Our embedded reporter, Youth Group front man and classy midfielder Toby Martin (pictured far left, flowing locks, moustache) played in his first Sydney Community Cup on the weekend just gone. Here are his impressions of one of the great days in the Sydney sporting/musical calendar…
The Community Cup is an annual women and men’s footy match between the Western Walers (musicians, managers, record label folk) and the Sydney Sailors (music media types). It is a charity event to raise money for Reclink who rehabilitate needy people through sport and art. It has been running in Melbourne for 20 years and has become a cult event. It is three years young in Sydney and just starting to invent its traditions. This was my first Community Cup…
There had been a lot of talk about injuries in the week leading up to the big game. At Presentation Night on the Wednesday the topic kept cropping up in conversation…
Tim Levinson (aka Urthboy) on stage: ‘Come along on Sunday and watch me get injured!’
James Roden (City Lights, Waler): ‘Are you ready for Sunday? It’s pretty rough, isn’t it?’
Jude Bolton (ex-Swans): ‘It’s a brutal game’.
Patrick Matthews (my bandmate in Youth Group and Teeth, experienced footy player): ‘I heard you were doing it. What about your fingers!?’
I started to recall that pretty much everyone I knew that played last year came away with an injury: a cracked rib or broken hand. Then inspirational emails started flying around the Walers list: ‘Bring on Sunday!’ ‘Here we go! Over the top!’
Jesus, what was this? War?
And yes, what about my fingers? My precious fingers! My skinny wrists! My delicate and soulful guitar playing! Why was I doing this exactly? What was I thinking? Well…I loved the concept – rock ‘n’ roll charity footy – and it was a lot of fun to watch it last year. Also, since having a child I had begun to feel uneasy about being an armchair sportsman. My 4-year-old daughter had started to ask awkward questions when we watched the football together: ‘Do you play footy Daddy?’ (well, I can, but I don’t really) ‘Why don’t girls play footy Daddy?’ (well, they do, but it’s just not on TV…ummm). I had started to feel like a spectator, rather than a participant, and football like a corporate hero-fest. I knew it should be about something more than that.
Training had become a weekly highlight. Charging around the floodlit green of Petersham Oval on a Monday night. Following the arc of the ball. Getting in a nicely weighted kick. Learning how to shout. I had come away from the first week with a swollen thumb as the result of a clumsy marking attempt, but still that hadn’t deterred me. So I felt ready enough.
Sunday was fantastic fun, and it all seemed to happen very fast. My recollections are fragment-like:
- The stroll down to Henson Park, kit bag on my back, through the old gates like some 1950s-era television drama.
- The dressing room before the game – being presented with our guernseys (I get 19, Eddie Betts’ old Carlton number, childishly pleased about that).Ice-cold VB tinnies in hands. It felt like backstage before a gig. The realisation that nerves are the same as excitement, just without breathing.
- Community Cup founder Jason ‘Evo’ Evans striding around in his suit jacket, Walers-coloured pin-striped tie and VB. His pre-game and half-time addresses carefully walked the line between ironic and inspirational. His theatrical eye-contact and gestures, which got more theatrical as the game went on and the beers went down. His description of the Sailors as our ‘dancing partners’, and the respect that was to be given to them.
- Anthony ‘Albo’ Albanese, Federal Member for Granydler, actually showing up and playing the whole game with great spirit. Strapping his glasses to his head with elastic and taking a fine mark right in front of the crowd, on the wing. When I congratulated him Albo even gave me some advice: ‘If you’re going to take a mark, make sure you do it in front of the grandstand’.
- Alicia Kish, our inspirational co-captain, who had broken a finger at training yet still played the match and played great.
- The surprising sporting prowess of musicians I had seen on stage over the years: Russell from Fishing, all lanky agility and soft hands; Joel from Philadelphia Grand Jury, who always managed to get his hands on the ball without seeming to try.
- The well-oiled game plan of the Sailors. (Us Walers were ‘well-oiled’ too, it should be said).
- The revealing of the white-board and the strategically-suicidal decision to play me at ‘Centre’, a key position, which showed the devil-may-care democratic spirit of the Walers.
- My contribution to the game: I ran around madly a lot, I picked up the ball a two or three times, got a handpass away and got absolutely blindsided in a crunching tackle with three minutes to go and the game already won by the Sailors. A credit to their competitive spirit. I got up from the turf bewildered and ran around in circles for a bit. I couldn’t work out why it seemed like the field was so full of players all of sudden. I thought I must have taken a knock to the head. I found out later that all the whole team ran on in the last minute. I hadn’t been seeing double.
So, the Sailors won for the third time in a row. There was a chant of ‘Threepeat’ from the dastardly Sailors, and some rueful ‘just wait for 2015’ talk from the mighty Walers, but really I don’t think many people took the result too seriously.
The Community Cup raises money for a good cause, but it is also about doing something together, for the sake of doing something together. When I first moved to Sydney in 1996 I very quickly felt part of a musical scene, a ‘community’ if you will. (And this in a city that is notorious for being not as community-minded as, say, Melbourne.) The Community Cup feels like an extension of that ‘being in a scene’ feeling. As Evo said, in one of his rallying speeches: it can be hard to find connections and community in this massive big city of Sydney. This is a way. You look after each other, you see your team jumper, you pass the ball, you get amongst it.
The legacy of Sunday: a swollen middle finger, ‘general soreness’ and a daughter who now seems to be a committed GWS Giants fan, courtesy of the free balls for the kids.