This is the J.L Murphy Reserve in Port Melbourne. The oval was host to the Southern Metro Junior Football Lightning Carnival on a July Sunday morning, a couple of weeks ago.
Hundreds of kids, all about eight or nine years old, mostly boys, but certainly a scattering of girls present also, descended upon the oval to represent their club in this, the season finale.
Vehicles flooded local streets with many having to park miles away. There were entourages consisting of parents, siblings, nonnas, poppa’s and whole extended gangs, all trudging, plates of food, chairs and footy gear in hand, up Williamstown Road towards the ground; the little ones straggling, dads hastily pushing strollers, the mums on safety patrol, whilst barelegged, premiership flag potentials, pummelled the pavement, way ahead.
(I have recently been up to Sovereign Hill with my youngest two. This scene made me think of all that trudging our colonial forebears must have endured in their trek to the goldfields in the mid 1800’s, and here, a century and a half later, and we are all bemoaning the three, four or five paved streets it takes to get to the footy ground…..ahhhh the parking!!).
The weather held up beautifully with glorious sunshine and, more significantly, temperatures in double figures and no rain. There was no requirement for gloves or thermals and food was in abundance.
Good food too.
There was a sausage sizzle, a coffee cart and the hosting grounds’ clubs kiosk, all trading briskly in meat pies, lattes and King Pythons. But the real spread was inside some of the bunting and banner adorned club tents. I’m sure ours was the best. It was a veritable feast, worthy of a Margaret Fulton cookbook cover – our team manager having gone to considerable effort in co-ordinating breadth and variety in the offerings.
Upon cloth covered trestle tables sat plate upon plate of freshly baked cakes, Madeira and Lumberjack; fluffy sponges and rainbow sprinkled cup cakes; ribbon sandwhiches with chicken, garlic and tarragon mayonnaise, platters of pineapple and strawberries, honeydew melon and oranges, spliced into sixteenths. Some of the savouries on offer included spring rolls, sushi and diagonally quartered baguettes, all stuffed, with ham off the bone, avocado, rocket leaves and chunks of cracked black pepper spilling from foil trays.
Crinkled, sweaty bits of glad wrap peeled back from platters with some floating loftily about with the sea breeze towards the grassy tent floor. It was already littered with empty chip packets. One of the Mums was there, running about with a recycled supermarket bag, bagging all the rubbish and making sure everyone was ok.
It was all too good.
In fact, there was really no need to leave the club tent at all. There was a selection of good camping chairs dotted with space in the arm rest for a beverage. Together with good company, ambience and the colorful passing promenade, the temptation was to settle in and not move.
But move, we had to.
There was a tight schedule of footy games to be played and spectated upon. Three games with two halves in each. The kids played on makeshift ovals, with goals at odd angles to each other. Things happened, balls were kicked, marked and smothered, in a series of contests.
Our under 9 Caulfield Bears went into their third game having both a win and a loss. Their last game saw a last minute burst of energy and a late goal to secure a very narrow win against St.Kilda City. Strangely, this also secured the kids as overall winners for their group, albeit by a tiny margin.
A bright blue felt flag with black text declaring Lightning Carnival WINNER 2014 was awarded to the team. The kids were ecstatic. The parents too. Photographs were taken with the coach and his assistants still wearing their designated job description bibs, and all reaching in to hold a piece of the small but glorious, winning flag.
As families recomposed themselves, bits and pieces of footy gear were collated along with empty plates and platters of half eaten offerings. Camping chairs were folded up, trestle tables and marquees collapsed.
Ratty siblings and bored Nonna’s regrouped. Parents called out to someone, but yet no one in particular “Have we got everything? Jackson where’s your jumper? The coach needs it. Who owns the green mouth guard?…..where’s Roxy?…..who’s got Roxy? Patrick…….are you are coming with us? Or do you want to go with Hugo?
And so it went on, the whole packing up, trying to leave with everyone in tow process, until eventually, the trudge back up Williamstown Road to parked vehicles, could be made.
Fatigued, happy and bedazzled by the excitement of the day, the carnival of footy was over.