My favourite moments in footy were those precious seconds when the players come together one last time before the siren sounds and the umpire bounces the ball to commence the battle.
Twenty-two players come in close and despite the swirling emotions and the undeniable fear of doubt in the air, the only thing you’re sure of is that you have each other.
That’s what footy is all about in those moments. A deep sense of loneliness, balanced out by a deep sense of camaraderie.
Only 50 yards away are your opponents, and they are a mirror image of you.
I was watching a world heavyweight boxing match many years ago and as the numbers vacated the ring and it was only the two boxers and the referee left, each boxer knelt down in his corner to say a short prayer.
The commentator remarked ‘That’s the loneliest place in the world’. It’s the kind of comment that you may still find yourself pondering many years afterwards.
In my very first game of AFL football, Scott Wynd was the captain and we were playing Carlton at Princes Park.
He brought us in close and said, ‘These are the special days in football…these are the types of wins that we will savour for a long time’.
‘We may bump into each other on the street in 15 or 20 years’ time and stop to talk about this day and how it glorious it was to beat the Blues on their home ground in front of their mob…’
It wasn’t just the finely crafted words and the occasion that resonates with me still after all these years.
‘Wyndy’ was one of the best football orators of his generation; he had a gift for speaking to the heart and bringing a group together, but it was his gift of using silence that was perhaps the most powerful thing.
He let his words and their emotion hang in the air for a few heartbeats longer than you’d usually expect in the fever pitch moments before a battle.
When the 2018 Bulldogs outfit run out onto Etihad this week to take on the Carlton Football Club, I’ll be watching from the stands, straining my neck to get a closer look into that huddle.
This is the lot for recently retired players. We still crave those precious little moments.
I wonder what Easton Wood will be saying to his boys and I’ll wonder what thoughts are going through youngster Ed Richards’ head.
I may even drift into wondering about the echo of Scott Wynd’s address and what it still means to me now, but a lot has changed.
The Blues are 18th on the ladder and the Dogs too are languishing down the bottom, but what I do know is that despite all of that, when you are shoulder to shoulder with your brethren and your captain brings you in close, the opportunity for redemption reveals itself to you. Glorious redemption.