Friday, 18 July 2014

I Could Have Been A Contender...

I have two great passions in my life.

One is politics.

The other is the Port Adelaide Football Club.

My mood rises and falls with the team's fortunes. Every week between February and September my life is dictated by the Power's fixture. No matter what else is going in my life, good or bad, I never miss a game, always blocking out a three hour gap every weekend to watch my team. The Power is my tribe, the only real thing that connects me to my childhood in Adelaide. My family comes first. My football team comes second.

Yesterday, the former captain of the Port Adelaide Football Club, Dominic Cassisi retired. He wasn't a great player, but he was tough and he was a great leader. The club gave the media access to the room where Cassisi told his team mates he was going to retire.

When I watched this on TV I had two immediate thoughts. Dom's only a year older than me. If I had played, my career might be over by now. Then I thought, Jesus I really missed out on something. I missed playing the sport I loved. I really, really wish I could have played just one game of footy.

When you're born with a disability and confined to an electric wheelchair you learn pretty quickly that you're not going to win a Brownlow, or even play footy with your (fictional) mates at the local club. You just have to accept it, otherwise the enjoyment of the game you love becomes something you hate.

I'll never know what kind of footballer I could have been. I could have been better than my childhood hero, Scott Hodges. Or,  I could have been the type of testosterone filled bastard that crippled me despises. The kind who uses football as an excuse for exceedingly poor behaviour.

But I'll never know. It is something I wonder about every weekend.

Then there's this magical world that people often ask me about.

What I would you do if you could walk for just one day? 

The answer is always the same.

Get me the ball. Let's play some footy.

I played wheelchair sport as a kid and I loved it. I met some great people. There are champions of the sport you've never heard of. No offense is meant to them when I say that to me it was never quite the same. I wanted to play on Alberton Oval, Footy Park and the MCG.

People have often said to me that they marvel at my comprehension and strategic thinking when discussing AFL football given that I have no physical skill with which to play it. Watching the footy was (and still is) the best times I have had with my Dad. And we still talk about the footy every weekend. I watch all the panel shows and I have watched an average of 6 games a week since about 1991. Footy is my life, and will always be my life. 

I'm the best player to never play a game.

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