A few weeks ago, in our last round of the regular season, Erik got the "call up" to play with the senior team. I think in a way it was a reward for showing up to training consistently (that is a problem among both teams), and also for being one of the more fit guys on the team. He can certainly run with the 1's, but his football knowledge and skills are far from perfect. However, during his senior debut, he proved that he could play at a higher level when surrounded by more sophisticated teammates. It needs to be noted, though, that this team we were playing against was the worst in the league. They lost every game, and often lost most by more than 100 points, so while Erik playing was an achievement, it wasn't exactly as if he had been asked to play in an important game.
Fast forward a week to the first round of finals (playoffs), and Erik made the roster for the 1's first finals game. There were a few injuries and a couple of players who were unavailable, and he proved himself enough in the prior week to give the coaches confidence to use him in a game that really mattered. We were the 3 seed in that game and ended up beating the 4 seed, as expected, to make it on to the next round of finals. Erik was able to contribute, and, according to the coach, may have been the sole reason that 2 goals were not scored in that game (we won by 11 points, a goal is worth 6).
Team selection is held on Thursday of every week, immediately after the training session. To be honest, I wasn't sure that Erik would make the side this week, as we had players coming back from injury and now we were the 3 seed trying to beat the 2 seed. However, he ended up making the team as player number 22 (18 players start and 4 substitutes are allowed for the entire game). Unfortunately we had a very serious injury to one of our players in the first 15 minutes of the game, requiring him to be taken to the hospital via ambulance. In addition, we had a player with a muscle strain who was not 100% and ended up not being able to play much at all. These two circumstances, along with the fact that we were playing on a rather large ground (not all footy fields are the same size), meant Erik got quite a bit of playing time, and again he was able to make an impact by tackling, shepherding (essentially blocking), and running all over the field. What is even more awesome is that we WON!! This is a team that only won 2 games last year, and now we are headed into the Grand Final game next Saturday. For Erik though, there is not a happy ending to this story. He has to fly to Perth next weekend for a work conference and will miss the chance to play in the Grand Final. Even worse, the course he has to take is about something that he is already proficient in doing, but because he has never used the equipment in Australia (mind you it is the SAME equipment as in the USA!), he has to complete this certification in order to proceed with his research. And after all, the reason we are living in Oz is because of his job... footy is just an added bonus. I, however, will be on the sidelines, and the coach has said that when we win, I will accept the medal on behalf of Erik. Pretty cool stuff.
Unlike college fight songs that are played throughout sporting events in America, the footy team's song is only sung if they end up as victors. Below is this week's rendition. The video quality is not great because for some reason blogger will not let me upload the good version from my phone. Can you understand any of the lyrics?!