As the dust settles within the sprawling bohemoth that is Telstra Stadium, and as Melbourne celebrates its NRL victory with beers, and as Manly commiserates its loss with....well, beers, I guess - thoughts once again turn to the team sporting achievements of my own youth.
The only sport I played through the entirety of my five years at high school was volleyball. I still adore volleyball, even though I haven't played for years. I could never serve, nor spike at any great speed, but I was a dab hand at a dig and set quite daintily. Besides, there were six players on a reasonably small court, so I figured if I missed there'd be someone close enough by to fix my errors.
Trouble was, the coaches seemed to notice my errors, and it was with great pride I ended up on the Open C volleyball team in Year 12. This was the third-string team, expected by all accounts to fail miserably. However, we perserved, and ending up winning the premiership. I like to put it down to skill and enthusiasm, but the truth is we were just slightly less crap than our opponents. That's the true key to victory.
I particularly remember one game, where, all of a sudden, when we were a few points behind in a crucial game, I was suddenly blessed with the ability to serve. Unlike my brother, who mastered the high-speed, high-impact jump-and-smash-the-shit-out-of-the-ball style of serving more commonly seen at the Olympics, I had not even managed to get my arm around the underarm serve. I'll punt the ball with all the strength my puny pecs could manage, but it would still flop embarrassingly short of my side of the net, or my terrible aim would see it shoot off at a 90-degree angle. Either way my turn at serving would never last very long. But this one day I booted across over ten successful serves. It absolutely turned the game around for us, and I've never been so impressed with myself.
At least, that is, until I took up what would be my final team sport at St Paul's School for Miscreant Boys and Oh Yeah, Now Girls As Well.
I mentioned in my previous post about the sad decline of our powerhouse hockey team. I played in Year 10 in the Open B team. Come Year 11, I made it back onto the Open A with many of the same girls from that double-premiership winning side. However, the competition was much tougher, and our coach insisted we have fitness training at 7am twice a week. It required a lot more work to do less well in competition, and stopped being as fun as it had been in previous years.
It was lucky then, in my final year, St Paul's finally introduced soccer for girls. Many of us hockey girls defected to soccer because a) it was virtually the same game, only no sticks b) our coach was one of our male classmates and c) it just looked like a barrel of laughs. And with more important things that sport weighing on my mind (like whether or not I should even bother trying to pass Maths B), it was just what the doctor ordered. Our soccer season began as a debacle and finished a triumph of carefree gaiety over skill and discipline.
We wound up being given the boys' old team jerseys, because - can you believe this - they didn't LIKE them and had ordered new ones. Yup, that's what it was like being a girl at a male-dominated school. We had to bring our own white shorts, which are always fun for girls to wear, which we teamed with these bright red-and-white checked jerseys. We didn't really care that much, come to think of it. At least we looked the part, all lined up in our uniforms. And it gave us the edge on the opposition - they had to wait until we started playing to discover we were all shit.
That's not strictly true. There were good sportswomen on the team. But the season was a very late addition, we only had three games, and we'd had very little practice time. Again, I tried to make up for my athletic Asperger's by jumping around and shouting at the top of my lungs. My friend Briony and I, bored one Maths B lesson, came up with a team name: the St Paul's Streakers. We then proceeded to piss off the entire First XV rugby squad by bastardising their non-official team song and turning it into our own:
We're St Paul's little Streakers, loved by everyone
We love to play our soccer, and go on naked runs!
Singing la la la la, ladies are the best
St Paul's little Streakers, we're better than the rest!
We took great pride in yelling that at the top of our lungs at any opportunity. You can't say we're not a classy bunch, us private school girls.
Somehow we managed to score a victory in one match, but lost the other two. I remember our coach Will, who had the patience of a saint, later thanked me for turning football into a "combination of ballet and Xena". To this day, that remains one of the best compliments I have ever had.
Sadly, organised sport hasn't been a part of my life since those heady school days. I did circuit gym classes for a while, if that counts. Also, I got pulled in as a ringer on an indoor netball team a couple of times (I was still crap, and wound up playing - you guessed it, Goal Keeper). The closest I come to team sports these days is ironically on the Nintendo Wii.
So if you'll excuse me, I'm off to kick someone's arse at tennis again...