A new game*
�3 minutes left on the clock, Souths press the Manly tryline. Waves of red and green pound the maroon defenders. They buckle and reform. The ball�s spun from five-eighth to Rabbitoh full back chiming in-between the centres. The S�Eagles stretch, and finally, the valiant defenders snap under the pressure. TRY !�
�OK, Jimmy, put �em up - kick for goal.�
The 1972 year 8 desktop footy match final had been underway for nearly 7 minutes. Twenty 12 to 14 year old boys crowded around a small, scratched and battered desk watching two boys flick a little piece of paper folded into a triangle, wrapped in stickytape, backwards and forwards trying to touch the edge of the desk (tryline). The boy who�d lost the preliminary final called the match. Souths led 18 -13. �Manly� went on to win by 23 � 18.
The boys peeled off, most went their way, the Manly player pocketed the winning match ball, the Souths player bemoaned the use of stickytape that caused the ball to slide over the deadball line time and time again in the final minutes whilst the Manly player finally found his range, the last try teetering on the edge, the crowd as one holding its breath.
A couple of younger boys, 12 years or so, sat down to play.
Before computers and playstations, before the NRL video games, before gameboys and electronic toys, even before many people had colour TV, kids played out their gaming fantasises with flat, folded paper �balls� or matchboxes on desktops.
The desk edges were tryline and sideline. If the �ball� touched the tryline but didn�t fall over, it was a try. Over the edge and the defenders restarted.
Goals were great fun. Elbows on the table, thumbs touching and the index fingers raised formed the uprights and cross-bars to flick-kick the ball �high enough, long enough �and�straight between the posts !�
I would always play. A couple of shouts and returning nods, a quick fold and tape up and, sitting or standing, we were ready for Saints V. Eels, Berries V. Cronulla. Every flick of the ball toward the tryline was Langlands scything through the backline, or McCarthy bursting up the middle.
Either player was crowd, commentator and coaches. No drinks breaks, no interchange � just brutal 13 man, unlimited tackle football on a field of 12 square feet. You lived and died by the merest too-strong flick over the edge or a fluffed goal kick.
My young boy (he�s eight) plays footy on the Xbox, or we sit down on a Sunday arvo and watch the match of the day on the TV. The fingers flick over the remote control, skipping the ads to watch another ad somewhere else. The banal and jocularly belligerent commentary blares out a stream of useless information we can see anyway. There�s no imagination, no sense of being the players, having to fight or lose except by watching or a hand-held movement of pixel-hallucinations.
Last might the little fella wanted to play on the Xbox again � I like it too, don�t get me wrong, but this time I said, �no, what about we play another type of footy � a new game.� He watched as I folded paper, said he wanted a dry field (no stickytape), and we sat down at the cleared dinner table. I explained the rules, he said he wanted to be the Dragons (god love him for that�) and I said I�d be the Bluebags � �Who�s that Dad ?� he said.
Kick-off. The ball span backward and forward, players searching out each other, testing the length and width of the field. Long runs down the sideline and hard yards bashed up the middle. Suddenly his play went down the blindside, a long screaming winger�s run. The commentary was frantic, cheering and laughter rang out. TRY !
He kicked for goal. My arms arched up to form crossbar and uprights � too high for his first ever kick. 4 � 0.
An older sister (a Broncos fan, I know in my heart I�ve failed there) came to see what the fun was. She stayed, watching the game, and like the Broncos told us how to do it better.
We played for an hour � I had to stop him. I�d also had to let him win.
I saw a bright gleam in his eyes and when I looked closer I saw a reflection of me with a crew cut wearing my school jumper.
* See link for instructions. www.showroom.com.au/images/gozpic01.jpg
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