It was a cold balmy Sunday at Central Park for the vets against Forrest Hill, with nothing on the line for either side other than pride and love of the game. Shark was in blistering form pre-game, realising that without a bench the maximum impact he could have was the pre-game address. So he let rip, brutally taking the piss out of half the room including himself, chuckling at his own wit along with everyone else.
Missing Lozza, Richo, Stricko, Riddles, Mouse, Cocker, Fitzy, Paddy and Patty, and SR playing one-armed just to boost the numbers, the Panthers took the field with sixteen-and-a-half men; the recurring story of their season.
Eltham’s backline was composed and super reliable. Killer is so cool he should have been a calypso cricketer. Matt Carbone continually rebounded out of the backline like an Italian mafia version of Ben Cousins running away from a car accident. And Jay, Simon, Chappy and Belch completed a tight, counter attacking, defensive team.
In the middle, Browny was enjoying winding back the clock doing as he pleased, selling candy in a 1970s footy card pose, to confused opponents who just stared dumbfounded at the ball in his outstretched hand, didn’t move, then – as is customary in vets footy – continue to not move, as Browny changes direction several times to find a target.
Coathy played probably his best game of the season, finding a great balance between presenting as a target and gliding past teammates or crumbing packs across half-forward, then converting cooly to finish with 5 good goals.
Ryan, our yankee import in his first season was having a breakout game, providing a constant physical presence and high-ball target deep forward, before shifting into the Ruck in the last quarter and impressing everyone with his instinctive reading of the play, being a key play-maker in multiple passages.
Seddo and Brett Maylin also played another good game each, but the major difference between the two sides was the irrepressible Mark Minney. The bloke is so good a player they unveiled a bronze statue of him at Albert Park this week. ‘Skips’ feasted on Burnsy’s hitouts at every stoppage and then shuffled into space to wreak further havoc. When he takes possession of the footy with two opponents hanging-off him, he possesses that rare skill shared by our indigenous brethren, of shimmying his hips, stepping sideways into space … then he seems to hit a pause button, every player on the field freezes in time while Skips assesses his options 1, 2, 3 and 4, decides upon the best option (unseen by everyone else), releases the pause button when he’s ready and then executes a perfectly weighted, lace-out pass on either foot to one of his lucky teammates.
But it takes all types to play vets footy and whilst everyone plays their part, not everyone can dominate like Skips. Poor SR was unfortunate to be on the end of several of Skips beautiful passes and dropped everything that came his way. He also somehow fell over his own feet, tackled like a turtle with one flipper and skied a snap at goal further in the air than what it traveled forward.
Swooper ‘swooped’ on many balls throughout the match and at one stage found himself with the opportunity to drift forward from the wing and have about fifteen shots at goal within a ten minute hot patch. Sadly for Swoops, it was like watching Mitchell Johnson spraying the ball everywhere except the stumps. But he showed great perseverance and eventually converted truly, with much self-relief.
Both teams played in good spirit, provided worthy competition and fought it out to the end. Comically, the same four-quarter effort can’t be said of Shark, who had turned his attention to the horse races before the match finished and was found in the change-rooms immediately after the match, closely monitoring Race 8 , oblivious to the final result of the vets game.