-ready with the lollies and fetching jumpers and jackets to keep us warm.

Also on the sideline for the GF was Kylie, with a confirmed thumb break (and now confirmed quite seriously bad thumb break).  Kylie not only won our best and fairest, she ran away with it Bolt-style.  She has had a magnificent season, so Heros – know this, we were even missing our gun player so look out next year.

To our Coach Tony, thank you for the inspirational you tube video and I’m just sorry I couldn’t find those crucial inches when it counted – may Richmond go one further than we have done.  And may the grannies go one better in 2018.

We see you Yesterday’s Heros and raise you modern Heroes with correct spelling

As we are left to rue what might have been, I shall sign off the season (pre Granny tournament in Newcastle that is) with a quote from one of the children who came to support their mum, and ran up to me after the shoot-out as I was somewhat emotional.  And it doesn’t apply to me, it applies for us all:

“Don’t cry, you played great!”

Gallant Girls. My sock was wonky… the BHC wasn’t lined up hence the need to straighten it. Shoot-out focus…

Shoot-out Shenanigans!

What a week of hockey.

Finals time = pom poms!

The comparisons between Brunswick’s Men’s VL1 team and the Women’s Masters team are endless.  Hot on the heels of the men’s prelim final win over West Vic, the women’s masters, aka grannies, stepped out midweek on a very cold Wednesday night for their prelim game against Geelong.  In what is getting to be a little predictable I turned up in time to watch the previous game go to a shoot-out.

I provided exceptionally useful commentary throughout in particular noting to others on what the ‘keeper was doing.   Shoot-outs have gone from being something that favoured the attacker to something that now requires the attacker to out-wit the keeper, with the keeper now being the dominant player in the challenge (should they realise this). If a keeper is up for the challenge then as an attacker, no plan = no goal.

So useful were my insights Marissa added “I love the luminescence of Powerhouse’s socks. I’ll stop talking now. Blog fodder.”

Too right.

Taking our places on the sideline for our game, I got a stern talking to from Janet W.  I explained that NO I wasn’t playing, I was under strict orders to wait until cleared by a doctor to be able to attempt contact sport again, but YES I was in my kit because as long as I didn’t do any contact, I could still be on the team sheet SHOULD the game go to a penalty shoot-out.

Not exactly what the medical opinion was but it was most I have admitted defeat to an injury situation.

Cunningly, Geelong’s strong centre half was missing from proceedings, and the game plan I imparted to Kylie went from “Closely mark Bash, put her under pressure” to “Oh ok, she’s not playing, just do your thing.”

And that was exactly what the girls did.  We got off to the best start, which was total opposite of what we had done against Greensborough the previous week in the qualifying final. Out of the blocks incredibly quickly Eloise sprinted down the left wing with the ball and Geelong mis-timed their clearance and gave away a penalty corner.  Geelong then ran out too fast from the PC, so had one player sent back to the half-way line.  Sadly, we couldn’t execute but it showed we were ready to bring the game to G-town.

Note to self: talk to the attacking PC unit about how to set up if a defending player gets sent back to the half-way line. Don’t attempt a straight shot, that’s not making the most of the shortage of defenders – the #1 runner is typically always still the #1 runner.

That’s my coaching advice done. For now.

G-town then stepped up the attack, and we had a few panicky moments in our defensive D towards the end of the first half.  Despite this, the goal was tightly defended and it was 0-0 at half time.

Second half, I decided to ‘warm up’ – this is a way to run the side-line whilst constantly talking and shouting instructions at the team.  Encouraged by the crowd (well, ok, just Lloyd) to do this I started to be more vocal. The team stepped up their attacks and more half chances went our way, with Lynnie and Ceitlin attempting the Lachie-Toma (formally the Max Toma but with the VL1 prelim win on the previous Sunday I have renamed it).  Sadly, no chocolates.

Geelong also stepped up their breakaway attacks. Marissa, Kerith with Dayle constantly talking, were outstanding and somehow, in their typical style, managed to get almost certain goals off the goalline and out of danger.  I don’t know how it was done.

Two minutes to go.  It was still nil-all.  I stared into the night and into the unbelievableness of the situation that appeared to be unfolding.  Reluctantly I started to remove my many layers (it was freezing), and my gloves and did some serious jogging up and down the sideline.  Remembering that a shoot-out also involved a stick and ball, and not just jogging about, I took a ball, grabbed my stick, and started tap-tap-tapping away in the corner.  My hits were bad, it was cold, but my toma was ok.  Slapping, well that’s irrelevant.  Touch on the ball, that seemed ok.

The final whistle went and Brunswick re-grouped.  Coach Tony, ever prepared, already had his list of 5, and some of us had even practiced in the previous weeks.  Dayle, the ‘keeper, most certainly had.  My confidence in her never wavered – we could barely get any goals past her in a shoot-out situations.  Conscious that I could still accidentally collide with the keeper or even just fall over, I asked if I could go #5.  I was hoping it would have been done by then so I wouldn’t upset the physio too much.

Ceitlin, Lynnie, Kylie and Sally dutifully stepped into the remaining places.  Kylie was playing with a broken thumb, not that she realised it at the time, and despite the freezing conditions she was icing it as much as she could.  We won the toss, Dayle chose to attack first.

Shoot-out followed shoot-out. Dayle was immense.  Four have gone from both sides and after what must have been close to nearly 80 minutes since the start of the game, the score was STILL 0-0.

Enter me.

Now I’m not an arrogant sort, at least if I appear to be it’s in jest. I lack confidence at the best of times. And here I am, with not having played a single second of the match, stepping up on a cold night to have a go at a shoot-out. The last player standing before sudden death.

I had watched Geelong’s keeper for the previous four, she seemed to come off her goal line but then hesitate, and wait for the move, not looking too mobile on her feet.  Yet she had saved four.  No one from either team had attempted a hit from the top. It was also the only thing I was supposed to even attempt.  Ceitlin encouraged me to do it; “aim for the left post.”

I was aiming for the goal itself, stuff aiming for a post. My hit is the weakest part of the game, I had barely done a warm up, but I had to try.

ALL THESE THOUGHTS. Literally. I wanted to get swallowed up. I was so focused, by the time I lined up to go and the umpire said “striker ready?” I forgot to reply and wondered why it was so quiet.

Whistle. Off.

Reader, it took less than 8 seconds, 6 metres and 3 touches of the ball for me to run in, hit it through the keeper’s legs, as she hopped about and fell over. And Slam. Backboard. Goal.

IMG_6679

It just left Pac Man Jones (Dayle to most of us) to do what she had done all game – dominate, and gobble up the last shooter from Geelong. And Brunswick were through to their second grand final in two years!

Amazing scenes followed. It was a complete team of heroes on the night, and I’m glad I was able to contribute in a small way.  As Lynnie said, apparently, as I was running into the D: “She owes us.” Pretty sure Dayle and I will be on a high from that game for a long, long time.

And I even managed to try out my mudlark outfit made from stuff I got from Woolworths. Plastic gloves for feet is my fave

Bring on Sunday! And to the Men’s VL1 grand final, against KBH Brumbies – their season-long rival and victors of the qualifying final. Ironically, I was out at the Brumbies ground at 8am Sunday for masters state training, and their new facilities are looking impressive, but that was exciting as it got.

Back to the SHC and the final did not disappoint.  A magnificent effort midweek to rally the troops had been done on facebook, complete with player bios, and there was an excellent support crew who had made their way down from Sydney Road in their black and white finery to cheer on the team.  Brumbies scored very early on, and as someone commented in the pub later on, it was as it happened in a dream, all very slowly.

Still in the game, Brunswick got themselves on the scoreboard in the eleventh minute with an amazing move, set up and finished by Terry – from the half way line-ish he picked up the ball, tracked right and then moved the ball down the right-hand side of the field (from memory….).  Moving to the top of the D the ball then makes its way to him, and with back to goal the ball is tapped to his right-hand side, swing and TOMA GOAL!!! Stunning way to equalise.  I told him the pub later that for me, that build up and goal resulted in a best on ground performance, and he seemed happy enough with that, as if my opinion on counted for anything (well, it gets a blog mention).

And now, I have to re-name the Max Toma Goal to the Lachie Toma Goal to a Terry Toma Goal.

Much like the prelim final and NOT the qualifying final, the umpires do not set out to find faults in Brunswick and play a fair and even game. Brumbies even got a green card in the first half. No cards to Brunswick at this stage. But, almost against the run of play, Brumbies then got a pretty good deflection goal in just as half-time approached… not a good time from a game momentum perspective to let the opposition score

Second half and Brunswick press more and more.  An equaliser felt like it was on the cards, but it just didn’t materialise.  For a while at any rate.  Ten minutes left on the clock and Brunswick won a PC. The drag flick was excellently saved, although having said that, it was at the height of the GK’s hand.  A second PC is then given to Brunswick.  I wondered if they would try and R1 option, given that’s how they had got their goal against Brumbies two weeks ago.

Or would they try the drag flick again?

It was the drag flick again option that they went for – and this time it was levelled low and it sped right into the bottom left hand corner! Goal to Brunswick!

Four minutes later in what has to be the biggest piece of karma witnessed in their finals series, the Brumbies player who had clapped off Max’s sending off two weeks earlier, was yellow carded. The game was pretty much over for him as he sat with the tech bench.  I hope he enjoyed the stay.

Final whistle goes, with both sides unable to break the deadlock in a frantic few final minutes.

ANOTHER shoot-out.  The nerves are killing me, and likely the entire crowd.

It was an incredible sequence of shoots. Brunswick went miss-goal-goal-goal-miss. Brumbies went miss-miss-goal-goal-goal.  So actually in the last three shoots, Brunswick could have won it, and with it now going to sudden death I wondered if this was another momentum swing back to the Brumbies.

Not if Brunswick were going to have any say. GK is not fooled by the Brumbies’ top goal scorer and it is saved, and cleared. Up steps drag-flick-equaliser Campbell Ashton who runs in, does the back to goalie swivel but the ball got stuck under the keeper’s pads and he’s unable to fetch it out! (Actually a similar thing nearly happened with the first batch of shoot outs, but in that one he retrieved the ball and scored). However, the umpire blows for a PC due to a hidden ball under pads situation and Ashton sets off again.  Tries the same move… and having clearly rounded the keeper and faced with the open goal makes no mistake.

Scores. Chaos. Cheers. Crowd on the pitch. And Premiership to Brunswick.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win from a penalty shoot-out. Either go the masters’ way or the men’s way, but both are effective.

With the women’s masters playing their GF on Wednesday, however, may I propose a little less shoot-out and a bit more “win in normal time” action?  I’m currently two from two and I’d like to leave my record in tact.  And I’d like to have an impact on the game in the actual game itself too.

BRING IT ON BRUNSWICK!! Let’s fire up for the granny granny, and continue with the final parallel with the men’s VL1 team.  Time for a flag.  SHC, 7.15pm Wednesday night, Brunswick v Greensborough. 1 v 2. Let’s do this.

BRUNSWICK WOMEN’S MASTERS (OF THE UNIVERSE) BIOS

Yes, I am unashamedly copying the Men VL1’s facebook pre-game previews, but what works for them might just well work for us.  Here you go, may I please introduce:

The Goalies

Dayle: also known as Pac Man Jones, Dayle played the game of her life in the preliminary final, not only keeping a clean sheet for the entire match but also for the penalty shoot out. She absolutely gobbled up Geelong, displayed nerves of steel and totally dominated. At State Masters training on Sunday one of the Geelong girls (and Rachel’s room mate for the upcoming Nationals championship which could be awkward) asked “I need tips for a shoot-out. I did one on Wednesday and the keeper made it really hard for me, I had absolutely no idea what to do.”

Look out for: skeletons, calling and positivity

Loz: It’s hard enough at some clubs to find one goalie; Brunswick masters have been lucky enough to have two. Interchanging throughout the season it’s been seamless for the team on the field, Lauren has matched Dayle for awesomeness, and has had some absolute cracker matches with many a critical save keeping the team in the game. The away game in Geelong, round 18 when none of us wanted to be there, she was easily best on ground and deserved the votes she got. Club stalwart despite only recently learning the hockey goalie ropes.

Look out for: her. She’ll be there. Whether playing or not she is always supporting us.

The Full Backs

Kerith: It’s not often you say “every hockey team needs an Olga Korbut” but thankfully we don’t need to say it at Brunswick because we have one. Found lurking as the up-back, Kerith’s determined tackles have stopped many an opposition’s breakaway, and in the D she literally puts her body on the line to stop any possible hockey goal. Always plays with humour, watch out if the umpires decide she hasn’t put the ball on the EXACT BLADE OF GRASS for a free hit.

Look out for: tackling on her knees, back flips

Marissa: The quality of Marissa’s hockey goes well beyond granny-land. Appearing in not one team’s vote-count top-four, but TWO, Marissa plays weekend metro hockey as well and provides any team with incredible, reliable defending and puts fear into opposing teams as she steps up to take free hits. She reads the game amazingly and complements Kerith’s up-back-ability, by shadowing around sweeper-style to mop up anything that gets through.

Look out for: the hits and off the field eloquence

Janet W: Janet really could be classed as a Utility player. She will play full back, half or even wing, she surprises the team by popping up and showing off her versatility wherever she goes. As a full-back she is consistent, and shows her experience with her excellent calling and encouragement. Woe betide anyone who even thinks about playing without a medical certificate following concussion; her nursiness will put that notion back in the box.

Look out for: versatility, calling and role as team-carer.

The Halves

Brenda: Also could also be listed as a utility player, Right Half is the usual home for Brenda and her tireless running up and down the field. During the 2017 season her confidence down the right hand flank has grown, not just in her defensive game but also in the attacking 25 where crucial passes have resulted in goals and PCs. Highlight of 2017 came out at Greensborough where she played an outstanding game at left wing, outrunning both teams to pick up the ball and send in cross-of-the-season.

Look out for: non-stop running and surprising goal-creation seemingly from nothing.

Rachel: Brunswick’s Centre Half and Bridget Jones representative, Rachel is the one to be found getting a puncture on the way to a grand final, getting stuck in a lift at work whilst on the way to training, falling over, spewing behind goals, and keeping the physio industry in Victoria alive and well. Recovering from a patellofemoral injury, broken foot and three head-knocks during the season, don’t expect much from her in the grand final – she peaked with a token shoot-out effort in the prelim final.

Look out for: ribbons, collisions, attempted over-heads and attempted Terry-Tomas. In short: duck. Also look out for: falling ANZ share price. Not much work is getting done today.

Bronwyn: the coach is brave enough to put two Scorpios next to each other on the half line but this has not deterred either Bron or Rachel who keep their intensity under control on the pitch. As committed a Left Half as there will ever be, Bronny’s strength is in her non-stop tackles and ability to win free-hits all the way up the left hand side of the field. Getting more attacking during the season, she is likely to soon sniff out a goal running into the D and slamming home the ball into the back of the net. Don’t be surprised to see her at right-half also, where she has had a couple of amazing appearances during the season, including round 18 out at Geelong.

Look out for: amazing tackles running out on defensive PCs, and the ball-over-stick-jinks up the left hand flank.

The Utilities

Ann: There are simply not enough words to describe Ann Maree Claire Bridget Lennie. Just as well, if there were she would be sure to use them all up. At home as a full-back, half or wing (even goalie) she might surprise us all with an appearance as inner on grand-final day. Her priorities are hockey and family, to the extent that last year she skipped Hockey Victoria’s awards night where she was to receive her lifetime membership award to play in the Masters grand final. Last week she skipped wedding anniversary celebrations to play in the prelim final. Just as well her husband is the coach.

Look out for: long, long hits stretching the opposition and Brunswick’s leg speed to the max, and a hockey story for any occasion.

Kylie: Quiet but incredibly effective Kylie has snuck into the winter team this year by stealth, and has had an amazing impact on the team either on the half line or as an inner. Never one to usually complain she broke with rank in the qualifying final by disputing an umpire decision surprising her team-mates with her rage and fury (relatively speaking). She bravely played out the prelim final with a broken thumb, which is now in a giant splint making a possible grand final appearance to be in doubt. If there is a way to make it onto the turf, she will find it.

Look out for: goals, running, skills… and the thermos and peppermint tea.

Fitzy: Also apparently goes by the name of Kate, Fitzy – or Foxy – mainly plays inner but has recently re-branded and branched out into wing-land. She has had some fantastic performances this year, often in tagging-crucial-player situations – highlight being the away match at Greensborough. Expect something similar this week, the team needs her back to full health following ‘flu.

Look out for: henna, chit chat, bucket-loads of humour, and constant running.

Eloise: Brunswick’s number 1 draft pick for 2017 has not disappointed. She felt at home from the first game she played, when presented with a slice of lemon for a post-game Corona. Comfortable at half or wing, she is very strong on the ball and very fast on the pitch and creates many opportunities down the left-hand side of the field. A massive find for the club, she has been an awesome addition to the team.

Look out for: PC-creation in the first 20 seconds of the game, and post-match ballerina stretches.

Jo: Sunning herself in Greece it is unlikely Jo will be able to make the grand final, however she has played a critical role in the successful granny season. She will play any position she’s put in, and one of her season highlights was the assist-pass to Happy Lynnie Gilmour’s following a beautiful passing move up the field in one home game. Not one to shy back from providing opinions or thoughts on anything, she will be missed in the final but instead be on the end of a phone wanting updates.

Look out for: photos from the Mediterranean.

The Inner Centre Strike Force

Lynnie: the team’s Happy Gilmore has hit 15 goals this season, not a bad effort for an inner… one might think that maybe she should be an out-and-out striker? But that would leave us without our left midfield, and the running, the calling (“sticks down!”), the faces pulled at the umpires… and the cracking balls hit up the field and across the D. Wherever the ball is, Lynnie is not far behind chasing it down.

Look out for: Rachel calling Lynnie back into position. Lynnie’s body and facial expressions along the lines of “what was that for, ump?” Dancing into the early hours if the team wins… as she doesn’t have to work on Thursday.

Ceitlin: “Sorry, not sorry” Ceitlin has found that playing VL1 and Masters is simply not enough hockey and during the season she has taken on the Women’s Selector role too. Amazingly to think that despite all this she plays a very different masters game to her VL game – a half for VL she has dominated the season as centre forward for masters AND got goals. A massive 15 to boot. She will carry the ball miles up the field and fearlessly take on any defence. And score from impossible angles.

Look out for: creating opportunities running the ball out of defence creating goal shots. And picking the ball up over the back-line for long corners – something the team on the whole is not particularly good at…

Sally: Given the nickname Second-Half Sally from repeated second-half appearances during the season for prioritising her children over hockey. When husband Mark returns from work there is none quicker than Sally to get to a game. And the team are so grateful for that, her speed and zip surprise oppositions, particularly in the second half when everybody is feeling jaded and focusing on post-match beers.

Look out for: looking too young to play masters hockey, the speed, the smile and a British joke shared with Rachel.

The Wings

Grace: not to be outdone by her speedy sporty daughters it is believed Grace has actually won more hockey medals than either Kate or Lucy combined in the last year. That is, she has one and they have none. Grace has an uncanny ability to find the space when she’s on the wing for the long balls through, and her stick-on-ball game sees her get through defence with strength and determination. Reliable on the post, the team will look for her to sneak in the sneaky goals when Greensborough aren’t looking on Wednesday.

Look out for: sneaking leads on the base-line, sneaking goals in from the post, baked goodies.

Claudia: Almost as famous for not being at a game as being at a game, the team let Claudia down in the first fixture against Greensborough earlier in the year by forgetting to pick her up. The improvement in Claudia’s hockey over the last year, when she honed her craft during the summer season, was noticeable and she has been rewarded for a goal this season as a result.

Look out for: Claudia possibly not playing in the hoodie if it’s warm enough, and for those spins on the wing that will be the undoing of the defence

Janet WK: Regrettably sitting out the finals series and end of season thanks to a thumb break (done when tripping over a mis-placed box in her home) JWK has nonetheless been a supporter on the sidelines for many matches in the cold, despite being unable to take to the field. When she has played, she notched up 6 goals in 8 games and hit an amazing run of form at the start of the season, challenging Ceitlin and Lynnie at the time for the highest goal scorer.

Look out for: when she’s on the field – her speed and goals-per-game record. On the side line, her positivity, smile and constant cheering.

Coach Tony: What to say about Coach Tones? Other teams looked stunned when we turn up with a coach, but he’s been doing the gig for years with incredible commitment, heart and Brunswick loyalty. The team never quite realised how big his job was until the time when he displayed a lack of commitment and a lack of loyalty by missing three games during the season by disappearing on holiday with Utility Ann (his wife, this wasn’t an elopement). The whinging the team had to put up with from Temporary Coach Lynnie was almost unbearable and everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Coach Tony returned. (Claudia would never have been left behind if Coach Tony was in charge…)

Look out for: The T-shirt and the inspirational pre-game chat: “the aim of today is to get more goals than the opposition.”

The Support Crew

John: It’s likely going to be a warmish night Wednesday night, just as well John has spent all season preparing for it by supporting Marissa and team wearing shorts in all weathers (aside from Werribee and Geelong, understandably). Consistent, responsible, reliable, with no vote slips to hand out after the game this week he’ll need to find a new team-job to do; early requests suggest getting in a round of beers would be much appreciated.

Alana: the one making the team feel the cold by turning up to support Mum Loz and the team in general by wearing the warmest Kathmandu jacket known to exist. Also the team camera-video-woman, she will hopefully capture some grand-final winning moments ready for the internet to take to viral-status.

Lesley: Down as a possible to play during the season it is understood Lesley actually did turn up for one game as a supporter. Sadly work has meant she has not been able to commit to the turf, but committed on e-mail she absolutely is and no matter what the game is she is there offering support from afar. Despite not playing she is very much a member of the Brunswick granny family, even if it is mostly a virtual one. And when she can turn up, she brings the team wine and chips and dip. What more can you possibly ask for.

Look out for: an e-mail of support and virtual attendance

Lennie/Kermonde: Frankly it wouldn’t be a Brunswick hockey match if there wasn’t a Lennie or Kermonde appearance on the side line – aside from player and coach of course. We have had various family members appear during the season, and it will likely be Lloyd of “Max’s Dad” fame in the crowd on Wednesday. From having umpired one game, to telling Rachel to “provide more cheering” during the prelim match, he is vying for the role of team’s Chief Tactician… having also provided Rachel with more advice in the pub Sunday night following the men’s VL1 win.

The Brunswick Flag: the chequered flag at Brunswick has represented yet again during the 2017 finals series. Usually attached to Maria it will be seen high above everybody else so as not to block views. It will only be put down when Maria sees fit at a particular point in the match (typically shoot-outs) to take notes.

Reminder:

Grand Final Brunswick v Yesterday’s Heros [sic]
7.15pm S-1 Wednesday 20th September

Brave Souls. The bums of the frozen shooters; Kylie, Ceitlin, Lynnie, Me, Sally

Finals! Come at me!

I’ll be honest, when I arrived in Australia as a young thing, I didn’t get the idea of finals.  I was used to League and Cup situations and I couldn’t understand why you would want to mix the two concepts up.  Strange though, Spurs might actually win some things if we had finals in the UK.

Wind forward a few (many) years, and… I LOVE FINALS!  I simply cannot get enough of them.  Mainly of the hockey variety, but I even watched some footy finals this weekend, and boy wasn’t that exciting.  For all that my excessive Britishness glows from me most of the time, and for all that footy for me should involve a round ball, I do know an exciting AFL game when I see one.

And as a Bombers fan I also know when to switch to another channel during the first quarter.  Bombers hockey socks packed away for another year.

Following on from the first weekend of finals, midweek the Brunswick Women’s Masters stepped out for their qualifying final against Greensborough.  When we turned up on the cold night, and I saw Coach Tony all dressed up and ready to go, I realised an unusual thing.

If I was to say to you “Name the Brunswick Hockey coach who has guided a team to a minor premiership, has a beard and is a Richmond fan” what would you respond with?  Because believe it or not, there’s more than one.

I have drawn parallels between the Men’s VL1 side and the Women’s Over 35s side before, but here is another similarity.  Honestly, you couldn’t pick young Coach Jack (of VL1 fame) and grandad Coach Tony (of Granny hockey fame) apart in a line-up.

So anyway, Coach Tony turns up ready to go in his yellow and black scarf – so nearly the Brunswick colours – and we are as keen as mustard to get going, even turning up a full half an hour before the start of the game to do something akin to a warm up.  Greensborough are referred to as Yesterday’s Heros (spelling their fault, it’s not a typo) and it was Eloise’s son who had apparently said “they maybe yesterday’s heroes, but Brunswick are today’s.”

With that poetic thought in our minds, we charged into the game.  Sadly so did Greensie.  I can’t type Heros any more it annoys me.  As I would have mentioned many times before, they do have a premier league player in their side, let’s call her Cuz, and wonderfully for us in the home and away bit of the season if she turned up, she just played a lazy game.

Not so on Wednesday;  Greensie really turned up to play.  And not just Cuz, they have a couple of players in the defence who read the game beautifully and no matter what tactics we tried in the first half we barely had any decent possession in our attacking game.  From a dubiously awarded PC a fine initial save from Dayle was followed up with some sort of illegal play (too far away to really comment) and a stroke was blown.  Dayle again did well reading the play but whilst getting a hand to the ball the save wasn’t to be and Greensie went 1-0 up.

Still, we felt at half time that for as long as the score was 1-0 we were in with a chance.  We had been defending valiantly, and despite Cuz running rings around us all her shots on goal had been stifled.  Sadly though at the start of the second half the score was doubled.  Our opposition players were very good at running off out of position, and when you’re not used to zoning or if the calls from behind aren’t heard until too late, we were caught flat-footed as their CH moved to their attacking left, zipped in a stunning ball across the D for their postie to deflect the ball into the goal.  It was a good goal, but we should have shut down the play long before the pass went into the D.

And as the CH is my opposing player, I felt pretty rotten.

But not as rotten as a few minutes later, when I set off from a free hit tracking from right to left across the top of our attacking goal (to attempt a Max Toma Special) their full back ran through me, tipping me on my side with my broken foot sliding down her stick as she carved me up, and I landed heavily on my right side… dozily I realised I should probably play no further part in the game, with my broken foot tingling and the rest of me going in to some kind of Shock-Shut-Down.

Embarrassingly grandparents Coach Tony and Annie carried me off.

The girls readjusted and played well, we had plenty of legs on the bench to keep rotations healthy.  We just couldn’t get on the scoreboard, and I again rued our missed chances (we did have a couple of PCs in the first half but couldn’t convert).  Two nil the result finished and I was pretty low and fed up.  Thanks to all those kind and lovely people who wrapped me up, kept me warm and fed me lollies, and advised me not to drive home.  Probably should have listened to them; I nearly stacked the car in the supermarket carpark later that night.

With my physio reading me the riot act on Thursday (after I said something along the lines of “Well I got body-slammed, I’m feeling quite dopey, the clouds were too bright this morning and I have a bit of a headache, but the foot’s feeling great!”) I effectively got red carded and was sent home from work where I stayed, rested up until the hockey finals started again on the weekend when I got myself back to the state hockey centre.  First up, the under 12s who had been unbeaten all season and were facing Essendon in their GF.  It wasn’t their day, however, and went down 1-0 having defended stoically for a lot of the game.  Brunswick captain’s speech far more gracious in defeat than the opposition’s in victory, in my view.  (Woah, more controversy, look out.)

Next up, I returned to resting on the couch at home and watched some premier league live streaming (my hockey tragic self knows no boundaries).  In one of the women’s matches Greensborough (who finished 7th on the ladder) were up against Doncaster (2nd) and somewhat to my satisfaction Cuz once again carved up the opposition, even noticed by the commentators who said “Pickford has been fantastic from the first whistle to the last”.  It was nice to see such a high-ranking side as Donny come as undone as us Brunswick grannies had done during the week.  Greensie won on the shoot-out.  Why did she have to peak this week of all weeks?!  That’s finals hockey for you.

Vote count in the evening, and I surpassed all my expectations by actually appearing in the top 3 until round 9, thanks to random maths and the fact that we simply didn’t vote for some rounds.  Clearly, it is time to retire.

Sweeper the cat seriously unimpressed as I head out to watch yet more hockey

Sunday – back to the SHC to watch my old club in action in the morning, their Women’s VL2 Reserves were playing Monash.  In league placings, whilst Monash were 2nd and MHSOB 3rd, there was a significant 18 points difference between the two sides.  It was a big game for MHSOB to win.  But never say never.  Some incredible defending from them saw the team hold on for a 0-0 draw and so on to a shoot-out.  Last year, this side won their first final on a shoot out but lost this equivalent final on a shoot-out the following week…. Could the curse be broken?

It most certainly could.  Their goalie, who had pulled off some amazing saves in the second half, was fearless and Monash were only able to get one past her.  Three from four, with friend Lissa not required to show off her silky shooting skills as #5, meant MHSOB secured their GF spot.  It was an emotional moment!! Well for me anyway.  It is an awesome achievement for the team, coach and support crew, and kudos to them.  Very well deserved win, despite being the underdogs.

And on this I will just say, that while I don’t regret moving to Brunswick HC (having moved from south of the river to north of the river), MHSOB HC have totally nailed the mascot situation, and Brunswick needs to step up in this department.

Unicorn looks over the team

Having merrily trolled up and down the Upfield bike path several times already over the weekend, I had to return home again because in the excitement of the MHSOB game I had spilt my coffee all over me.  It also meant I could reassess the clothing situation for the mega-game of the weekend; the VL1 preliminary final between Brunswick and West Vic.  I had decided that the theme clearly had to be black and white – so I finally remembered to put the lucky ribbons on, the Brunswick jumper had to be worn, despite the aroma of l’eau de skinny latte, and I put on a pair of daisy earrings to try and channel my inner hipster. Come to think of it, smelling like a skinny latte is probably also quite hipster and Brunswick-esque (although cold-drip would likely be more in keeping with that genre).

I also decided to wear my favourite lucky socks – my “Germany 1 England 5” socks, from 1st September 2001 when England won in Munich (soccer that is).  Whilst that’s unusual you might say for a hockey final, last time Brunswick Men AND Women played West Vic, both teams had won 5-1 away from home!

I am all about the lucky charms and the omens.

In the women’s equivalent match up, Geelong got a winning goal in the dying seconds of the game to get themselves into the GF – and that’s from having lost last week in their qualifying final.  Would the same result happen in the men’s game?

While the pitch was being excessively watered, the Brunswick posse collected above the dugout, with Maria hiding her flag away from people’s general viewing and Pres JV having honed his photography skills.  The game started, and the usual commentary began.  Colour of shoes, taping of numbers, hair styles etc.

Tight-pants umpire was absent, which I appreciated as I didn’t want unnecessary distractions again.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the umpires even looked chilled and relaxed and I felt it was going to be a more level playing field than the previous week.  In the first minute I squealed with delight as Brunswick won a free hit.  Wendy told me off “Rachel! Calm down, shhh!”

“But I’m commending the umpires” I replied.  However, conscious that I didn’t want to be a Brumbies fan in disguise, I dialled back my enthusiastic cheering.  In the second half, I barely whispered three “Deliberates!” as I felt for sure West Vic were deliberately tipping the ball over their back line (surely the GK’s tap over the line was deliberate?)

Not surprisingly the excessively watered pitch was causing some trips and falls, Grinham-esque really (see, more parallels between masters and VL1), and West Vic were reading the play quite well when Brunswick took them on.  Both granny Annie and myself got a little confused and shouted “Go Vics” instead of “Go Wicks” but I blame Victoria hockey for that, cos that’s what I’ll be cheering at the end of the month when we both head off for nationals, granny style.

Brun went 1 up after some amazing play down the left side of the D.  The team held on until the dying minutes before half time when West Vic got a crucial equaliser after Brun gave a turn over trying to get the ball out of defence.  Could the team put the game beyond the Ballarat boys in the second half?

Drag flick and amazing save

Well, they didn’t put the game beyond them but they certainly created the chances.  And it was a superbly finished Lachie Date toma (move over Max) that got the second goal for Brunnie and despite tense moments as the clock ticked down the boys held on for the win!

And absolutely no cards for Brunswick.  It got close towards the end when the calls didn’t seem to go in our favour but hats off to the lads, they mainly kept their cool and the umpires were cool too and let it all go.

So – can the grannies replicate this in our preliminary final on Wednesday?

I write this knowing that I have been declared – unfit to play.  Sadly, it takes a few solid days of post-concussion activity and build up to be able to do contact sport again and my Irish physio, who must despair of me, has said “No.”

Which I am interpreting as No, but list me and if required I’ll do the shoot-out.

Sitting sadly at my desk this afternoon, with a colleague trying to cheer me up, I said “what with a knock on my head, runners’ knee and broken toes I am just shoulders short of becoming a song with actions.”

(Yes, it is my foot that is broken, but never let a fact get in the way of a good song.)

Wednesday night, 8.30pm, SHC, please cheer for the Brunswick ladies and masters of the universe and heroes of today either with your presence or your spirit.  I’ll be on the bench… but I have a cunning plan.  Mudlark mascot suit, anyone?

Winner, winner, chicken dinner…. or hipster coffee?

Oh, the places you’ll go! Brunswick Women’s VL1 Season Wrap-Up

As read out at Vote Count Saturday night, here’s my Dr Seuss take on our season. Enjoy!

Congratulations!
Today is the day!
The season has started!
Brunswick’s off and away!

Except when we don’t
Because sometimes we won’t
Because sometimes… the season starts with a bye…

But things start to happen, and frequently do
And before you know it here comes round two
At the State Hockey Centre, St Kilda our foe
We lose 6-0, we’re full of sadness and woe.

Dawson St at its finest

Round three comes along, we’re off to Geelong!
It’s opener there in the wide open air
We even lead for a while, the team starts to smile…
We have two whole goals, one a Jessi-toma-freestyle
But more goals sneak in,
We say goodbye to a win
And end up losing 3-2
And Brunswick was blue.

We looked up and down streets, we did so with care
About some we say I choose to play there
Back to old Dawson Street; hooray! A home game!
To play against Casey, young Megsy took aim…
And scored from a stroke!
But it was time for the choke
Two late goals from Casey… too soon we spoke.

Time to bounce back, get the season on track
Destination La Trobe – oh the places we go
A second stroke for young Vincent and a goal for new Luce
Finally three points and Brunswick’s let loose!

With our heads full of brains and hockey shoes full of feet
We’re smart enough to return to dandy Dawson St
A half-time spray from Nicole gives Brunswick the kick
Two second half goals sees a win v West Vic.

Brunswick brains in our heads
Brunswick feet in our shoes
We can steer ourselves any direction we choose
We like it at Brunswick
Cos we love our ground
But we mostly like all the hockey people around
Up against Knox, another second half blitz
Brunswick really likes winning, it does seem to fit
Two goals for Bridge and Amanda got one
Three points in the bag, this winning is fun!

After celebrations for her Majesty the Queen
With many birthdays all around us, we get with the hockey scene
But we may not find that we’ll want to go down
Heading south out of Melbourne to old Frankston town
To lose 5-0, we could have just stayed at home
And given the forfeit and saved on petrol costs

Sometimes rhyming gets in the way of an important environmental message.

The last team we play, in the first home and away
Is CV Blazers who’ve come a long way
But they don’t seem to show it
They can play and they know it
Too slow out the gate, a consolation goal too late
A 2-1 defeat; sad team and sad Date.

Going back to the start, with renewed spirit and heart
We skip through the bye, we don’t fall apart
Then St Kilda up next, the pre-game chat is such
That the coach literally says “Don’t lose by as much.”

And you’ll see that we didn’t, only five goals were scored
And we even got two Brunswick goals on the board.

Then at home v Geelong, things ticking along,
We got the first goal! The team’s feeling strong!
Forget that Geelong finished up getting four
Our confidence is growing, we’re feeling top drawer!

We’re not lagging behind, we know we have speed
We head down to Casey and we soon take the lead
We never forget to be dexterous and deft
And never mix up our right foot with our left

Except if you’re Rachel, whose right foot got broke
But with a win v Casey, to dream of finals is no joke.

Doing the maths on the kms to travel for the last few rounds of the season for VL1 and Masters…

Chances galore go begging v La Trobe
But we finally make good – we’re conquering the globe!
Out to Ballarat, it’s freezing but fun,
Diversity reigns, and the game is won.

We next visit Knox, even though Wendy was late
She got lost when driving, thanks to Coach Date.
Jenna’s debut started well with a goal to boot!
A 4-1 win goes our way, and the pub crawl’s a hoot.

Keira’s finger however is a minor disaster.
The dislocation got fixed, but it’s still in a plaster.

Two games to go, Finals’ still on the cards
Last game at home, Mornington come at us hard.
The girls are determined and hold strong at the back
Despite Mo-town goals, we still keep on track
And get a goal back… we work hard but in vain.
It wasn’t to be; it’s down to the last game.

Oh, the places you’ll go!
Geelong, Ballarat, Frankston, and now Bendigo!
We could be on our way
We could be seeing great sights
We could join the high fliers who soar to high heights!

Except when you don’t.
Because sometimes, you won’t.

Team… we nearly moved mountains
So… be your name…  Nicole, Keira, Megsy, Tubby, Adele, Jenna, Tash, Bakes, Wendy, Bee, Bridge, Zoe, Jessi, Grinners, Fiona, Mush, Eliza, Lynnie, Alex, Amanda, Ceitlin, Lucinda…. Or Maggie O’Shea
We went off to some great places!
It was nearly our day.

With the season behind us, and new places to find,
The next mountain is waiting; Brunswick, fly high!

Fly high – to rainbows and beyond

Finals, Stats and Sorrow

Somewhere between midnight and 2am, whilst on the Brunswick hockey club pub crawl a few weeks ago, I was advised by Eliza to write something controversial in my blog.  I have dipped my toe in the water the last couple of weeks, but I might go a little further today and dip the whole darn broken foot.  We’ll see how brave I get.

It has been a week of Christmases for me, which sounds odd but bear with me.  Liaising as I do with the banking regulation people quite a lot at work, imagine my infinite surprise when last week they announced a whole pile of new regulation we had to report on in the next couple of years.  My bank mates from over the road declared it to be “Reg Christmas!”  I was almost as joyous.  Then, come this weekend just gone, Hockey Finals descended on Victoria.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: truly, Finals is the most wonderful time of the year and Grand Final day is itself is Hockey’s Christmas Day.

So, feeling somewhat full of the Christmas spirit I set about trying to get to as many finals matches as I could over the course of the weekend.  And massively stuffed up.  I got to see 15 minutes of WVL2 Reserves game out at H2 on Saturday, before having to extract myself for social commitments (yes, sometimes I have a life outside of hockey).  My old club, MHSOB, went 1-0 down when I was there, but went on to win 3-1.  Probably just as well I didn’t stay, maybe I was bad omen.

Sunday my timing was a little better.  I was able to get to the WVL1 qualifying final and saw Mo-town upset G’long 3-1 and in the process heave themselves directly into the GF.  But the highlight of the day was the equivalent final in the Men’s VL1 comp; Brunswick v Brumbies.  Both teams had close encounters during the season (she writes confidently, only having seen one of the games…), and in winning the first match-up effectively meant Brunswick ended the season unbeaten, with KBH just behind them on the ladder with their one loss being against Brunswick.

I’ve not even fact-checked that but I think that’s the case.  Clearly Brunswick were the boys to beat and it was likely going to be a heated affair on the turf.

Now, thanks to the stats of the VL Hockey Show (I love stats, me) there is another ladder Brunswick topped and it ain’t a pretty one.  It involves cheese – and of the card, not digestible, variety.  Fair to say that Brunswick has probably got itself a “small” reputation in that department, and whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to say we were actually placing bets on who was going to get the first card of the game, I was mentally placing bets on the exact same thing.

Like any good Christmas gathering, the entire hockey family – or at least lots of it – was at the SHC.  Feeling that it was important to set up a Brunswick Hub, the posse I was sitting with moved to join the only other Brunswick supporter we could locate at the start of the game, ensuring we were sitting above the bench.

 “If we sit here, they will come.”

And so they did.  Both Coach Tony and Coach Nic from Masters and VL fame were there, with their entourages.  The Club Pres and his First Lady seated themselves gracefully in front of me, and gradually the Brunswick Hub got larger; we were still sitting feeling a little surrounded by the KBH fans.  That miffed us a bit, but kudos to Kew – if they have more fans at the SHC than Brunswick that’s not something I can criticise, only commend.

The game started. To my utter joy I realised that the nearside umpire was someone I’m pretty sure I wrote about last year in my Finals blog; in 2016 he was wearing exceptionally tight pants.  I was delighted to see that over the last 12 months he has either lost weight or got himself bigger pants.

(And that’s not the controversial part of the blog.)

I do tend to get myself distracted when watching hockey, whether it’s hairstyles or uniforms, I was determined not to let the umpire’s pants distract me for a second year running.

As I said, the game started.

Now, what I’m not going to do is comment on the goals OR the cards which followed.  As expected, sadly it did not take long for the lapses in discipline in Brunswick’s game to show; whilst Brunswick were down to ten men, KBH got their first goal.  But what did annoy me a tad was the fact that the umpires seemed to delight in the sendings off and went about as if they were notching up points for free beers post-game.  Naturally, I do get that given the season, Brunswick have a reputation that precedes them but it might have been nice if the umpires hadn’t gone about it so gleefully and free-spirited.  And so apparently one-sided.

Anyway, again, that’s not really my point of writing this.  What really irked me was the goading that came from the opposition crowd.

Like I said, Brunswick kinda have themselves to blame for the hole they have got themselves into.  But I think crowd behaviour should be more becoming of the sport and focus on their team’s play and as supporters, well, actually support.

A bit of banter will always form part of the game; goodness knows, I have been known to shout out a bit of “Deliberate!” in my time.  But don’t let’s turn the game into something we’re not proud of.  I spent years on the terraces of White Hart Lane cheering on my beloved Spurs, and I know how bad crowd behaviour can get, and I’d go so far as to say I’m actually ashamed of what I used to shout (in particular, at David Beckham in the 1998/99 season after he got himself sent off at the World Cup).  Hockey should be bigger than that.

The Brunswick crowd weren’t totally blameless, but efforts were at least made to stem that particular flow.  And like I said, some jeering could have been expected given Brunswick’s season, but it did start to feel relentless (probably because the cards we were receiving seemed to be as relentless) but extending the jeering to Coach Jack in the second half, just when the actual hockey game itself could have gone either way, was totally unnecessary, shameful and was not in the spirit of the great game that is hockey.  That’s my first controversial comment.

The second one, and I hate to reflect on umpiring decisions because I’m all for respect the umps and all that, with or without their tight pants, but this happened.  Brunswick won a free hit in their attacking 25.  Presumably some backchat from Brunswick actually resulted in a change of mind from the umpire and the decision was turned over AND the Brunswick player was yellow-carded.

I’m not disputing that, it’s fair enough if some lip was given but THIS is what gets me.  Whilst walking to the tech bench, a Brumbies player who stood on the sideline waiting to be interchanged on (and who had also himself been carded earlier in the game, it wasn’t all Bad Brunswick) visibly clapped and applauded, in a mocking manner, the offending Brunswick player.  The umpire noticed this… and shook his finger at him.

I’m sorry, but what part of FIH rule is “It is not acceptable for players to abuse opponents, umpires or other technical officials verbally or through body language and attitude,” does this behaviour get an exemption from?

Meanwhile, with the comments from the crowd getting a bit out of hand, particularly at young Coach Jack, one Brunswick supporter tried to take a photo of the abusers, but we are not convinced of the technical abilities of this particular person, also given a black and white flag was raised and waved in front of the camera at the same time.  If a complaint was made, it will likely feature, as photo evidence, a picture of a chequered flag or a selfie of John Vincent.

There were some other things that peeved me, but I’ll leave it at that.  The game finished 2-1 to KBH, but it was fought out right to the end.

Brunswick now have to play another game to get their guernsey in the finals.  I’m a big believer in bouncebackability; time to lull other teams into a false sense of security, get a bit of a better grip on our discipline and BOUNCE RIGHT BACK.  It’s a talented team, they deserve to have another go at the flag.  Time for the Brunswick Cheer Squad to get louder in their support, get behind the boys and for the team to show the community what great hockey they are capable of.

The only other thing I’ll say on the game is this.  I seem to spend my entire hockey life now either a) being injured or b) convincing coaches NOT to play me at full back because I HATE PLAYING FULL BACK.  There are only two people in the world that remotely inspire me to play this position.  One is Kate R-W, the former GB captain and Olympic gold medallist and general legend.  The other person is Dean, the Brunswick captain.  His second half on Sunday was truly a captain’s innings if ever there was one, and if anyone can inspire a team to get back into the Finals series it is him.  I am close to ringing up Coach Tony and asking him if I can play fullback in our Masters’ Qualifying final on Wednesday…

And now, some stats!

Since the VL Hockey Show have been statting their way through the season, I’ve been wanting to do something similar but have limited time.  But below is a Venn Diagram I drew earlier.

Brunswick’s women’s VL1 team missed out on finals by a goal difference of 5.  I wondered what I contributed to that.  Being a defender, aside from a couple of assists, my contribution lies in the defensive sphere.  We let in 36 goals in total this season.  Whilst I missed four games through injury they were all against lower-ranked sides, and only counted for 4 goals, so really, on an adjusted basis, I contributed to 32 of these goals.

But then I investigated further – and good job I write match reports – I was on the sideline (or dropped in the case of round 18) for 15 of these 32 goals.  I was only on the pitch for 17 goals.  Throw GK Maz into the mix, and this is the defensive outcome…

When Stonehouse and Grinham were both on the pitch this hockey season, only 10 goals out of a total 36 were conceded.

Quality Statistics

Just sayin’.

And now…. The sorrow. The physio confirmed today that my foot is likely still broken.  At least, not as healed as it should be.  Turns out a 6 week recovery for a critical bone is likely optimistic.  Nonetheless I will channel my inner Harry Kane, focus on bouncebackability – combined with yet more rehab – and get back on the turf soon.  And that will be tomorrow night for some Masters hockey training mastery, for our qualifying final this week.  Love a bit of shoot-out practice…

And finally… the last bit of controversy.  I’m supposed to be writing a season wrap-up report for Wendy and I’m clearly not.  Sorry Wen.  I’m being controversial instead.

Bendigo, Bendigone

Let’s start with the bad news.

Brunswick’s WVL1 side needed to win out at Bendigo to secure finals; mathematically if Casey drew, Brunswick needed to draw, or if Casey lost Brunswick needed to do nothing.

During the week leading up to the game I got dropped for having a limp and not completing a full training session.  I did in fact complete the Tuesday session, but apparently it’s the Thursday session that’s the more important one and I definitely was limping then.  My knee injury of old has returned, now that I’m running again, and the inflammation started to balloon that night.  I just was wanting to rest it for Saturday but my caution saw me out of the team.

Saturday came.  The Casey match being an earlier game meant I was standing in a coffee queue at the Beechworth Bakery in Bendigo frantically pressing refresh on AltiusRT.  Casey was two minutes from losing to La Trobe, but by the time I got to the front of the queue they got the crucial goal that meant they were still in with a shout of Finals.  To the Brunswick match.  Our girls went ahead in the first ten minutes, but CV Blazers equalised later in the half.   It took a break away effort resulting in a stroke that put Blazers ahead, they doubled the lead from a PC and with GK Maz removed in some last-minute desperation CV made it 4-1.  So, no finals berth for the VL1 side.

It was a tough way to end the season; perhaps, if I might add (somewhat controversially) that if more than 7 of the 13 girls who played at out Bendigo were at the newly declared Most Important Training Session of the Week being Thursdays then the result might have been different.  Or maybe not.

Having been dropped for having a limp and not completing a single training session, despite the fact I did about 1.5 training sessions, I was told that the I was to play centre half in the Reserves (on the droppee coach’s advice to the receiving coach).  And so it was my weekend season finished hilariously, with an apparent limp, playing the full 70 minutes for a team I hadn’t yet played for in 2017 at centre half, at 5pm in cold ‘n’ freezing Bendigo, whilst my Firsts team mates couldn’t be bothered to support and went off back to Melbourne to celebrate the end of the season.  Do I sound a little angry?  I think I have my rights to be.

The Reserves are a lovely bunch of girls and I don’t regret my playing with them, I just regret the circumstances.  If playing CH was some sort of “reward” for being dropped, the firsts’ coach obviously doesn’t realise that I play CH every Wednesday for Masters, and the Bendigo game was, randomly, a lot easier for me.  I get marked, often double or triple tagged on Wednesdays but in cold ‘n’ freezing Bendigo I was left as free as a bird.  I trolled around in space and saw the season out as best and as cheerfully I could, despite being on the wrong side of a 3-0 scoreline.  We had a lovely team dinner afterwards and thanks to the driver, I also made it back to Melbourne in time for last drinks with the firsts.

That’s the bad news.

The good news.  Back to the preceding Tuesday I managed to do pretty much a full set of interval training, then a full set of hockey training (but Tuesdays no longer count towards training now), then on Wednesdays I was all set to play back in the Granny team for as full a game as I could.

Coach Tony had me down to play full back.  We were playing to secure Minor Premiership.  There was no way I was playing full back.  I told him so.  He consulted with the brains trust, and I was promptly put to centre half.  I do thank him for that.

We were up against Footscray; the first time we met them we got two quick goals against a relatively weak side, then failed to do any more damage despite having opportunities.  I then got a stick to my carotid artery towards the end of the game.  I was keen to see us get more goals and do without the artery issues.

First half was similar to the first game – we had chances from seemingly endless PCs but just could not find the back of the net.  It took a series of passes in front of goal from one PC for Grace to roll the ball over the line to finally put us ahead.  Even our umpire told me at half time that our PCs were hopeless.

Second half, Sally had joined us (in fact, I hearby name her “Second-half Sally”) and we continued to ply on the pressure, desperate for another breakthrough.  It did finally come; I intercepted a pass just over the half way line and ran up the field, rounded a defender, and not wanting to take on any more players passed the ball through the legs of the final defender and forward on to a fast-running-Second-Half-Sally, who pushed the ball through the ‘keeper’s legs and into the goal!

Minutes later, happy Lynnie Gilmour hit the ball into the D from the left hand side and found Second-Half-Sally again, who lined up her shot perfectly inside the left post.  The keeper seemed to have her feet unfortunately nailed to the goal-line and she was unable to move to make any attempt to save it.  A fourth goal came – and I can’t remember how, maybe we finally got something in from a PC?  Anyway, it finished 4-0 and with a game in hand there was no way we could be caught.  We are officially Minor Premiers!

Grannies Celebrate!

It was a well deserved result for the girls who have come on so much this season; truly a team effort.

On to round 18, a we are now in the week following the Blazers’ misfortune.  Me and my apparent limp managed another round of interval training on the Tuesday, and then headed down to Gee-long-way-away Wednesday night for an 8.45pm match.  And I had thought finishing the home and away season at 5pm on a Saturday out at Bendigo was just the tops…

Geelong away was always going to be tough, and they came out of the blocks determined to make their mark.  We were under pressure, and with a series of fast passes and fast running from the Geelongers saw them get a goal early on.  I have to admit, at this point I did get a sense of doominess about the evening.

Not to be outdone we finally managed to get the ball into our attacking half.  Happy Lynnie found herself not on the left, but on the right, and tracked into the D and did a PEGS ball across goal.  Geelong kindly turned it 90 degrees into the goal, and with the original pass from Lynnie being inside the D, it was a goal back to Brunswick and one more to Lynnie.

Minutes later we had another chance, but I seem to love the right side of the right post, and that’s where I put the ball.  Second half I was determined to put more pressure on Geelong’s CH, which suitably annoyed her and she subbed off.  We found more space, and we creating more chances up front.  We even had a couple of PCs, but they are still failing us at the moment.  I had a run through with just  defender and GK to beat but ran out of legs, and then later on set up a fast-running and leading Ceitlin with a ball slotted into the D but it just feel inches short of being nudged in.

Stoical defending from Brunswick at the end was required, and finally the end of the longest half known to granny-kind, the game finished a goal a-piece.  Probably a fair reflection of the game and we have lots of positives to take out of the game should we face Geelong in finals.

And that was that.  The Home and Away done, my weeks are now freeing up which I can’t say I’m sad about.

For VL1 it was another close season of what might have been.  We went to Bendigo with a chance, but it was soon to be Bendi-gone.  And in the spirit of reality, the coach cheerfully told us at the post-game drinks (that I turned up to at 10.45pm), “We’d have been smashed first week of finals anyway.”

Just remains to be seen, what can the Grannies do?

n                  rf5gtttrrrrr 2 s [cat edit]

The very important sweeper role in hockey

Bun of Steel

After just over 3 weeks since I broke my foot, it took a good deal more of mind over matter than I had anticipated before I was able to take a few tentative steps on the hockey pitch at training last week.  It was only because I accidentally jogged on the field out at Knox the Saturday before to try and assist a dislocated Keira than I realised I was just about ready to test The Foot.  That plus my dancing at the Retreat.

Saw this sign Sunday morning at Masters training and for some reason thought it hilarious

So anyway, at Tuesday training, I first declared that my aim was to run across the field.  And I managed it.  And I came back again.  Back and forth, back and forth I went, building up speed.  Sideways lateral movement was a no-go, and starting and slowing down was hard, but I could at least move in a straight line.

If only hockey just involved moving about in straight lines.  To turn, I found it easier just to hop about on my left leg, and in some instances, I figured I would just stand about on one leg, flamingo style, to protect The Foot from any stray balls flying about the place.  And as a result I woke up Wednesday morning with the sorest left glute/butt known to man-kind.  If I continued this behaviour of doing all turning and hopping on my left leg, I would well and truly get a single Bun of Steel.  To compensate for another Bun of Flab.

Nephew’s Gun of Steel and Dad’s Bald Head of Red

It was cold, dark but not wet Werribee that was the focus of Wednesday evening for us Brunswick grannies.  I turned up in kit hopeful to get a mini-run around; after warming up, and stretching my sore but rock-hard Bun of Steel, I felt I could give it a go.

Typically, having written a wonderfully accurate comparison of the Brunswick Men’s VL1 team to the Brunswick Women’s Masters last week, given both sides were unbeaten, I just KNEW I was tempting fate.  But I knew all along dark but not wet Werribee away was going to be tough – and I wanted to write about us being unbeaten whilst I had a chance.

Dark but not wet Werribee took an early lead, from having piled on the pressure from the start.  We couldn’t seem to clear the ball from defence; we just kept meeting a wall of orange (as in dark but not yet Werribee, not piles of half-time fruit).  I was then interchanged on and spent a lonely but joyous ten mins at right half.  Received two passes, took a free hit, got 100% accuracy on passes, but with only 66% effectiveness, two tackles made, two tackles missed and one interception later…. I tottered off happy that I could do somethings.  Not all things.  And I’d be lying if it was totally pain free.

But I was back on the pitch.

Werribee also got two more goals whilst I was on the field – from PCs I think? – so much for influencing the game in a positive manner.  I decided I was probably left off the pitch for the remainder of the game.  Despite being 3 nil down at half-time, the girls took to the second half and started to build up much more positive play; the ball was being well worked through the middle and close passes up and down the field were starting to create opportunities.  Having first had a one-on-one with the keeper get saved, Ceitlin then set up and scored possibly goal of the season by running the base-line and squeezing the ball through an impossible gap between the post and GK, to get Brunswick on the scoreboard.

Sadly there were no more goals coming our way, and as a result we were on the wrong end of a result for the first time.  The positives were that Annie managed to charm the local umpire who was so grumpy and sent me off last year (at one moment this year he turned to face us on the side line, and laugh along with one of our jokes, as the ball and players literally went on right behind him), and the second half was in fact won by Brunnie which gives much to focus on for Finals.

By Saturday I was feeling hopeful that I could do something on the field for either VL1 or VL1R – the only thing that I was uncertain about was, in fact, my certainty.  I had felt nervous and cautious going in for tackles, even shutting my eyes, which is the worst way to go in to a tackle.  Was I ready for Mo’ton P?  A big hitting team with giant women with legs up to our shoulders?

The warm up went well, I felt in better shape pain-wise than Wednesday.  It was as positive as I could have hoped.

Faced with two important remaining home and away fixtures, we knew Mo’ton would be a tough match having gone down 5-0 to them earlier in the year.  Coach Nic turned up  with plan upon plan, and went through them thoroughly – or so it seemed.  It was important to know when to move from Plan A to Plan B, so Megsy the Wiser was charged with coming up with a secret team call.

This call, she declared was to be: “Keira’s on the pitch.”

The joke being, of course, Keira was on the bench, taking on team manager duties, due to her fractured finger.

The game started and Plan A was put into action.  Brunswick hassled the opposition, but were patient on the ball when we had our own possession, and tried to upset the rhythm of a couple of the Amazonian players of Mo’ton.  It was looking to be effective, but a slight lapse saw of the Amazons quickly sneak onto the far post to slot in a goal.   Fifteen minutes into the game Mo’ton won a PC and a well worked deflection took their goal tally to two.

In the mean time, Coach Nic had passed on the appropriate message to Megsy the Wiser, who dutifully called out “Keira’s on the pitch!”  She called this out twice, and up the line, at centre half (!) Wendy echoed “Keira’s on the pitch!”  At this moment a couple of people actually turned to the bench… had the pre-match chat actually been forgotten?!  Keira was definitely still on the bench a few puzzled faces thought.

Even the tech bench came up to me and asked what was going on.  “Keira’s not on the pitch, why are people saying she’s on the pitch?” they asked.  I explained what was supposed to have happened.

Sadly the message sort of stopped there it seems because not everyone realised we were on to Plan B.  It was the day for confusion because THEN at THAT MOMENT… I made my return to VL1!!

Skipping on in delight – well, as much as I could skip – I moved to left half shouting out “I’m left half!” to anyone that would listen or care.

The full backs didn’t hear me and a good five minutes later I was still getting shouted at – “What position are you?!”

“I’m still left half!” I shouted back.  Just happy to be part of the team again.  There was a missing Mo’ton right wing for a while which didn’t help anyone identify what on earth it was I was doing.  I even stepped into a defensive PC, something I didn’t think I’d be brave enough to do for a while.

Despite the pain, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it could be, and I was even able to move about relatively well quite laterally, grape-vining about up and down the field chasing my opposition player.

Happy to be off for most of the rest of the game, the tide turned into Brunswick’s favour in the second half.  As the minutes wore down we were creating more chances – even attacking PCs – and when Amanda got the breakthrough goal, jumping as high as the some of the Mo’ton players legs in the process, we knew we could snatch the draw.  Despite the chances, it didn’t happen, but it was a magnificent effort from the team.

Particular personal thanks to Maz who appreciated my efforts at PC, and not for Eliza who played a stonking game at right half, thus making me redundant.  That’s ok.  I played a token few minutes at LH again at the end of the game, and refused to interchange back with her when she called me.

(That’s not quite true.  There was no opportunity to.)

A surprise defeat to CV Blazers means that it is now even more down to the wire than ever before, as CV can no longer make finals.  We are away at CV in brrrrrrr Bendigo, a place where we often struggle to get results (in our favour that is).  Casey, the other team in contention for fourth spot, have an easier game against LA Trobe at home.   It is our luck to make.

Will Bendigo step up, or will they feel deflated knowing that the game for them is a dead-rubber?

Will Keira be on the pitch, metaphorically or literally?

Will my bun of steel ever stop feeling so sore?  And how will I pull up from a giant 15 minutes of VL1 hockey?

(Can you tell I’m watching Survivor as I write this?)

It’s a big week in Brunswick-land.  GO WICKERS!

Found them!