One of my favourite Australian writers ever is Andrew ‘Banjo’ Paterson, and probably my favourite of his poems is ‘The Geebung Polo Club‘. I used to be able to recite it by heart and even now I can get chunks of it. The first stanza goes a little something like this:
It was somewhere up the country in a land of rock and scrub,
That they formed an institution called the Geebung Polo Club.
They were long and wiry natives of the rugged mountainside,
And the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn’t ride;
But their style of playing polo was irregular and rash
– They had mighty little science, but a mighty lot of dash:
And they played on mountain ponies that were muscular and strong,
Though their coats were quite unpolished, and their manes and tails were long.
And they used to train those ponies wheeling cattle in the scrub:
They were demons, were the members of the Geebung Polo Club.
It’s sounding familiar already, if you’ve watched Wednesday night dev league this term, especially the lawless 10 pm session.
The poem goes on to recount what happens when the wild Geebung bush boys and the gentile Cuff and Collar team from the city finally go at it in a landmark polo match:
Now my readers can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed,
When the Geebung boys got going it was time to clear the road;
And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone
A spectator’s leg was broken – just from merely looking on.
For they waddied one another till the plain was strewn with dead,
While the score was kept so even that they neither got ahead.
And the Cuff and Collar captain, when he tumbled off to die,
Was the last surviving player – so the game was called a tie.
Yep, there can be no doubt. The Banjo, way back in 1893, was channeling the Icehouse on a Wednesday night. You only have to look at me, hobbling a little as I go about my desk job today, the shameful opposite of Clancy of the Overflow. Last night, I got a nasty whack to my good knee (yes, I now think of my right knee as my ‘good’ knee, which is a worry in itself), and my right arm and lower back and neck are all sore.
I’m not complaining; not at all. But man, dev league has stepped up this term, with regard to intensity and danger.
The knee got bruised in Game 1, when an opponent lost an edge and crashed into me, just as I was pulling up after a whistle and therefore was relaxed, unprotected. Thank the Gods of hockey for armour. I was suddenly taken out and hit the boards, a metre or so away, in an uncontrolled fall, which is how I have seen fellow students break collarbones. So I accepted a sore knee, gladly, and kept skating. The guy who had accidentally taken me out was genuinely apologetic, too, which was nice.
But as I said, it’s second dev league (the 10 pm class) that has become really willing. Pretty much everybody out there has done quite a few rounds of dev, and played summer or winter hockey, so we all know what we’re doing enough that the coaches don’t really bother to coach us much. I’ve suggested to Matt Armstrong that he should stop calling it development league and instead call it: ‘Army’s Happy Scrimmage Club’.
Lliam Webster and Tommy Powell turned up last night, as bench coaches, back from the world championships in Croatia, and yelled constructive abuse as we battled up and down the rink, but there were still far too many hits than there should be in a learning game, not to mention blatant tripping and other atrocities. Nobody was playing dirty hockey; just intense – and I was as guilty as anybody, accidentally tripping someone, and also forcing a huge front-on collision while skating fast to defend, when my opponent didn’t veer as I’d expected. A game of chicken on ice gone wrong. We both went down hard and my chin is still sore where my helmet dug in on impact. Thank the Gods of hockey for armour.
So I’m creaking around today but feeling alive. Had a shot somehow hit both posts and not go in. Screwed up a penalty shot, to Lliam’s well-vocalised dismay. Inexplicably skated like somebody who hadn’t been on skates for three months, although I’d played for the Nite Owls on Sunday in a 5-0 win that had one of my veteran teammates shake hands with me afterwards, saying: ‘Well done, lad.’ Lad! Another Owl giving me skating advice that, while completely well intentioned, might have resulted in last night’s proppiness, as I found myself doubting my stride, how I move. Or maybe I just shouldn’t eat a large burrito before playing? Something wasn’t right. I wish I had time for a general skate between now and Sunday night’s game to regain my legs. Ah well. The learning curve continues. Endlessly continues.
And, as a final note, I did have a win last night which means I’m travelling better than my beloved Wings who suffered a probably inevitable emotional letdown, after such a brilliant run to sneak into the play-offs, and lost Game 1 to Anaheim yesterday. Gotta bounce back in Game 2 tomorrow, or it could be over as fast as it began.
And I’m also going better than the poor Melbourne Mustangs, who have training tonight at the Henke Rink and will be greeted by giant, larger-than-life posters of every Melbourne Ice player, lining the rink. Having the three massive scrolls celebrating the Ice’s three-peat AIHL triumphs wasn’t enough, apparently. The Ice player posters look seriously impressive, but I’d hate to be a Mustang skating onto the rink tonight. All the Icehouse needs is a tiny sign, to the right of the last poster, saying in small letters: ‘The Mustangs play here too.”
It’s lucky the gee-gees have such a cool horsey mascot. They’ll be fine.