Lunchtime Footy

I hate driving my kids to school, especially given the proximity of our home to their schools and local train stations. However, these trips in the car do open up unique opportunities for one-on-one chats that you may not have so easily if you are walking.

Such was the occasion last week when I drove my eight year old to school. As he sat perched in the front passenger seat beside me, he opened up about the day before’s game of lunchtime footy.

Lunchtime footy is, of course, an improvised version of the real game. Whilst it is not yet on the national curriculum, it is played in many Australian primary schools. It is fuelled by the consumption of peptides in the form of Vegemite sandwiches, BBQ shapes and tetra packed juices.

Many games do take place on muddy ovals with real goal posts. However, just as many take place on unforgiving surfaces such as concrete, synthetic grass and asphalt. Goals are usually slotted between varying combinations of basketball poles, trees, brick walls and the coloured lines of the netball court.

Passages of play require the added skill of dodging girls with skipping ropes, kids playing tiggy, and lost foundation students (previously known as preppies). The teacher on yard-duty participates by acting as a one membered tribunal panel and has to dish out the necessary sanctions when play becomes unruly or one of the extra-small forwards has been trampled.

Footies often go missing during these games. Mothers and fathers around Australia are called upon to ‘find the footy’ after school hours. Over the years I’ve had to check the classroom roof, scrounge around the neighbouring lane way  and rummage amongst the Hydrangeas in the garden of the parish house, hoping that Father did not see me. Often to no avail.

Getting back to my eight year olds story about the day before’s game…….he and his buddies were playing Jack-in-the-pack, when one of the best mates kicked the ball high and wide. I was told that the ball went over the fence and onto the road. A busy road.

At this point my car was idling at the level crossing whilst three trains passed in front of us. We were running late again. I turned down the voice of Faine on 774, sat and listened as the story unfolded. I sensed that my son’s story might not have a happy ending.

Sure enough, the ball bounced into the path of an oncoming vehicle. My eight year old and his buddies ran to the fence  and watched in horror as the vehicle hit the ball. The ball exploded!

Everyone heard it.

Tears of shock, horror and disbelief followed. The driver didn’t even stop and the teacher on yard-duty had to pick up the remnant bits of shredded plastic and leather.

No-one else had brought their footy to school that day, so the kids had to just walk around doing nothing at all until the school bell siren sounded, signalling the end of lunchtime.

As my sons story came to an end, the boom gates finally lifted and we drove on to school.

also published at

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