2005 Macquarie Scholarship Journal

(scroll to the bottom for the latest Journal entry)


20 February, 2005


Wednesday was a crazy day. I packed my suitcases, said good-bye to friends and family and headed to the O’Hare airport. True to my luck with driving to the airport, the flurries forecasted for the day turned into a blizzard. But the snow did not stick so I was able to keep the van out of the ditch.


I flew from Chicago to San Francisco to Sydney. The trip lasted a total of 20 hours. On the way to Sydney I sat next to a girl who is also studying at Macquarie. We entertained ourselves by trying to predict what we would experience this semester. We ran into turbulence a couple of times and that spiced the flight up nicely. The plane would drop for a second or two before the pilot righted it.  It felt like my stomach was in my throat. The feeling beat that of any roller-coaster I have ever been on. 


Sydney welcomed us with a sunny, humid summer day. I met up with representatives from Macquarie University at the airport and they bussed the other students and me back to the university and our accommodations. My apartment feels like the lap of luxury. It has five rooms, each with their own bathroom and shower. There is a living room, dining room and kitchen. I was in bed by eight that night because my eyes refused to stay open and my neck muscles no longer wanted to hold my head up.


Our orientation group left Saturday afternoon for the Blue Mountains. About 70 international students were along for it and by the end of it I talked with just about all of them, though I can’t guarantee I would remember the names. We relaxed on Saturday and saved ourselves for a big Sunday, a hike into a canyon.


Throughout the night we heard the ominous pitter-patter of rain. Sunday dawned with a thick fog covering everything and a gentle drizzle that made the trees glisten. The advisors still decided to do the hike and we headed out for our three hour ordeal. We would be hiking into a canyon in the Blue Mountains and then back out the other side. The Blue Mountains themselves are similar to our Grand Canyon. But picture the Grand Canyon as a rain forest and that is what we were in.


The first half went smoothly. We headed down into the canyon and then along canyon walls, peering over the sides at our own risk. Fog hid the bottom so only our imaginations gave us an idea of how far down it was. Once we reached the floor of the canyon the trail weaved through what seemed like a natural obstacle course.  We jumped from stone to stone to cross streams. We clambered over boulders to follow the trail. And then we began our ascent.


As the hike wore on the weather continued to deteriorate. Lightning flashed across the sky, thunder rumbled its low warning, and the rain intensified ever so gradually. Holding onto a metal railing while standing in a giant puddle under a tall tree no longer seemed like a good idea. We quickened our pace.


With about ten minutes of the hike remaining the heavens let loose. Rain fell with an intensity I have rarely felt. In minutes we were all soaked to the bone. The steps cut into the rock we were walking up on soon became a river. The signs we had read earlier, “Beware of flash floods,” did not seem so funny now.


We made it to the top though, and we were all in one piece. We boarded the bus wet and miserable with discomfort, but in high spirits. We had tasted Mother Nature Australian style.  We were hooked.


Week of February 23


I have officially survived my first full week in Australia: steered clear of poisonous snakes and spiders, survived footy practice, and am tolerating the constant partying of the American students. I can only take so many stories of how drunk they were at two in the afternoon.


I have settled into my apartment and all my roommates have moved in: three girls and one guy. Classes start the 28th of February, and although I do not have the schedule I want, I will have it by the end of the week. So over the next few days I will be meeting with professors, trying to figure out which classes I am eligible for. But last week is what’s interesting, my first practice, so I will stop boring you with the present.


I did not know what to expect at my first practice with the Kookaburras. Would the team receive me well and would I perform up to par? These questions bounced around in my head as I ran to practice trying to control the fluttering butterflies in my stomach. But in the end, I had very little to worry about, except my own clumsiness.


Throughout practice I introduced myself to the 20 or so players. They were very open and receptive, and helped me when I needed it. The first half of practice was devoted to fitness. We incorporated kicking and handballing into running drills. Sprint 10 meters, turn around, kick or handball, then sprint back. We did it in groups of three so there was not much time for rest in between. After about five minutes of that I thought I was going to throw up (or boot, as the Australians would say). I will blame my lack of fitness on the jet lag. Right.


After doing that drill for a half an hour we moved to a different running drill. The trainer set up seven cones about seven or eight meters apart. As a group we ran to the first cone, turned around, ran back to the line, touched it and then ran to the second cone, back, third cone and so on. After one run through, the trainer split us up into two groups. The group I was in had to run to every cone and the other group only had to run to every other one. We did this three more times. At the end of each one the trainer took the slowest guys from our group and sent them to the other group. We still had to run to every cone and the other group only every other. For the life of me I could not understand why the faster runners were being punished and made to run more. I am finding out that everything in Australia is flipped around: the seasons, driving on the left, and now their reward system. It is all so overwhelming.


During the second half of practice we worked on our skills: kicking, handballing, and tactics. I met the club president halfway through the session. He asked me how I was going and I replied ok. He told me how surprised he had been with last year’s scholarship recipient, Justin Valley. He could not only mark, he could kick well too. Oh great, I thought, I have shoes to fill.


Feeling the pressure, I ran back out to join the drill. From then on I didn’t do one thing right. I dropped 90 percent of the balls that came my way and shanked most of my kicks. When I was wondering how it could get any worse, I got my answer. Right at the end of practice I was going up for a mark. My hands were slippery with sweat so the ball cruised right through them and hit me square in the face. The icing on the cake. As I ran the ball back across the field, wiping the tears out of my eyes from my insulted nose, I silently prayed no one had seen my embarrassing blunder. But if anyone did, no one had the heart to say anything. I survived the practice with some self esteem in reserve but Thursday’s practice presented its own unique challenge – learning names.


More players attended Thursday’s practice, bringing the number closer to thirty. Let the name game begin. I am normally good with names but here in Australia it is yet again different. They don’t like to call each other by their real names. Instead they prefer nicknames such as Smiley, Slug, Hash, Buster, Wiz, Rowdy, Monster, String, Feisty and so on. What makes it more confusing is the accent. I still don’t know if one guy is called Spider or Spotter, they sound too similar. And in my intense concentration to learn everyone’s name, I would introduce myself to the same person multiple times. No one seemed to mind though. The club president, Jez, was even kind enough to give me my very own nickname, Cheesehead. Ahh, the joys of being a Wisconsinite.


March 2, 2005


In the weeks and months leading up to my arrival in Sydney, I searched the Internet for pictures of Macquarie University. I found none. That made me a little nervous. I feel that the aesthetics of a campus contribute a lot to students’ mood and desire to learn. In other words, I did not want to study in a concrete jungle.


I was on the shuttle bus from the airport the first time I saw the campus. What jumped out at me was how green and plush the trees, shrubs, and grass were. I come from Wisconsin where there are only three dominant colours at this time of year: grey, grey, and grey. So any green would have impressed me but this was something totally different. It seemed like there were rainforests on all sides.


When I turned out the lights that first night it really did sound like a jungle outside. There are many different types of birds inhabiting the trees in our apartment complex, Macquarie University Village. I woke up with a start at four in the morning because I thought there was a little kid screaming his head off outside my window. It was the kind of scream you hear in the grocery store when a mother doesn’t let the kid have the toy he wants. It took me a moment to realize it was a bird. It is uncanny how human it sounded.


The Village is on top of a hill that gradually slopes down onto campus. In the distance I have a partial view of the Sydney skyline and all the lush forests that abound in the area. On my way to the library in the center of campus I walk through a stand of Eucalyptus trees. The first few times I walked through it, I was quite paranoid. I thought a snake or spider would be lying in wait to bite me. So far my luck has held. As I emerge from the Eucalyptus trees there is a lake about 100 meters to my left as well as a small game preserve. About forty percent of campus is made up of green fields dotted here and there with tall Eucalyptus trees. Buildings and car parks dominate the rest of campus but it all goes together very well.


I felt quite at home on this campus in the first week and now that it is filled with students, it is even better. Out of the 27,000 students that attend Macquarie University, about 7,500 of them are international students. The diversity is incredible. It is our own little United Nations.


We are located about a half an hour from downtown Sydney. Across the street from the university is a gargantuan shopping mall with over four stories. If I walk more than 100 meters into the mall, I get lost. There is also a grocery store on the other side of campus so I never have to go far for anything I need.


I am taking two classes and doing an internship during this semester as well as playing for the Kookaburras. My history class, the Making of Australia, is a lecture of about 200 students. My German conversation course is only five people. I get the best of both worlds.


March 12, 2005


Even this early in the season we have had to work through our fair share of bumps and bruises, sore muscles, and even a little lightning. Our concentration on fitness and skills is beginning to pay off. Handballs are coming easier and communication is improving.  With each drop of sweat and each helping hand-up we are becoming more and more of a team.


On Saturday we headed down to Canberra for our second practice match of the season.  We were facing another military team.  This time around, it was a Navy team.  When we came out to warm up around 1:30 p.m. the sun was blazing away and there was not a cloud in the sky.  The only relief we got from the heat was a light breeze.


We started the game off slow and tentative and by half time we were down by 12 points.  We rallied in the second half and ended up beating them by seven points.  As a result, I got to hear our club song for the first time.  Being in that circle of players and seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces made the whole game worth it.  Although the game went well for the team it was not so generous to me.  After two minutes in the game I ran off to get the blister on my right heel taped. My boots were rubbing it raw and I could barely run.  With that fixed I trotted back on the field to get in on the action.  I got a couple of touches in the first quarter as well as a mark.  Shortly into the second quarter the ball came my way for the last time.  I scooped it up, heard a team mate call for it and I popped off a handball.  An opponent hit me just as I disposed of the ball.  My momentum was already carrying me forward into the ground.  My right arm was laid out across my body.  He hit me on the left side and slammed me into the ground directly on my right shoulder.  There was a crunch and a sickening pop.  He had heard it too and wasted no time getting off me.  One of my team mates ran over yelling at me to get up.  Impatient he reached down, grabbed my right hand and pulled me up.  That brought me back to reality pretty quick.  I began to make my way over to the sideline for the second time that day, to the dismay of my team mates.  After yelling my position to the substitute player I walked behind our bench and sat down in the shade.  Nobody seemed to notice my injury except one other player who could do nothing but give me water.  I wallowed in self-pity for about five minutes before I noticed one of the players getting ice for his ankle from Dan, our team secretary.  “Dan, could I please get some ice too.”  Looking at me he asked, “Why do you need ice?”  “Ahh, I can’t lift my right arm.”  He immediately shot back, “Perhaps you should have prefaced ‘I would like some ice’ with ‘I can’t lift my arm.’”  True, but at least I had his attention.  In a few minutes the pain was subsiding to a gentle numbness as the bag of ice did its job.  At half time some other players took interest in my injury.  Many had had similar injuries and figured they could help.  “Well, if the shoulder is out, we will have to pop it back in.”  Hmm, sounds delightful.  He rolled up a towel and put it under my armpit. Standing on my left side, he reached around in a bear hug like position and squeezed my arm against my body.  Something moved but it did not feel too good.  Perhaps to stop further experimentation the club president, Jez, took me to the hospital.  We went to the emergency in the town of Queanbeyan, just outside of Canberra. The waiting room was full when we walked in. Jez saved us a long wait when he announced that I had a possible dislocated shoulder.  We moved to the front of the line.  In minutes the doctor was checking me out in a side room.  The verdict: my AC joint had popped out.  He gave me an anti-inflammatory and sent me on my way. We made it back to the game with about five minutes left.  After the game, we had some drinks with the other team.  Drinking was not the smartest thing to do but I got to re-live the hit with the fellow who planted me and all was forgiven.  Sort of.  It has been two days since my injury and I am on the road to recovery.  I saw the physio today and he said that if I was to have an injury this was the best one to have.  A dislocated shoulder and my season would have been over.  A broken collarbone would have resulted in a similar outcome.  But with the AC joint, I will be back for our first game in April.  And if physical therapy goes well, I will be training as early as next week.  Since I will not be practicing this week, I am thinking about learning how to avoid getting hit so hard.  If you have any pointers, let me know.    


March 19-20, 2005


The Macquarie University Sports Association’s award banquet took place Saturday evening in the Olympic Park at the Superdome. Wrighty, a club member, picked me up at 6 p.m. He was wearing a suit. I on the other hand had on blue jeans, my red Milwaukee Bombers polo and a black jacket. But Wrighty assured me that I would be ok in that and off we went.


We dropped the car at the train station and then jumped on a train to the park. Neither of us had been to the Superdome. When we got out of the train station, we stopped to get our bearings. We were directly in front of Telstra Stadium, where the Sydney Swans play. To our left was a sign for the Superdome so we began to walk.


I took the time to take in the sights of the stadium: large, white, lots of concrete, but pretty nonetheless. We kept following the signs and before we knew it we had walked all the way around the stadium. Much to our dismay a simple right out of the train station would have landed us right in front of the Superdome.


With our sightseeing adventure over, we walked in for some pre-dinner drinks. There were waiters ready with trays of beer, wine and soda. Being the responsible representative of USFooty that I am, I opted for a soda.


The hall we were in quickly filled up with the guests. I could barely move because of the crush of men in tuxedos and the women in evening gowns. The noise level also rose and made conversation difficult.  Soon enough we headed into the main room for dinner. I must admit I was a bit relieved. Because of my attire, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Out of the crowd of 400 I was the only one wearing jeans. A bold statement if I do say so myself.


Dinner was three courses and quite delicious. The only problem was they spread it out through the three-hour ceremony. Two Kookaburras were up for awards but only one received one.  During the main course we were treated to some unannounced entertainment. The manager of the hotel stood at the microphone to say that if anyone had left a silver purse in the men’s bathroom, come see him. We had to laugh at his accent and his presentation.  It was as if he were trying to entertain us.


A short time later he got up again and belted out an opera piece flawlessly. He brushed it off saying someone had bet him 50 dollars to do it.  Soon after, a French waiter was standing in front of the microphone singing more opera.  He too brushed it off as a 100 dollar bet.  In no time the manager and waiter were running between the tables trying to capture the audience’s attention and sing better than the other. The room was divided into an Italian side, si si, and a French side, oui oui.  Just when they decided to bury the hatchet and sing together a third waiter arrived on the scene, this time Australian, and began singing.  All three of them joined together and sang a few more pieces.  The “Italian” confessed at the end that he was really Australian.  The “Frenchman” also made it known that he was Australian.  And it turned out the “Australian” was really Scottish.  How confusing. They are known as “The Three Waiters” and perform world-wide.


The guest speaker was equally as interesting.  He goes by the name of Ric Charlesworth.  He seems to have done it all in his life.  He played cricket professionally, then went on to announce cricket.  When he became bored with that he became a doctor of medicine. Somewhere along the line he served ten years in parliament and in 1996 he coached the Australian Women’s Hockey team to a gold medal in Atlanta. Not bad.  Not only was he informative and funny, but his speech was short.  We could not have asked for more.  All in all it was a successful evening.  I got to spend time with team mates and experience a different side of the university.  I also received my fair share of looks of disdain from sophisticated gentleman in their lovely tuxedos.  They didn’t like the statement my jeans were making.


On Sunday we had our second to last scrimmage before the regular season.  We played a team in the league above us.  Our second squad was beat pretty badly but it was nowhere near the destruction our first squad faced.  When the dust settled we had one player out with a concussion, and the other 17 barely able to move.  The score was 225 to 16.  From the first whistle the opposing team was able to pound it down the field and score at will.  To the Kookaburra player’s credit, they never gave up.  Everyone ran hard and played a very physical game.  But West is a league ahead of us and they are paid to play. Through it all, the Kookas kept their heads high.  If nothing else, the loss brought the team closer together.

April 2, 2005

To my disappointment my first two practices back had only light fitness work. I couldn’t do much else because of my shoulder so I was sidelined for the other drills. So before Tuesday’s practice when I ran into Justin, the fitness trainer, I voiced my concern over lack of running in the recent week, selfishly hoping for more.

We did our warm-up jog around the oval and then Justin lined us up by the goal posts. We were to run the 160 meters to the other goal posts. We jogged the first third, sprinted the middle and settled back into a jog for the last third. We did that about four times. Next we sprinted the first half and jogged the second half. Soon we had reversed what we were first doing. We sprinted the first third, jogged the middle and then sprinted to the end. After running the field at least ten times at varying speeds we began a handball exercise across the field to cool down. But we weren’t done. He had us toeing the line again and in no time we were sprinting the entire length of the field. As soon as everyone crossed the line, we went again, and again, and again. Four times we sprinted the length of the field. People were just about crawling across the line with that last one and more than a few of us were feeling a little queasy. That finished the fitness and we gingerly moved into the skills section of practice.

Creaking to class the next day I discussed with myself why I shouldn’t open my mouth any more. I had a new appreciation for the phrase, “be careful what you wish for.” On the bright side, the team’s fitness is improving.

Lucky for us we did not have practice on Thursday. Instead we met at our sponsor’s, The Epping Hotel. It was fundraiser night and that meant player auction. We the players were divided up into 16 lots of equal talent. Each lot would get up on stage and the audience would bid on them. Whoever bought the lot owned the players for the season. That is, whenever one of those players gets a best on ground, the owner gets 50 dollars, no matter what grade they play in. If the player wins best and fairest for the year, the owner gets a 1,500 dollar cash prize. Not bad.
The bidders were mostly players and there were quite a few big spenders. The second lot went for 750 dollars, the highest bid of the night. The auction total was close to 6,000 dollars, 1,500 of which is pure profit for the club.

The auction was followed closely with the comic performance of Mr. Methane. He has the unique ability to sing from both ends. Needless to say I was not in the mood to be serenaded by someone’s bum so I headed home.

Saturday was the last preseason game. Once again we were playing a semi pro team a league up from us, Pennant Hills. There were a few wisps of cloud in the sky but nothing substantial enough to block the scorching rays of the sun. The mercury was hovering just below 90 degrees.
Second grade played first. They started slow and went down six goals. For the rest of the game they tried to claw their way back but in the end could not close the gap. It was a physical game that looked much closer than the score showed. The coaches were very pleased with the performance. Second grade had worked together as a team, moved the ball well and improved their communication.

First grade stepped onto the field around 2 p.m. I ran water for the guys and after ten minutes they were about to collapse. The game started off physical and they were sweating gallons. They got their legs under them after the first quarter and kept going strong all the way to the end. They lost by fifty points but the improvement from two weeks ago was immense. The Kookas stayed with them physically and at times showed great ability in moving the ball down the field. Once again the coaches had no complaints, the team had performed exactly as they had hoped.
With two very difficult games behind us we are heading to Penrith April 9th for our first game of the season. With a heavy tape job I will be playing in the second grade. I have spent the last three weeks watching and waiting for my chance to get back out there. It has seemed like an eternity, and I am definitely hungry for the footy.


April 9, 2005

The game was wild and unpredictable. Injuries ravaged both the first team and the reserves. For the Macquarie Kookaburras, the first game of the regular season is one better forgotten.
We were playing the Penrith Rams in Penrith, a 40-minute drive from the university but still technically part of Sydney. I carpooled with two team-mates and we reached the ground at 11 a.m., one hour before the reserve game that would be my debut.
The temperature was in the mid 80s and there was not a cloud in the scorching blue sky. Already in warm-ups we were sweating out as much water as we were drinking. But I had to get used to the heat, I was playing wing.
The game started off slow for the Kookas. We went two goals down after losing successive battles in the centre square. Half way through the first quarter we found ourselves and started clicking as a team. We moved the ball well down the field, the forwards made great marks and their kicks on goal were for the most part accurate.
I worried about my shoulder for the first quarter of the game. With the tape job I felt like I was wearing a shoulder pad, so my worries as the game progressed became less and less. By third quarter time I was jumping into contests without thinking about it.
After getting a feel for the flow of the game I was able to get myself in the right position a couple of times after the centre bounce to clear the ball to our forwards. Both times my kick found our forward Jules.
Jules was having a stand out day. By third quarter time he had kicked about five or six goals and taken some very good marks. He was going for a ball on the ground sometime in the fourth when a Ram slid in slamming his knee into Jules’ shoulder. It took Jules a minute to get up after the hit but when he did he kicked another goal from about 20 meters out. He immediately left the field clutching his arm to his side. X-rays at the hospital showed he broke his collarbone. He is out for ten weeks.
At third quarter time we were leading by about 30 points but the tide began to turn. After the horn sounded, a brawl broke out on the field. About 10 guys were punching and slamming each other to the ground. It took all the umpires and many players to break the fight up, the second of the day.
When the fourth quarter began we did not come to play like we did in the second and third quarters. The Rams edged back into the game and beat us 98 to 90.
The first grade team took the field at 2 p.m. and they did not fare any better. One of our players went down early in the game and had to be carried off the field in a stretcher. That night he underwent surgery to have a metal plate and three screws put into his ankle to set the bad break. He will be out for at least 14 weeks.
Another player pulled up halfway through the game with a pulled hamstring and was sidelined for the rest of the game. Besides those three there were many minor injuries and cuts that kept the trainers busy. They probably ran as much as we did after it was all said and done.
Our third grade team played the Nor West Jets across town but could not come away with a victory either. It was a rocky start to the season and we lost two very good players to injury. This week in practice we are going to concentrate on the good from the weekend and try to put the bad behind us. We have a bye this weekend.

April 20, 2005

My easy semester abroad has not turned out to be all that easy. I am only taking two classes but they have given me more work than I anticipated. German requires much of my attention. The grammar exercises and readings cannot be brushed aside. History of Australia is no slacker class either. There is plenty of reading for that as well as essays to write. To add to those I have my internship at least ten hours a week. Each one individually doesn’t seem like much but add them together and it is one big headache.
I wake up at 7 a.m. every day, eat breakfast and then head to the library or my internship. I stay on campus all day and return home around 9 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I get to call it an early night and go to practice at 6:30 p.m.
Two weeks ago, it was crunch time. I had papers due in my classes and I was putting out my first newsletter for the Silver Kookas, the Kooka Kamp. That is my internship, tracking down former players and writing a newsletter for them. That week I had to write four articles and do their respective interviews. I spent around 20 hours at the office. After that I needed a break from uni and from my internship, maybe even a vacation.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been so rash with my choice of stress reliever.

I am standing on a platform, my heels hanging over the edge. Beneath them stretches a canyon, maybe 200 meters down. At the bottom are jagged boulders softened by a striking blue river and foamy white rapids. My knees begin to shake. “Ok, go ahead and look to your right,” a voice said. “Yup, that is a canyon wall, if the wind catches you wrong-splat.” My knees shake even more. He turned to his companion, “Hey, did we hook that harness up right? It looks weird.” That is not at all what I want to hear. I am literally tottering on the edge of the platform, about to bungy jump 134 meters. He pulls me back in and lets me get my balance. “Ok,” he says, “Jump!” “Jump?” “Jump.” “Right now?” “Yup! Right now.” So with a deep breath and the fleeting question, why the hell am I doing this?, I jump. The free fall lasts only three seconds. Relief floods over me as I feel the bungy pull and gently bring me back up. Then exhilaration sets in. I want to do it again.

That was at Shotover Canyon in Queenstown, New Zealand for my semester one break with three friends. We had been planning the trip for over a month but we had decided to do this hair-raising adventure only two days before. It was a good decision. I did end up jumping once more, this time face first so I could watch the canyon floor rush up to meet me.
As a stress reliever I give bungy jumping a ten. In fact I used up so much adrenaline, it took everything out of me, I could barely function the rest of the day.
I spent a total of ten days in New Zealand and loved each one of them. Besides bungy jumping, we did a fair bit of hiking and sightseeing, and did a bit of luge. I am now back at Macquarie, ready to get a head start on the second half of the semester. Our semester break lasts two weeks so that means I have one week to buckle down and get papers written and speeches prepared. This Saturday will be my second regular season game. My shoulder has come a long way and once again I am ready to jump back into footy.

April 30, 2005

My first game back from semester break proved to be a good one. We travelled to Gibbs Oval to take on Parramatta. Checking the weather forecast a few days before, I was relieved to see it would be overcast with a chance of rain.
But when we arrived at the oval at 11 a.m. on Saturday there was not a cloud in the sky. Looking at the field it was more dirt than grass. During the games, a cloud of dust followed the action all over the field. Later in the afternoon with the sun low on the horizon, it painted a majestic picture as the players were silhouetted in the dust.
Running onto the field at noon to play wing, I commented to my opponent that at least we had a breeze to cool us down. Then the game began. Five minutes into the game I marked the ball about eight meters from the goal. I felt sure I was going to miss it but luck was on my side, I split the uprights. We were the first to get on the scoreboard and that opened it up for the rest of the quarter. We cleared the ball out of the centre the majority of the bounces and moved it down the field with the kick, handpass, kick combination. I kicked my second and last goal at the end of the first quarter and it was from the side on the run. Those were my first goals in Australia.
At the beginning of the second quarter I apologized to my opponent for the earlier comment of “at least we had a breeze.” There was no breeze and everyone was covered in a layer of dust that thickened every quarter.
Besides the wing, I played in the centre and got experience clearing the ball. I had trouble finding targets down field. The ball would be kicked back to the middle 80 percent of the time. I was being too rash with my kicks, not allowing the centre-half forward to make a good lead. But some times I just didn’t have time to wait. One of the downsides to getting the ball a lot is then you get hit a lot. By the end of the game I was very well acquainted with that hard and unforgiving ground.
Although the Kookaburras led the whole game Parramatta never let it get out of control. In the third quarter they made their biggest rally and almost succeeded in taking the lead. But we came roaring back in the fourth and finished seven goals ahead.
The firsts took the field at 2 p.m. If anything the sun was even more relentless but they adapted well. They too led most of the game and in the end won by a couple of goals. There were very few injuries on the day and the wins improved the first and reserve grade’s records to two and one.
On Sunday I played with the third grade side but was nowhere near as successful as I was Saturday. In the opening five minutes I took a hit to my bad shoulder that decommissioned it for the rest of the game. I played on though and in the second quarter I took a knee to the back that rendered my left leg useless. I stayed in the third quarter but did not help the team at all. I sat out the fourth to prevent more damage. We ended up losing by 11 goals but it was a very good performance. Many of the guys on the third team were playing their first year of footy. They are developing skills and getting a feel for the strategy of the game. We worked well moving the ball and although the talk on the field was quiet at times, it did improve as the game went on.
This weekend we are facing the University of Technology Sydney, they are going to be our toughest opponent yet. The game will be at the Roger Sheeran Oval, home field, and with a good week of practice, we will be ready for them.

May 7

It was a quiet week for me at Uni. I had one assignment due and I only put in a few hours at my internship. That meant I had a lot of time to relax and more importantly ice my leg. I have a corked thigh from last week which does not want to go away. The weather has been unseasonably warm. We are heading into the fall but the temperature has stayed in the 70s and 80s. I spent a good amount of time reading outside.

As a result of my thigh, I could not practice on Tuesday. Thursday was a different story but I had to grit my teeth through a few drills. I was unsure whether to play against the University of Technology Sydney but after being called soft, my decision was made.
We had weak numbers show up to practice and that was compounded by the fact that 20 players were already out due to injury. We could only field two teams on Saturday. The lack of participation in practice came back to haunt us during the game.

Saturday’s weather was a welcome change for me. It was cloudy and 50 degrees, perfect to play in. I had to laugh at some of my team-mates because they were shivering uncontrollably as a result of “the cold.” The reserves played first but did not fare well. The final score was around 179 to 0, UTS.
The first grade took the field at 2 p.m., hoping to have a better go at UTS than the reserves.
UTS was at the top of the ladder in our division heading into the game. They had everything to lose and we had everything to gain. But fate was not on our side.
UTS won the first bounce. In 10 seconds they had cleared the ball to their forward line, marked it and kicked a goal. Two minutes later they had scored another goal and one behind. The Kookaburras showed some life and tied up the game but it was the last goal we scored. They out marked us. They moved the ball fluidly. We could not do either of those. 
Considering all that we were still very much in the game, for the first half at least. Fifty meter penalty upon 50 meter penalty broke our back. Nine of their goals were a result of penalties. After half time UTS walked away with the game. It seemed as if they could score at will. The final score read something like 180-16.
Besides getting destroyed in the points category it was a fun game. It was also the hardest hitting I had ever seen. We are not a big team but we were getting three guys in on tackles, wrapping up and slamming to the ground.

I was starting on the bench. After getting over the initial shock of seeing my black, blue and yellow side, the trainer thought it would be best to try to massage the muscle right before I went out on the field. It worked; the pain was less and I had more mobility. The coach gave me the nod for wing ten minutes into the game. I just had to avoid getting hit on my left side, and somehow I did.
I am still learning strategy so I was all over the field. At one point my opponent told me to stop running so much. I made mistakes I shouldn’t have made: running off my mark and getting tackled, and kicking into a pack dominantly UTS. I also tend to tense up and take tackles instead of trying to stiff arm or cut away.

Playing in first grade showed me how far my skills have to go, kicking in particular. There were times where I turned the ball over because I didn’t kick with my left.
Knowing what is wrong is easy, the hard part will be correcting the mistakes and improving my skills.


- James Brunmeier

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