How do you achieve glory these days when there's no football?
With all the disruption happening in sport these days, there’s quite a focus on professional players continuing to train on their own with a focus on getting back on the professional paddock, ASAP.
And that sentiment needs to extend to the non-pro players as well. Including me, a pathetic old codger playing O45Ds on the NSW Central Coast.
If I do say so myself – and I do, all the time – I’m pretty accurate with a dead ball. Many people have remarked on this over the numerous decades of my career, so it’s not entirely a product of my narcissistic self delusion.
And one of the reasons, I think, I became so accurate is the crossbar challenge.
Over the years, from when I was playing state league / premier league to now, playing Z Grade Fossil Ball, I’ve had a special training regime that I’ve pursued when by myself.
Whenever I had the chance, I’d grab a football and head down to the local park. I’d place the ball on the edge of the box semi-circle and chip it at the crossbar. If I missed, I’d have to run to where the ball stopped, and chip from there. On the run – no stopping. The only concession was that I could move the ball a metre off the fence, if need be.
And so it continued, until I hit the crossbar. Then I’d start again from the semi-circle and keep going, for about an hour.
What I got from this was a whole lot of exercise, but also a whole lot of accuracy. I emphasise that it was the no stopping rule that enhanced the accuracy.
The accuracy paid off many times over the years, but there was one particular incident worthy of reporting – and there’s no other football happening right now, so I may as well tell one of my own stories.
This was about three years ago – the last game of the regular season.
My team, the Avoca O45 Gummysharks needed a win to clamber over the Kanwal Bulls into the semi finals.
We went a goal down early, but equalised.
Then we went a goal down again at the beginning of the second half and, as time ticked away, were looking pretty dodgy.
I remember there were only minutes to go when the ball was kicked out for our throw in. I went trotting after the ball, which was rolling downhill, and a succession of Kanwal spectators went to pick it up but deliberately let it go in an evil effort to waste time. Severely rubbing salt into the wound was the chap who finally did pick the ball up, but flung it back over my head so I had to run another 40 metres or so (exhausted) back uphill to restart the game.
Of course, you can imagine the ratbag comments I had to put up with on the sideline as I chased the ball, but fair enough. (I would have done it too with the semis at stake.)
With a minute to go, we equalised. God knew how long the ref would give us to try and win it but, as you can imagine, Kanwal took for ever to kick off again and we all knew that in O45s the ref is not allowed to add time on.
Seconds after the kick off, we were awarded a free kick.
As the usual dead ball specialist, I strode forward to take it, but it was about 30m out (the wall was formed just outside the box).
That range, was just a bit too far for a shot, I was thinking – I was planning to dink it over the wall and hope one of our lot could get on the end of it. But as I was lining it up, one of our blokes (Chookie) said to me: ‘Just have a go, Adrian.’
It took about half a second for me to change my mind.
I looked up at the target, and the wall protecting it.
I reckoned I had about a square metre to hit – if I was good enough.
I have this thing, when hitting a dead ball, where I always line the ball up and look very carefully at the precise place I have to hit the ball if it’s going to go exactly where I want it to go.
Time stood still, with the exception of the jeering Kanwal fans on the sideline.
I took a last glance at the target, then strode forward and smacked the ball with about three quarters of my might.
I have never hit a ball so sweetly.
By the time I’d looked up, the ball was already framed in the top right corner. It flew in missing both post and crossbar by about a millimetre.
The ref blew for a goal, then blew full time straight after.
I may have been a pathetic old fart playing codger ball – and I may also have won numerous grand finals at much higher levels – but I have rarely had such moments of ecstasy on a football pitch.
After the game – as the beer flowed freely – one of my team mates (Stevie K) an excellent footballer himself, said: ‘how did you learn to hit a ball like that?’
My immediate thought was the crossbar challenge.
That moment of glory could never have happened without the hundreds of hours I’d spent on the crossbar challenge in obscure football parks around northern Sydney.
So, for all you frustrated quasi-warriors out there, while there’s no football in the parks or on telly, write your own adventure.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. He will have a new novel out shortly.