We haven't had as many opportunities for half-time play this year as we have had in previous years, so when my email went out that we had just 18 spots in our allocation and it was first-come, first served, it was little wonder that we had 'sold-out' within an hour. One Dad lamented that he did not sleep with his blackberry under his pillow so that he would have known there was in email in regarding the half-time game! For those Auskickers lucky enough to be involved, it was an evening to be long remembered.
The cold and light rain just added to the excitement as we took our positions in the new grandstand at the SCG. Hornsby Berowra were allowed to field two teams, each with 9 players.
Coach Dan headed up 'Team Buddy' and he was assisted by goal umpire Matt Castles. Team Buddy consisted of some true Auskick veterans in Hayden Agnew, Jake LeLievre, Jack Castles and Cam and Brad Pearce, who were ably assisted by younger guns Connor Midgley, Henry Williams, William Bayley, and Lucas Sheldrick. 'Team Goodes' featured such veterans as Rebecca and Damien Browne, Luke Gee and Roy Merrick with newcomers Matthew Nuttall, Charlie Graham, Bailey Thompson, Natasha Hain and Rohan Hecker adding youth and speed to the team. My reasoning for having an even spread of ages in each team was so that we would avoid the situation of a really young Hornsby team coming up against a team of really old and tall Auskickers and being completely mismatched. As it turned out, it wasn't a bad move. Both of our opponents actually featured players of immense height but what we lacked in age and height, we surely made up for in enthusiasm.
The games were played with gusto and as I umpired one of the games it was great to see our Auskickers using each others' names, calling for the ball, trying to make some space to receive the ball, then offload it and move it up the line. The game was over far too quickly and before we knew it, the Auskickers were off racing the wrong way around the ground high-fiving everyone on the boundary fence! It was lucky I spotted little Natasha as she skipped off in the wrong direction. The look on her face though was priceless as we ran back hand in hand off the field and into the tunnel. She clearly had the time of her life and so did everyone else. Some of the Auskickers had stories of high-fiving Swans players who were on their way back onto the field after half time and I am sure they will remember this for the rest of their lives.
I always say that it's not the actual game that the kids love the most - even though that is surely a highlight for them. It is the build-up to the night, the corralling during the first quarter, the changing into the Auskick uniforms in the club change rooms, the pre-game team photos, the warm-ups, the chanting in the tunnels and the running onto the field lit up by blazing lights, that makes the evening what it is.
I've done the half-time game at least five times over the years and I never tire of them. Thanks to everyone involved and may there be many more!