Eastwood v Eastern Suburbs
The One-Eyed-Woodie here reporting for what was an amazing day for the greatest club of all. And what a day it turned out to be. T G Millner was looking resplendent in the wonderful winter sunshine. The clubhouse hill was packed. The northern hill had all of the “colour” we have come to know and enjoy from the 3rd & 4th graders. All that was required was a win to the might of the Blue and White.
Now there lay a bit of an issue. The Woods had not been running too well lately and the effort against Randwick the week before was not the greatest display I’ve ever witnessed and it did cause one nagging question to arise – would the boys step up and deliver the week after for such an important day.
Well I thought that this was such a serious issue I decided to go for a rant on Facebook addressed to the boys and the coaching staff. I used lines like, “my opinion on rugby counts for the square root of f-all in the grand scheme of things” and “But I do have one thing. Passion. Passion for the game of rugby. And for the Woodies. And you can’t deny me that” and what I think would have been the clincher, “when I was a kid — hell, even now, I would’ve given my left nut just to pull on a Woodies jumper.” (Little did they know that it’s long gone after I bet it on Trump never becoming President – who’d have thought.) In that moment I was trying to let the boys know that there was a lot more to playing a game of Rugby. There was of course playing for yourself and there is playing for the team. But most importantly there is playing for those in the crowd that travel week in and week out to watch a team they love and feel it right in the guts when they don’t win, especially when they know their team can perform better than that.
I am guessing that it hit the mark because come Wednesday night Stuey and Timmy gave me a call to have a chat. They appreciated the message, disagreed that there was any lack of passion from the boys but then made this solemn vow – the boys will deliver the goods on this very important weekend. That was enough for me. Stuey and Timmy’s word is as good as gold and I etched in the 4 points for the win and the 1 for the bonus point on Thursday night I was that confident.
Now, I would love to give you a complete run down on the game as I usually do but unfortunately I had other things on the plate. The fine people at The Candlelight Gift were given the opportunity by the club to raise money for their support of families with children in hospital and they asked me to help sell the raffle tickets on the day, an opportunity I jumped at with pride.
From the fundraising front The Candlelight Gift did a great job courtesy of the amazingly generous people at Millner on Saturday. Despite being hit up for money by some “rogue” raffles they still gave generously to support families doing it tough. And while I was walking around selling tickets I did happen to bump into some of my old mates from earlier days. There was Matty Miller who still looked like he could fly down the wing, stop on a 10 cent piece, watch the covering defender fly past him unable to stop and then simply stroll over the line to score yet another meat pie. Then there was Dave Fryday. Not quite as fit looking as Matt courtesy of tripping over his kids toys. Here’s a guy that got smashed and did a fair bit of smashing at the breakdown, the same guy that refused to leave the field in the GF despite his arm being rammed through his nose and out his backside, brought down by a kiddies toy. And super skipper Gricey was there. Now here is a man that defies all stereotypes. I mean, how the hell did a forward get awife like that?!?!? It was a shame I couldn’t stop and talk with Gricey a bit longer to be honest because in the year of that grand final victory he and I had a lot of conversations about the team and the way they were running. It was an amazing time in my life and one thing that I will never forget is the fact that Nathan never once shirked an interview, even if the boys hadn’t travel so well. Jeff Reid was there still looking strong and a few others as well. Seeing these guys did take me back to a pretty special time. Hugh was also there and it was great to see that he was chomping at the bit and was even trying to convince the coaching staff to let him run on for the second half.
What I did gather from the game was that it was a close one. And the passion that the coaching staff and I talked about during the week reared up and showed itself and this week it was wearing Blue and White. And a clear example of that was deep into the second half the Beasties had the ball near our 20 and the scores were close when we got over the ball and secured the penalty. You could see that if he stopped and sat down he wouldn’t get up again. But you could also tell that he stole a glance every now and then over to the clubhouse side and saw the old legends of Eastwood who had donned that Blue and White jumper and shed blood, broke bones, tore ligaments, pulled hammies, dug deep, scored tries, stole possession and tackled their guts out for this great club and he wanted to be a part of that legion. And so the Woodies held on and secured the victory 45-31.
And do you think the crowd were happy – my oath they were. And when Geoff Harvey came out to play the old club song he penned all those years ago everyone was full of voice. What a great sight to see.
Sometimes it is called tribalism but I would rather think of it as passion. Passion for a team, a club, a suburb, a region. It’s where friends can come together on the weekend and watch a game of footy, forget about their troubles at work for a moment, create some memories with their kids who will talk about it in the future to their own children. It’s not just a game of footy or a bunch of blokes bashing into each other. It’s far, far more than that. It’s a passion.
The passion of the fans at Eastwood is the same as the passion that the founders of The Candlelight Gift have for parents caring for sick kids in hospital. And that passion is there because they were 2 of those parents once and they experienced that hard time themselves. They watched over a very sick child for 3 months, really not knowing whether he would survive or not (just for the record he did and is a very healthy 15 year old kid who loves the Woodies). At one stage during that 3 months when things were starting to look on the up for the child, the dad went and watched his beloved Woodies at North Sydney Oval. He sat in the stands with his rugby friends and felt warm (by the way, the last time he had been to a game he had to race from it early after he received a call from his wife that things had gone a bit pear shaped for their newborn and he’d better come quick). He can’t remember whether they won or lost that night at North Sydney but he can remember the surge of strength come from those fellow Eastwood fans who were around him that night, a strength he took back with him to the hospital and a strength that helped him get to the end of that difficult time. And that is what Candlelight is all about. Telling those mums and dads doing it tough that they are not doing it alone, that the strength of the individuals from the Eastwood Rugby Club are behind them wishing them the best during their difficult challenge. And they thank every single one of you for your support.
So a special milestone was met with a special day, a special outcome and a very special result on the field. And deservedly so for this wonderful club who has battled through for 70 years. May there be many more years to come – and a few more premierships along the way.
See you up the back of the Grandstand
The One Eyed Woodie