AT HOME IN Melbourne, they play kick-to-kick wherever they can: in the backyard, the hallway, at the park, on the MCG at full-time, walking down the street, in the aisles of the supermarket, in the rain, the wind, the dark. He tackles her to the ground and knocks the wind out of her and she’s left gasping for air, but she smiles the whole time. For goalposts they use trees, bins, milk cartons, other footballs, rocks, dogs, points on the horizon, people, actual goalposts. She loves the feeling of the grass under her feet, the wind on her face, of running till her lungs almost fall out. She loves breathing against the cold air, bumping into her dad, sprinting after that red misshapen ball as if you’ll die if you don’t. Her dad commentates and she is always the star, always running down the ground, kicking on her left, three seconds to go, kicking from sixty out, the entire defence closing in on her, and even if she misses he always puts her on his shoulders and sings, ‘We’re the Eagles, the West Coast Eagles…’ and the crowd is always chanting her name, ‘Perthie, Perthie, Perthie’, and she is always tipped to win the Brownlow, a firm favourite for the Norm Smith, about to kick her hundredth for the season.
Up till now, she has learned to guide the ball down to her foot with her right hand, to kick it so it flips over and over itself, to bounce it so it returns to her hands. She has learned what it means to play on the wing, to be tagged, to hold the ball, to be pushed in the back, to go to ground. These are all words she knows but they suddenly take on an elevated air, they are grouped together to form a new dialect, a kind of code they use in front of her mum, who doesn’t get it at all, who doesn’t get anything most times, who says phrases like: ‘How did your footy game go?’ and ‘Has the horn sounded?’ Words that are slightly off, just to the left of their meaning, words that mean Perth can share a secret moment with her dad.
Already a subscriber? Sign in here
If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org