With a re-scheduled game and an opponent that couldn’t field a full team in the first two weeks, our season had started with more stutters than ScumMo’s election campaign. So round three felt kind of like the start of the season.
Like most of the Beachside team, I hadn’t played for a while so was unsure how the body would hold up and how much touch I might have lost.
Phoenix looked by far the better prepared and more organised, and had a big squad changed and out on the ground warming up well before Beachside emerged from the change rooms still discussing positions in the final minutes before kick-off.
I actually haven’t seen a game of soccer live since Tony Abbott was promising to sit on the backbench without sniping and undermining his successor (must have been another non-core promise), but I finally got the chance last weekend and really enjoyed it. Games between Taroona and Beachside have a history of being closely fought, so I was optimistic as I arrived at Sandown Park under low clouds that were as grey as the AFL’s new third man up rule.
Beachside pressed from the start and did all the attacking in the first few minutes. As early as the first minute, Whitehall won a corner and Fisher’s header went narrowly wide. Beachside kept up the pressure and it was another corner- taken quickly to Whitehall at the edge of the box- that opened the scoring when Pearce won the header and knocked it past the keeper to give his side the lead.
After a tough first game, the omens were better for week 2. It was a beautiful warm day and the sky was as clear as Bieber’s complexion (and presumably much clearer than his conscience). Coach Walker had assembled an impressive squad of skilled and athletic young players who were warming up on the bottom field. There were also two much older players who seemed as out of place in the youthful team as Germaine Greer’s tasteless attempt to link the Bali 9 executions to the incredibly tacky Free the Nipple campaign (which, let’s be honest, is just a new way of trying to justify exhibitionism and attention-seeking).
I was pretty happy with my timing, rocking up in time for the end of the warm up, but not so late as to start on the bench. I had had some major dental work during the week and was battling some gastric issues on the day, but the positive energy of the playing group was infectious and by the time the whistle blew for the start of the game I was pumped.
For a winter sport, the Tasmanian soccer season throws up perfect days like much more often than you might expect. The sun was out and the only cloud on the horizon was the fact that there will be another episode of Married at First Sight.
As usual, I arrived too late for any kind of warm-up (perfect timing) so just went with a quick stretch and half a tube of deep heat (also known as the fat man’s warm-up).
The Cookie Monster was a bit of a doubtful starter, but luckily he handles the mantle of leadership better than Kim Booth. He wasn't going to sit on the sidelines eating organic quinoa salad (they don't call him the salad monster- also I don’t mean to imply that Kim Booth eats quinoa either) that had been prepared by someone who hadn’t seen meat for two days and paying little attention to the performance of his team. He was here to lead and that was what he did- continuing to yell instructions (which were often ignored respectfully) and encouragement to his team members, before coming on and playing out the majority of the game.
Yet another cracking winter Sunday dawned. I assume it must have anyway, as I was still asleep, but it was still beautiful when I got woke up, which was only about an hour before the game. After a dry week, the ground looked in pretty good condition too. Even though Dark Mofo was also in full swing, it wasn’t all good news, as the team had more absentees than a meeting of FIFA’s executive branch.
The Sandown Ranger obviously realised I was running out of original Chuck Norris jokes and took pity on me by feigning an injury (although no one really believed it was possible for him to be injured). The Tominator was away wining and dining the Governor of Tasmania, while Crumbs, The Boss, Mr Lineker and TV Week were all out too.
There was also some good news on the personnel front. The Beachside Originals were bolstered by the return of the H-bomb and the youthful Billy the Kid. We also were glad to see one of the better refs in our division walking out the centre circle to start proceedings. Some of our recent referees have seemed to understand the rules of soccer about as well as Joe Hockey understands low income Australia, so it was a relief to see Chris turn up to officiate.
The Friday Night lights summoned the masses to the Tropicana Cauldron for The Boss’ birthday and a match between The Beachside Originals and South East United, which gave the birthday boy a chance to relive his Glory days. I looked up before the game and I was Blinded by the Light, but away from the ground there was Darkness at the edge of town. Check out all these Springsteen references in honour of the Boss’ birthday- I’m on fire! Despite the recent winter solstice, it was a calm and mild night, although rain from earlier in the week left the ground a bit soft underfoot.
Supporters were out in force, with representatives of the new-look Beachside committee, including the Hoff and the Bomb squad, keeping an eye on proceedings. The senior squad was also represented, with The Bad Seid planting himself near halfway alongside Lutters, where they could be heard throughout the match.
The Chad had also brought his own cheer squad, consisting of The Perfect 10, Cap'n Sam, The Delightful Baker, Mr and Mrs Smith. The whole cheer squad could only be described as #distractingly sexy (and loud). This would prove to be an extra challenge for the players, as Tim Hunt has already made it clear that if you can’t concentrate around women, it isn’t your fault. Despite the flack he has copped for his comments on the problems of working around women, the Nobel laureate was at least partially vindicated, with several players falling in love by the end of the game.
The morning began as frosty and unfriendly as the welcome for Gillian Triggs would be at a Liberal Party function, although by the time the game was due to start, the sun had begun to come out with the same sheepishness as Ian Thorpe.
The Originals were still missing Mr Lineker and JC was also absent. Knowing that JC would not be there to save us was tough for the devout amongst us, but we were bolstered by some reinforcements. Joining the Originals this week were the Gasman (who actually showed up early, which is almost unheard of for any gasman in my experience), The HJ Holden and Ryan Thurleg or Thurdleg (I never saw the team sheet and I’m just gonna call him the Tripod from now on anyway). FFT were also a little underprepared for the game and had been unable to organise a ref, so Beachside club stalwart and all round nice guy, The Hoff, came along to take control of proceedings.