What it Means to be a Hurler
By Marin Sardelic
Here at The Outdoor Type we are more than proud to sponsor the Hurlers football team. There is no denying a vested interest exists, for I am a Hurler myself. This article by my teammate Marin introduces much of what it means to be a ‘Hurler’. It encapsulates the pureness of the outdoor experience for us as park footballers, blokes and good mates.
The Hurlers – Putting the ball back into Football
Being outdoors means many things to many people whether you are an extreme adventurer, a fisherperson seeking a few hours peace and quiet, or you simply like counting the clouds while lying on a soft patch of grass. For me it is somewhere in between, for being a Hurler combines getting out in the open air, the thrill of competition, pushing one’s body as far as it will go and anticipating the bounce of the ball.
A ‘Hurler’ you ask? More commonly our genus is that of a ‘weekend warrior’, one of the thousands of men, women and children across the land who have registered to play competitive football each winter.
The Hurlers, are a diverse family of late thirty-to-forty something men, members of a local football team within the Hurlstone Park Wanders Football Club. Currently we ply our craft in the Canterbury Districts Soccer Football Association Over 35’s Competition. Anything but rag tag, we are from a variety of backgrounds and professions including builders, doctors, salesmen, firemen, bankers, teachers and bureaucrats. Known for our style and fashion and our empty trophy cabinet, for over ninety minutes a week we become footballers, athletes, unashamed poets, artists and comedians.
I really look forward to our games each weekend for four reasons.
The first is that my kids love to make an afternoon outing of it. Living vicariously through them, they are like my own little supporters club. The day will come when they realise that Daddy really isn’t going to be a Socceroo or even get to play at Sydney FC. For now, who am I to tell them otherwise when they cheer every run, celebrate every goal and console me when we lose? Being one of many Hurler fathers, the kids enjoy playing with the other Hurler kids who come to support their dads. I’m not sure who enjoys it more but it is a great day out when all the kids come along.
The second is purely for the sport. With the increasing interference of work and a young family, the opportunity for exercise and individual recreational activities are prioritised well down on the to-do list. The weekly game of football provides 90 minutes for me to get outside, stretch the legs, have a kick around and maybe even get a goal.
With aging, the first thing you notice is that the mind and body no longer communicate as well as they did before. Though the mind still pictures the swivel, the turn, the inch-perfect pass, the top corner shot, those once silky touches in reality left the feet many years prior; and these days speed is a relative concept depending on the age and size (girth not loftiness) and fitness of the opposition. Little knocks become blows and aches become pains that seem to linger for days. But in some sort of topsy-turvy universe alignment, our enjoyment levels have increased exponentially to the skills we now lack.
For the Hurlers, the most commonly used form of communication is the ‘I’m sorry’ wave to a teammate following a pass that doesn’t quite make its target; the shot that went well wide; the corner that didn’t make the goal square; or the goal that was just scored (by the opposition). With the odds of your next pass, shot or defensive effort being off the mark we shrug, we encourage, we laugh and we play on.
Sometimes we see other teams arguing and fighting with each other even when they are winning, oddly these tend to be the same teams that don’t stay together after the game, but more on that later. Not to say that we aren’t competitive, but we appreciate the finer points of football rather than winning alone. Playing a game well as a team and not taking ourselves too seriously invariably leads to more post game merriment than an unconvincing or undeserved win could ever achieve.
We are lucky where we live to experience the misnomer of a Sydney Winter. Okay, it does get a little cold in July, but overall we are blessed with many sun-filled Saturday afternoons to undertake a weekly park tour of the Inner West and Canterbury districts. Playing at fields like Callan Park on the water at Rozelle, Blair Park with the enclosed tree lined atmosphere and Pratten Park – the latter of which was not long ago was holding the First Division equivalency of Rugby league and Football – is a treat as these venues provide the scenery and setting to really enjoy the outdoors and add some atmosphere to the games. My favourite grounds are Ewan Park and Blick Oval, our home grounds. These two ovals contrast somewhat in their feel and setting, yet both are equally as welcoming and comforting each time we return to set up for the game.
This leads me onto the third reason why I look forward to Saturdays – The Hurlers Match Day experience.
In France, the rugby teams coined the phrase ‘the third half’ to describe the post-game activities, with the focus more on the foie gras than football. For the Hurlers, we could probably go so far as to call it the ‘Second Game’ for the match day experience because it is almost longer than the game itself. There are many little customs, rituals and rites of passage. This tends to start on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning at the latest with a chain of emails discussing everything from one’s availability for the upcoming games, to formations, to which strip to wear, to broader football and social commentary, to a few jokes and everything in between.
Come Saturday, driving to the game is a carefully co-ordinated activity with military precision on who is driving and where to meet and when. Post-match, like many teams we enjoy a beer or two and select a ‘Man of the Match’ player of the game. This is voted by the wives, family and girlfriends who come to watch the game. The trophy is made weekly by a fellow Hurler. The trophies are encouraged to be handmade out of knick-knacks and bric-a-brac, and while the end results could be considered worthless they are priceless mementos for those who win them. Heartily accepted and recognised, the trophy encourages artistic interpretation both on and off the field (and a good mix of cardboard, sticky tape, crayons, glue, adeptness and love). The selection of beers, oddly, does not!
The Beers of the Week is what differentiates the Hurlers from many a team. It isn’t so much the beer, well, partly it is. Beer duty is allocated weekly to two Hurlers on a rotational basis. The unwritten rule is that the post-game beer needs to be foreign or fancy, not a standard domestic beer such as VB or Tooheys. Well that isn’t true; there is a Hurler’s Handbook which outlines the Hurlers lore and rites of passage. It’s on our website; yes we even have our own website (www.hurlers.org).
We have also put together our own training kit, kitbags with squad numbers – our own unsanctioned third game kit. Our season calendar includes a Family Day, Post Game Penalty shoot outs, Opposites Day (where we all swap positions – forwards are backs and backs are forwards), an End of Season Awards Night of Nights with Parkies Awards recognising Hurlers’ Achievements over the season in over 30 categories, and the Manchild Trophy for the Best and Fairest and Silliest Player of the Year.
After our games, win, lose or draw the Hurlers stay behind. Many afternoons have turned dark and cold but the Hurlers remain to have a beer. Often an opposition team walks past, having won that game wondering why we are there as a group, enjoying ourselves while they disperse. We don’t answer; it is just what we Hurlers do.
Being a Hurler is a great way to play sport. I would recommend the Hurler way to anyone in their latter years of competitive sport debating whether to keep playing or hang up the boots. Find or form a team where social games become just that. It provides many sunny days outdoors with a nice run in the park. Most of all it gives one an opportunity to have a few laughs and beers with mates and a chance to relive the dreams of youth and to fully live your adulthood. We may never be professional footballers but there is nothing stopping us from acting as if we could be.
Football is meant to be fun, play it and above all don’t forget to enjoy it.
Finally, my fourth reason for looking forward to Hurler games: to get myself outdoors and to have a ball while I’m at it.
Note: If you are an Over 35 football team looking for a pre or post season game or even a mid-season friendly, and the Hurlers seem like a team you’d like to play, please contact us via the Outdoor Type.
Homepage image: Rob Morrison
About the Author:
Marin Sardelic is a current member of the Hurlestone Park Wanderers 2011 Over 35’s Div 2 A team, better known as the Hurlers. He has been allocated Squad Number 14. With too much time on his hands, he is a regular contributor to http://www.Hurlers.org and Vimeo and has previously been published in the Sydney Morning Herald ‘FitzFiles’ and internationally in ‘The Fiver’.