“Hawthorn is one of the best sides in the competition and we need to bring our best footy.” Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak, ahead of the Power’s game against the Hawks. (The Age, 20 May 2014)
“Bring your best footy,” said the captain
at the end of the team meeting.
“Which one?” I wanted to ask.
The trusty Sherrin, always nearby?
The Ross Faulkner in the front room?
The Burley by the back door?
The Lyrebird in the laundry?
The Regent in the rumpus room?
The bundled pairs of socks in the hallway?
“Bring your best footy,” said Mum
packing the car for a Sunday drive.
“Which one? I wondered.
The footy Made in India from Uncle Pete
The footy Made in China from Auntie Jella
The footy Made in Rowville from my brother Jack
The footy made with a plastic cordial bottle
wrapped in newspaper and string.
The imaginary footy
wrapped in hopes and dreams.
“Bring your best footy,” said the coach
at the end of the pre-match.
“Where to?” I wanted to ask.
The centre circle? The interchange bench?
The wedding, the honeymoon?
Picnics and parties?
Birthdays and anniversaries?
“Bring your best footy,” said your best mate, first day of the holidays.
The footy you saw in a sports shop in Mentone
Out of reach.
The footy you saved up for, doing odd jobs after school.
The footy you pleaded for, washing dishes after homework.
The footy you prayed for, back when you believed
In God and Jesus and footy and forever.
The footy you found one weekday at the Junction Oval in ‘83
And promptly kicked up a palm tree
Gone for good.
The footy you lost in Mordialloc Creek
And looked for by the full moon
Until Mum called you home.
The footy that disappeared over a back fence
Never seen again
The neighbours only ever threw back abuse.
“Bring your best footy,” said the leadership group, as we ran up the race into the sunlight.
The red leather footy. The yellow night footy. The footy in club colours.
The footy adorned with advertising. With autographs. With grass stains.
The footy marked by cypress trees and gravel rash and power lines.
The footy on a pedestal in the trophy cabinet, beribboned.
The footy you keep in the boot of your car, just in case.
The footy you gaze upon in the shed
Beside the tools you’ll never understand.
“Bring your best footy,” you say to yourself some days.
The first footy you kicked to Mum and Dad.
The footy you keep under your bed like a secret.
The footy that didn’t come down from the roof
Leaving you standing there, wondering.
Years later ambitions feel the same.
The footy you gave to the Salvos.
The footy on the mantelpiece
Never marked or handpassed
Never caressed through the goals
From an impossible angle
But loved nevertheless
For its tautness
Its arcing lines
“Bring your best footy,” a doctor may say, inspecting the x-ray.
“I’ve only got one left,” you might reply.
The footy with a lifetime’s scratches and scars
Stitches fraying, bladder leaking
Out of shape
And just about
Out of air.