2005 Essendon AFL Scholarship Journal

1/7 – Power Outage Doesn’t Help the Craziness

LAX is one crazy airport. I am now very glad that I flew in to LA from St. Louis a day early. I finally make it through all of the security checks with people from every nationality, and duck into the bathroom to savor one last glance at the clockwise spiral of the toilet. Right as I get to the gate, the power in the terminal goes out. We are delayed over an hour because they are unable to check us in without power.


1/8 – The Day That Never Was

Never Happened. I will never ever know January 8th, 2005. Hope it was good for everyone else.


1/9 – Fighting the Jetlag

Because of our delay at LAX, we arrive too late to catch the Rams game. I quickly find out that they won. I just hope I can watch next week. Wheels scoops me up at the airport and gives me a quick tour of the city. When we arrive at his house, I am fully fading. His wife makes me promise that I will stay up until at least 8:30pm so that I can overcome the jetlag faster. I call Goodge (2003 MAAFL MVP who's moved back to teach at Melbourne Uni). He, his wife Allison, and Phil come and pick me up. We head down to the beach for some VB's and dinner. St. Kilda is a pretty cool area. I'm very tired, but trying to soak in as much as possible. The problem is that it's so much like any US city with very minute differences that totally throw you off. For example, Allison drove us down to St. Kilda, but Goodge spent the whole time looking back at Phil and me in the back seat. I am totally uncomfortable because I just want Goodge to look at the road. I had to keep reminding myself that they drive on the other side. Goodge tells me that it has something to do with jousting. Anyway, I finally make it back to Wheel's house and crash.


1/10 – I Need a Fan

I wake up early to get out to Essendon for my first training. They are coming off Holiday, so they are slow to arrive. I get introduced to the crew (so many names) and jump right into skin fold tests and 20m sprint tests. Honestly, I can barely feel my feet. I am still feeling the affects of jet lag. We take a quick break and then head out to Princess Park for the famed 3.2K sprint. I say sprint because that's how these guys run it. They are machines. I finish in the back of the pack (or maybe slightly behind the pack depending on how you want to look at it). This heat is killing me. Add that to the jetlag and I'm pretty much spent by the end of the run. Advice to the next Essendon scholar, arrive with a couple of days to get acclimated before you jump in with Essendon. We head back for weight training and some lunch. Mathew Lloyd gives me a ride back to Windy Hill. He's an extremely nice guy, and seems surprised and flattered that I've seen him play on the internet. I then watch some cricket with the guys. The MCG is host to a benefit game for Tsunami victims. They hope to raise 10 million dollars. Anyway, the guys make fun of baseball and I try to hold my ground. Wheels arrives and takes me to my new place. I'm in a boarding house in Mooney Pond. Some very nice guys live there. Wheels just laughs about how much of a learning experience this will be. The fellas are all older, laborers. They bicker about who I should be playing with, but all agree that James Hird is the most respectable guy in the league. I find sleep very difficult in the heat. I must purchase a fan soon.


1/11 – Full Day of Training

I was totally unable to sleep last night. They tell me it's a north wind that comes off the desert that makes it so hot. Whatever it is, it is hot. I wake up early and head up to Windy Hill via the tram for a skills session. I'm now staying in Mooney Pond at a boarding house with some interesting fellows. However, the guys add lots of color and it is an experience that I wouldn't have had in the States. Anyway, skills sessions are basically like our practices. We started with jogging and stretching, and moved into some stations work. Each station focused on a different aspect of the game. It was all stuff that I had seen before. Handballs were my first station. Two very close lines handballing quickly. The second station was rapid fire kicking. Everyone (about 8 guys) gets a ball and they go through the line kicking at you from about 3meters. You have to catch it and dispose of it quickly because the next ball is already on its way. At the third station, we were to focus on our drop. By standing on one leg, we were to hold the ball in one hand and make a solid contact with it. It was really windy and this is difficult. At the final station, we worked on picking the ball up off the ground.


Next we moved into a full field drill. It is similar to something we did in St. Louis. It is sort of a 5 sided deal. Two lines stand near each goal about 40m apart from one another. I can see that this is going to be hard to explain. Basically, you lead out and take a mark, play on, have a bounce and hit a lead. It works its way around in a circle. The coaches were unhappy with our performance, so they made a "detention" area for anyone who missed his mark with a kick. I managed to make it through the entire drill to which the coach belted out, "Look here. Even the American was able to make it through."


After that we moved into a keep away type drill. 4 on 4 handballs only. I would love to say that I may have smothered James Hird on one play. However, I won't mention that he was probably going about 70% effort, and I may or may not have ended up bleeding.


That was pretty much it. Short and quick, but very intense. I'm satisfied for the day. Unfortunately for me we're not even near done. The guys are great, and help me out whenever I appear lost. Luckily, my kicking has been pretty good, as to not be too big of a pain for them.


I took the tram to Westfield shopping town and grab a fan for my room and then race back to Windy Hill for a ride to the evening session - hills. We were at some park in the city (I have no idea where) and they had this hill course set up. By now it’s about 40C which is hot. They agree to cut the session a touch short. We head out for a jog and stretch and then go through some bounding and agility drills. Then we sprint the hill course. You must go full out on the hill to work on explosion. Then you jog around back to the bottom. We did this for 6 minutes, then 4 min and finally ended with 2 min. At the end of each time, they do about 1 minute of group handballing with everyone in a heap moving and talking, passing the ball around. By the time this is finished, I am spent. I catch a ride back to Carlton for some dinner with Goodge, Ali and Phil. Long day.


1/12 Half Day of Training

Training today was pretty light. They split us into two groups. The older players had to report at 9am, and the younger guys weren't due until 9:45. I was with the second group, but went in early to watch the older guys. It was basically a walk through. Light jogging. Their focus was snagging a mark on defense and turning it into an attack. It was pretty cool to see these guys move. We go through the drill next. I do pretty well. Spacing comes so naturally when everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing.


We have a heavy weights session after that. They spend a lot of time on abs. After that I'm off. All afternoon off and tomorrow is totally mine. I'm glad to finally get a chance to explore the city a bit. Hope to stay out of trouble though.


1/12 - Afternoon - Ah St. Kilda!

After logging off the computers, I hopped a tram down to meet Wheels and Jay Mueller at Greasy Joe's Burger Joint in St. Kilda. I decided to leave plenty early to allow myself leisure time on the way. On the way, we ride past the Crown Casino. I hop off the train and scoot inside to check out their sport's book. I am scouting for a place to watch the Rams - Falcon's game. It works out that it will be played at noon on Sunday, my next day off. The attendants say that they are going to play the gridiron game on the big screen. That's pretty cool. I hop back on the tram and head on down to the beach.


Jay has a conflict pop up, so I eat some burgers with Wheels and then head back to

Brunswick Street
. I meet Goodge for a couple beers and he takes me home. Kind of lame for my first night off, but I'll deal.


1/13 - Day Off

I guess that I'm finally over my Jet lag. I slept in until almost noon today. I roll over to Goodge's house. He's outside hitting golf balls. I lay in the shade and read a bit. We then go and have a kick. That lasts for about 20 minutes until I realize that this is my day off. We head back to the house, grab Ali and head to Port Melbourne for some fish and chips and a leisurely evening on the beach. They drop me off at

Lygon Street
where I cruise around. Lygon is pretty cool because it's near Melbourne Uni, and there are tons of restaurants. I catch the tram home and call it a night.


1/14 - Long Day

When I showed up at Windy Hill for training, the guys were posing for team pictures and signing gurnseys. After that, they sprung a beep test on us. They guys are not overly happy about it. They say that we've already had a huge week and we have a huge run tomorrow. Oh well, all of the winging in the world isn't going to get us out of it, so we head into it. However, their complaints make me feel slightly better about myself. It means that I'm not the only one who's sore. I've never done a beep test before. I've heard of them. Let me just say that this was the worst thing we've done so far. I made it to 12.2. Not great, but the guys are impressed that it's my first time. They all say that they dropped out in the 10's their first time.


After the "beeper" we stretch and head immediately out to the field for some skills work. We start with a warm up jog. Then we do a drill where we run towards someone who's kicking at us from about ten meters. Jay Mueller showed me this last fall, so some of the STL boys and I have been doing it. The Bombers then add a second kick. After you received the first ball and handball it back, you have a second screamer on the way. It's a quick drill that's very light on the lungs, but great for hands.


We move into two handball lines. However, every so often Coach Gary O'Donnell shouts out a change. We go forward, sideways and diagonal. They do several other variations on the handball lines that I have written down and will send out later.


After that we move into a full field drill. Some leads and marks in traffic (two defenders have pads and just whale away when you go up for the ball), then handball to a guy who kicks to midfield. On Ballers mark and handball to a kick to leads at the other end. Then it comes back. It's pretty cool.


The last drill is a one on one marking drill. I end up in a group of big guys with a coach kicking lofting balls to us from about 30m. I get abused. That never happens at home. I just laugh. They think it's funny too. The first guy I go against takes the mark. After that, they don't get another. However, the closest I come to taking one is when Matty Allan tosses me to ground and I stab out my hand, nearly taking a one hander from the floor. It's good fun.


After stretching I grab a ball to kick some goals. It’s a beautiful day and just past 1pm. I've got nothing to do for a few hours. I end up kicking goals with a couple of guys, namely Mathew Lloyd. We start from the right side of the goal at about 40m. When I hit it, they seem surprised. Saying good job and stuff, like I'm some lucky little kid. As we move around the arc, I keep hitting. I finally miss the last shot from dead center. At this point everyone's missed one. Lloyd says we should aim for this black pole that is dead center of the goal. I hit the best shot of the day for me (possibly my life) and come close to the pole. Lloyd tells me to call it a day on that shot. He's a really nice guy - very into helping the younger guys on the team. Not to mention he's got a huge Left foot. I bet he could score from 60m.


After skills, I grab some lunch at Jack and Jill's on the Hill with Willow, Courtney Johns and Dean Rioli. They are very amused by my stories of the guys that live in the boarding house with me. They are particularly amused by the fact that they guys I live with fight non-stop over football. When I enter, they fight over who I should be playing with. However, when the one Essendon supporter walks in, he mentions James Hird and the others nearly take off their hats in reverence. When we get back to Windy Hill, they immediately start giving Hird crap. I get him to sign a box of cereal that he endorses so that I can give it to my house mates. He is fully embarrassed, but finds it amusing. I get my weights session in and head home. I grab a shower and head out to meet Goodge for a drink. It's Aussie Andy's last night in town. I stay for under an hour, and catch a ride back. I have a big day tomorrow.


1/15 - Dandenong

I get up at about 7:15 to grab some breakfast. Mark Bullen picks me up. We have a huge session out in the mountains. It takes about an hour to get there. Upon arrival, we jog 2k uphill to stretch and see the stairs, all 1000 of them. We go through several 100 step sprints. Then go back down to the car park and run all of the way back up to the top. Stairs included. It was rough. Everyone was hurting. Even the most fit were walking near the top. I think that the whole thing went up about 1300 ft in elevation. When we got to the top, the coaches said something about our lack of team work. He sends everyone who's not a junior player, over 175cm, or American back down the hill. That leaves about 6 of us up top. He says we've had enough. We are to go halfway back down and run up in groups to encourage the other guys. It's no easier starting halfway.


I hitch a ride back to Jack and Jill's and have breakfast with a bunch of guys. I get a ride home from Dean. Here I am. I've gotta run now because I'm about to be on 3AW radio. Anyway, I've got the rest of the day off. Tomorrow too. I think tomorrow I'm headed to watch the Rams - Falcons game at the casino (they have huge TVs). Can't wait!


1/16 - Rams Disaster

I wake up all excited to head down to the Casino to watch the rams play. I get there a bit early and catch the end of the Steelers Jets match. I ordered some wings and settled in. Goodge arrived a touch into the first quarter. We have these huge couches in front of a massive TV. There are about 50 people pulling for both sides. It’s a pretty cool atmosphere. Needless to say, they get pounded.


Goodge and I head out and walk around the south bank and cruise through the Central Business District (CBD - Downtown) on foot. After a brief tour, we head to a pub that Goodge knows about. It's packed. A phenomenon called the "Lazy Sunday Beer". In St. Louis, Goodge once asked where it was good to go for a "Lazy Sunday Beer". I had no idea. They didn’t even sell beer on Sunday’s in St. Louis all that long ago. Anyway, this sort of starts our walking pub tour from the CBD out to Carlton. It's great fun because the weather is perfect, and there are tons of people out doing the same thing. Just cruising around, having a beer. It's very nice and relaxing. It's the first time since I've been here that I've been able to enjoy myself. I make it home around 10pm and head straight to bed. We've got something the players dread called Lactates.


1/17 - Lactates

I wake up early and head to Windy Hill so that I can catch a ride over to Essendon Grammar. We are doing our lactate test in their gym. It's basically a basketball kill drill. Freethrow line and back, halfcourt and back, etc. You partner up and one runs while the other keeps time. The idea is that you post a fast first time and maintain it as much as possible over the four reps. You get two minutes total. The two minutes start and you do your run. Whatever time remains after your run is your rest. Then you go again. I did quite well at first 28 - 30 - 31 sec and then I fall off majorly on the last. It is really tough. You only do 2 min of exercise, but it's so hard. After everyone's gone, we break for lunch.


I hit up a place called Max's with several players. I'm really starting to feel comfortable with them. They unload at this particular lunch with questions about the US. They love Vegas. We head back to the club room where we sit around swapping stories. I am checking my email at the same time. I get a particularly funny email from my old roommate in the Lou, Pat. The guys find it very funny also. They think my friends are crazy. I think that it would be cool to be a pro athlete, but I’m not sure I'd want to give up college.


After that, we hit the weights. The Puma rep is at the club. Essendon is sponsored by Puma. I talk to the guy for quite a while hoping that we can set something up for the US team. It looked good. I think that he might be willing to give us a good deal on boots. I'll pass on the info to Wheels and Alan. Now, I think I’m headed to the beach to relax for the afternoon.


1/18 Optus Oval

Today we trained at Optus Oval. Windy Hill still has cricket on its ground for another two weeks. Optus is very cool. I can't even imagine playing there when it's full. It kind of reminds me of Wrigley. Old with lots of character. We start with a warm up. Kicking lines. Working on distance and direction. We then shorten the lines up and work on picking the ball up off the ground. We then move into a full field drill where backs clear it out to midfielders who move the ball down to forwards and back. It's pretty lively. Next we split up into two groups. My group heads to the side of the field to play a handball game. We're in a square of about 15mX15m. 5 on five. Similar to what we've done before. This time it's fully live. The tackling is quite intense. Full on blocking and tackling. It's a lot of fun to mix it up a bit. The intensity is very high. The coaches are pleased. My five is pretty good, but we ran into a much bigger side and the hits got really big. Adam McPhee is a pretty jacked guy. (After practice, over lunch I saw him level a couple of Geelong players on the fox footy channel, and I begin to rethink my participation in such drills.) It's my first taste of AFL speed and power. These guys can go. Our two groups switch and we head into a full field drill. They are beginning to put game type situations in. Today we are working on clearing the ball from the backline and creating quick attacks. We go for a while. After practice, I stuck around to kick goals with Sam and Bullen. There are quite a few fans and the kids come on the field asking for autographs. It's starting to feel closer to the season.


After practice, I head down to

Lygon Street
for some lunch in an Italian restaurant. It's pretty tasty and the scenery is interesting. I head home for a nap.


After my nap, Mark Bullen picks me up for our hills session. We drive across town to some park and hit the hills. It's really rough. After warm-up, we do ten sets of bounding 30m uphill into a 30m sprint. Then we move over to another hill of pretty decent grade. We start by sprinting up 60m and jogging around back to the beginning to sprint again. We do this for 6min. After a 2 min rest, we do it again. After a 2min rest, we do the same thing except the distance of sprint alternates between 60m and 40m. Finally, we do six minutes where we alternate between 40, 60 and 80m sprints. It is brutal. The trainers tell us that this is the hardest things we’ll get. They are impressed because of how fit the team is, and how hard the team pushes each other. The head running coach Quinny says "I'm impressed because no one is willing to say that they've had enough." I am more than willing to say "enough", but I'm very happy to be with a good team. 



1/19 Laundry Day

Wednesdays are pretty light for us. I get in about 8:30 for my 9am weights session. It's not bad. I go pretty light because I'm out of gas. It's not so much that I am sore anymore, it's just that today, my legs have nothing in them. After weights, I head home to do some badly needed laundry. I then shoot back up to Windy Hill for our "individual needs" session. We went out on the field and worked on three different aspects of the game. My first station discusses ball ups around the ground. They have a numbering system so the ruckman just tells the rovers a number and they all know where the ball is to go. The next station discusses the center bounce. There are several new rules designed to help save the ruckman's knees. This year, there will be a circle in the center square of about 10m in diameter. There is a line down the middle. The ruckman must be fully inside of the circle. No one else is allowed inside the circle until the ball hits the ground on the bounce. If the ruckman takes his eye off the ball, or initiates contact with the other ruckman, it is a free kick for the opposition. The coaches are saying how this will eliminate certain ruckman who rely on body position and not athleticism. The last station is a hand eye station. It's very light and fun. We play games where the coach hits tennis balls at us in a line. If you drop it you go to the end. Practice raps up around 2pm. I'm glad it's over. I have tomorrow off, and my legs are toast. I call Goodge. He, Ali and some of her friends are headed to a walk/run. Goodge tries to convince me to run 10k with him. No way. I can't be bothered. I decide to walk 5k with Ali. It turns out to be a pretty fun event. Afterwards, we head to a really cool pub in St. Kilda. Tomorrow's my day off. I plan on trying to do my taxes and going to Old Essendon practice with Goodge. I'm still undecided as to what club I'm going to join after I finish up with the Bombers, so I've decided to start visiting each team’s training. 


1/21 Optus Oval Gets the Best of Me

Last night was great. I went out to Old Essendon's training. I'm sort of shopping around for an amateur club to play with this season. The guys at Old Essendon are very nice and seem excited about getting me. Apparently they are short a key forward in their firsts. I'm going to visit several others before I decide. After that, Goodge takes me up to play indoor footy with some of his buddies. This game is amazing. It's on a field that's the size of KC's field whenever we show up for a MAAFL game (it's all part of the rivalry - I’m only kidding). I would guess its 125m x 40m. It’s all netted in. No contact. I guess the best way to describe it is that it's kind of like ultimate frisbee but you can run up to 5 steps and a loose ball is live not a turnover. It was lots of fun. I hope to get up there to do it again.


Today, we were back out at Optus Oval. About ten minutes into practice we were doing a tackling drill. I copped a shoulder from Justin Murphy in the chin. I didn't even realize that I was bleeding. A few minutes later, I was covered in blood. They sent me down to the team doctors who cleaned me up and decided I needed stitches. I was pissed because I thought that meant a trip to the ER. Nope. Hold on while I pull the shots out of my bag to numb your chinny chin chin. Wha -- Bam! Twenty minutes and 5 stitches later I was back out on the field. Holdin’ it down for the Lou. Apparently, they did some good drills, but I missed most of them.


I made my way home for some PBJ's and then headed up to the club for the afternoon weights. We've got a big run early tomorrow, so it will be a very low key night.


1/22 Recovery My *@?!

This morning we had a "recovery" run... a 12K recovery run. I'm not sure what you recover from during a 12K. I got up at about 6:30am to start my walk over to Abernathy Park. It was a pretty nice area. There's this little river that runs down the middle of the park. We started out on our jog. About 4K into it, we hit our first set of hills. We stopped and did 8 sprints to the top. About 4K later in the jog, we did two short circuits around this dirt track. Basically its just one huge hill (maybe about 500m worth). Then we did the last 4K that had a few more hills intertwined. I swear that every time I turn around, we are staring up another hill. However, the pace is pretty slow, and the guys are increasingly impressed that I am able to keep up. Quinny (the head strength and conditioning coach) has arranged breakfast for us at some little joint on the water. It's fun to sit down with the whole team.


After catching a lift home, I shower up and head to St. Kilda to meet Jay Mueller for lunch. On the way, I have my headphones on, and I see these girls across from me talking. One of them says "like". I pull my headphones out and peg them as Americans. It turns out that they are on a short study stint from the University of Delaware. They happen to be heading to the same place for lunch. We meet up with Jay and his wife. It's nice to understand every word of the conversation.


After lunch, I split up with Jay and my new friends and head down to the beach. After doing a bit of reading, I decide to hit up the Espy for a couple of beers. It’s a great old bar. The people are great and the weather is fantastic. I end up hanging out with a table of locals for several hours - Great day. 


1/23 Lazy Day at the Beach

I woke up around 10am and ate some PBJ's for lunch. I then headed down to St. Kilda Beach. Goodge has started calling it my usual. I just really like that area. The beach isn't so nice, but there are usually lots of people out. I hung out on the beach reading all afternoon. It was really nice. I then hit up greasy Joe's for a burger. I've given up on the burgers here. They just aren't like home. After dinner, I hit the tram back up to Mooney Ponds and call it a day.


1/24 Stiff Competition

We split up into our weights groups for some speed work in the morning. We really focus on form running - running over the ground as opposed to on it or through it. Then we did a couple of agility drills where we ran a ladder, did a somersault and caught a ball. It was pretty funny to see everyone try to do somersaults. Quinny talked about how important agility is, and how it is going to become more of a focus as they get closer to the season. We then head in for a nutrition chat from the team nutritionist. It's pretty general, but he basically explained his roll on the team and how he will be helping them. He talked a lot about eating. Saying that you can diet and go down in skin folds, but you will also loose muscle.


After lunch, we lift. I find their weights a bit repetitious. I delicately state that I wonder if they could learn a lot from the US in that respect. Obviously, I'm no expert, but they don't put as much emphasis on it here as they do at home. After we’re done lifting from now on, we have to go out at kick goals from 5 spots - two shots per spot. The coaches record our results. The "stiff competition" bit comes from the fact that they put up these wooden men so that you had to kick over the mark. Pretty funny, but good practice. I'll send a picture of it tomorrow.


1/25 Optus and Hills

We start out at 9am on Optus Oval. I had to leave my house around 7am to catch a tram and then walk a ways. It is a good practice. We do more diagonal kicking (moving the ball around the ground) and then some pressure handballs. We end with 3 ten minute game type sessions. Each one is successively more "real", with the third being full on. We are prepping for a practice match on Saturday. Because of numbers, I spend the first two sessions on the bench. Sheedy called down during the third and got me in at full forward. I took a mark at about 45m, and I think I surprised everyone, especially my defender. They had kind of forgotten about me and I saw an opening. I went on a lead and Justin Murphy nailed me. It was great. Unfortunately, I blew the goal - just missed it by about 2 feet. I thought I had it. It came off my foot great, and I had plenty of distance. I was on an angle and just hooked it a touch. Everyone got a kick out of it. The most impressive part of the day is this "sitter" that Matty Lloyd took. It was unreal to see it up close. The poor defender (I won't name names) didn't have a chance. Matty just came in out of nowhere and got a lift on the defender's back.


We head back to the club for a drug presentation by the AFL doctors. On the way, there is an alcohol checkpoint. It's hilarious because it's 10:30am. I guess Australians really love their booze, no matter what time. The AFL and the Players Union have instituted a new policy on random performance enhancing drug testing. He spoke a lot about how the Balco bust has upgraded the technology of all drug testing labs. He then went into the new narcotics agreement. There is a lot about protecting the players’ privacy. The club won't even know about a positive test until the third time it happens. It's pretty interesting. Further, there are different suspensions after the third positive test depending on what drug it is. Marijuana brings half of the suspension all of the others get.


We then head home to rest up for the hills. It is getting really hot. I think that it's about 37C by the time we get to the hills. We go through our bounding routine, and then head up to the hills. We do the same track as before. The first one is for 3 min. Sprint up the hill (about 60m) and jog back down and around. The second set is for 4 min. Then 5 min. Quinny tells us that the last one will be just 3min. However, at the third minute, he calls out "Bonus Minute!" At the end of that minute, he does it again. Then he does it one last time. It seems brutal, but is actually a pretty cool idea. It gets you to put it all out there for "just one more minute" and then you have to find the strength to put it all out there again for "just one more minute". After that, I get a ride home with Bullen and call it a day. There's a pizza joint around the corner that has a $5 large carry out special on Tuesdays. It's great. I eat half and save the rest for tomorrow.



Today we had a pretty light day. We started with a crisp session at Windy Hill. We did most of the drills that we had been doing. Ball movement and kicking. Then we split up into two groups. One did tackling and the other kicked goals. In the tackling, we worked on form and not falling for the cut back. It was all done at half speed. In the goal kicking drill, they had 5 marks set up and you had to kick two from each. I hit 7 of 10. Not bad, but I still haven't fully adjusted to the windy part of Windy Hill. The ball rolls out of your hand on your drop if you're not careful. It was very hot.


After our session, we head in to hear a talk from the AFL CEO, Andrew Demetriou. He talked about the state of the league. He mentioned financial growth of the clubs, TV ratings, AusKick, etc. It was pretty cool to hear. He ended by giving the guys a heads up about the first six rounds of the 2006 season. Due to the Common Wealth games, the MCG will be unavailable for those first rounds. He was saying how they would try to play games out of state during that time. He also mentioned the possibility of playing international games. The guys brought up Las Vegas. Everyone had a good laugh. I then suggested to Mr. Demetriou that he look into St. Louis. I said that he didn't' have to decide right away, but we have a huge dome, and if they wanted to save some money, the guys could stay at my place. Everyone got a big kick out of the suggestion. 

After the meeting, I went to lunch with Matty Allen and Teddy Richards. I told Matty that he would be my favorite player this year because no one's favorite player is the ruckman. Next, we had a light weights session because of our game tomorrow. Later that night, I met up with Goodge and Ali for some Vietnamese dinner, and we watched Leyton Hewitt beat Andy Roddick. No one likes Hewitt, but everyone cheers for him like he's their favorite just because he's Australian. I tried to call it an early night, but the guys in my place were up being pretty rowdy.

1/29 Match Day

Today was supposed to be my last with the Dons. We had a practice match scheduled at Optus (Essendon old vs. young). I wasn't supposed to play much because while the coaches are impressed with me for an American, they've got to get their team ready for the season. Anyway, someone wasn't able to go, so I got the nod. Half forward pocket with Scotty Lucas at full forward. It was rainy and nasty, but it went really well. I took a couple of marks (one particularly good one), had a goal and distributed for several other goals. I think that everyone was shocked. Even the trainers were saying things like, "Where you been hiding all month?" Anyway, after the match in the locker room, they were thanking me for coming and saying goodbyes and such. Then Sheedy came up to me and pulled me aside. He asked why I had to leave. I told him that my scholarship was over. He introduced me to their recruitment director. A few minutes later Sheeds came back up to me and said, "You are to report to practice as normal Monday. You're not done with Essendon just yet. You've been playing all too well for that." I'm not really sure what that means, so I'm trying not to get too excited. Maybe I'll get a shot with Bendigo (their VFL team), or just a couple more weeks training with Essendon. Either way, I'm pumped. Apparently, Sheeds was up in the booth watching (he had his hip replaced and has been pretty absent from training - some of the guys told me this over lunch today). I took my first mark. He commented how that was a pretty special mark for January. then got confused because he didn't know who it was. The guys told him that it was the American, and he couldn't believe it. They said it was pretty funny.


1/30 Fear Not

For those of you out there in USFooty Land, I believe that I will continue my journal until I am no longer with Essendon. I guess that's pretty good.


Today the weather is amazing and I am thoroughly enjoying a lazy lazy day.


1/31-2/6 – The Guy's Name is “Bluey”???

I report to the club Monday morning as I was supposed to. The guys are surprised to see me. We go through regular sessions all week. Things are up in the air. I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to be doing. Coach Sheedy is very intent on me sticking around. The guys too are starting to take to me a bit. Teddy Richards found out about the journal and posted it on the wall of the change room. Fantastic. They are all now calling me “Bluey” in jest. Hopefully that wears off. In this week, it should be noted that some of the guys want their mention in the journal. Jay Nash in particular. I guess he wanted me to say that he gave me a ride at some point. Anyway, the week ends with a practice match. I get slotted in the full forward pocket. I took a mark from the afore mentioned Nashy and play on to score my teams first major of the game. After that, I don't do much else in the first half. I kind of get lost in the pocket. In the second half, I push up a bit more and get a few more possessions. I blew one mark at the end that would have been a sure second goal. Oh well.


2/7-2/12 – Adventures in Sydney

The team headed to Sydney this week. I stayed home in the rain. That is until Wednesday morning when it was still raining so I got online and bought a plane ticket to Sydney. I left a couple of hours later. It was fun. Sydney is a nice town, but it's a bit too touristy. I like Melbourne better. I did the Harbor Bridge climb, the opera house, botanical gardens, etc. I was staying in a hostile that I found by wandering. I was put in a room with 4 girls from Norway. They were great. I'm very glad I picked the hostile instead of a hotel. They got interested in "ozzie ball" so I brought them along to the game. The Bombers were playing the Swans on Friday night. We also met up with a friend of a friend of mine from the states. I, unfortunately, forgot my cell phone, so here four Norwegian girls and I are wandering outside of the North Sydney Cricket Oval asking every girl who is standing by herself if her name is Lindsey. Pretty amusing. When we finally find her, we head inside. The game is pretty sloppy, but the ground is amazing. I head out the next day. Glad to return to Melbourne.





- Christopher Carroll

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