Larry played for the Spargo Creek Football Netball Club in the reserves footy team.
He played for the team in his junior years and had always been a supporter. Later in life he pulled on the boots to help the team to make up numbers on occasions. Plus, he loved it.
The slap of leather, the muddy oval, the team spirit, all of it. At 60 years old, it was noted that he was in the fact the oldest player to have played for the club. This historic fact was quietly acknowledged before running out for what would be another gruelling encounter with Reefton.
But the word got around a bit, and a local sixty-and-a-half-year old with a few games under his belt liked the idea of receiving that accolade. So, he joined up.
Then, a sixty-one-year old, then a sixty-one-and-three-months old also signed up. This in turn led to some sixty-two-year olds and a sixty-four-year old also coming along. Then more.
The team experienced a resurgence in numbers. Now each week there was a bench. Anxious Saturday morning phone calls became a thing of the past, as did nervous glances at the change room doors to see who would or wouldn’t be a starter. Thanks to the ‘Oldies’.
However, the team’s success rate remained unchanged.
The new arrivals were initially welcomed, but before too long, they began to assert themselves in the selection process. With the benefit of their years, they worked it so that they were picked in the key positions down the spine. The Oldies had developed a bit of a monopoly. The ‘Youngies’ began to feel a bit put out.
But what began as an uncomfortable suspicion became a full blown issue when the Oldies began to basically just kick to their mates. Plumb leads from Youngies were ignored as Oldies picked out other Oldies to receive a kick in or a pass. Attempted pack marks by Youngies were thumped away by defensive Oldies and even out of the bounds on the full possessions were contested.
The Oldies had their reasons though: the Youngies lacked experience, they were undisciplined and were wasteful with the ball.
There was division in the team and it was coming to a head.
After a drubbing at home by Narraport, the drinks in the clubrooms afterwards were tense. You could feel it. The Youngies with their Great Northerns, the Oldies with their Coopers.
Eventually, the accusations started to fly. Fingers were pointed, voices were raised, sides were taken.
Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed. A sit down was urgently needed. A solution needed to be found. And so an experiment was proposed.
The Oldies would all start in the forward line and the Youngies in the back line. At the breaks, instead of changing ends, they’d stay where they were. Everyone got a fair go at the ball.
It was a coat hanger during a stoppage from a Killara half back on the oldest player in the clubs history that broke the situation.
Angry jumper punches couldn’t make up for the fact that the Oldies were just not that good at getting up after the don’t argues, the hard ball gets, the late shepherds, the hospital passes, the blocks, the falcons, the sling tackles, the man on mans, the ‘speckies’, being taken to ground, crashing the packs, the unrealistic leaps and the squirrel grips. Especially the squirrel grips.
But it was the sight of a mate being stretchered off brought about a change in the mindset of the Oldies. It is after all, a game played from the neck up, and this was really where the Oldies had a gift to share with the team.
And so it came to pass that the Oldies played a key role in the half time addresses and on field instruction. It was they who would direct the players to protect space at the spillages and to gain repeat entries through the fat side using a release player behind the stoppages.
Or, to play loose but stay accountable, as long as you tighten up on your man during a live ball between the arcs and forward of centre. Stay accountable… but don’t get sucked in, especially if you’re a spare player behind the ball because we’re getting killed by the uncontested ground ball get differential.
And most importantly, arch the back and use your leg speed in the exit zone as you work through traffic, especially in the dangerous part of the ground if the ball is in dispute. And you’ve got to lower your eyes and work the phone box to get speed on the ball and apply frontal pressure through the rolling zone clearances. This will open up the run and gun to break the lines via the corridor and then get some scoreboard nourishment through the big sticks.
The oldies excelled as master tacticians. Their sage contributions were duly noted. Harmony was restored at the club.
The team’s success rate however, remained unchanged.