Football in Two Halves: First Half

You know those defining moments you see in teenage sporting movies where, against all odds and all logic, the team is inspired by a single act in a losing game to turn it into victory? It is a common trope, the rise of the weak against the strong; the lucky versus genuine skill. These miracle rallies are so rare cynics doubt their very existence or worth.

But it happened to me.

I was young and weak, and could only be typecast as the dweeb of very little worth. If I was in a movie I would be Goldberg, the goalie in Mighty Ducks, or the early Rocky Balboa. Unfortunately, I exist in reality, and faced a harlequin fantasy. I was dictated to by natural selection rather than luck throughout most of my Rugby League career.

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I was structurally unstable, all height with a big head. Built to fall, my team mates called me E.T. I was not made for footy. Combining this with an early attachment to being a pacifist and a coward, I avoided giving and receiving pain as much as consciously possible. The most apt use for me in the team was not a position but a punch line.

But I still had that moment.

It is a beautiful, crystallising episode in my memory. My brain filed it under “Important Life Events” and pieced together a perfect picture. The smell of damp grass filled my nostrils and my hands were cold from lack of use. I was playing Fullback, functioning as an unreliable tackle they took me out of the forward defence altogether and put me as the last line. We were losing to a team of grunting orcs, and even though this was Under 15s they should have checked birth certificates. Our team was downtrodden by both our opponents and the score: 36-0. The first half wasn’t even over. We were struggling to make it when one of their forwards busted through our ranks and steam rolled towards me.

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And I had that moment.

Instead of running around me he arrogantly tried to run over me, and some ingrained sense of defiance sprang up from a hidden well. With strength I didn’t know I had I cleaved him in two, cutting him down with a brutal tackle. The siren went off and so did we.

The team was pumped, the coach was proud, “You see that boys, if he can do it so can you. Don’t be afraid of them. If they hit you hit them harder. We can win!” With a mighty roar we ran back on.

I am not sure if it was my single defiant act or the coaches rousing speech but in the second half we put our heads together, worked hard and as a result they didn’t score as much. The final score was 56-0.

But I had that moment.

 – By Mitch Firman

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