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Jared Journal in Australia

This is a journal of Jared Brunmeier's trip to Australia playing Aussie Rules in 2004.

1/7/2004 – Goodbye Wisconsin, Hello Melbourne!

 

Wednesday came quickly and before I knew it I was saying goodbye to my Dad at the office, then a jaunt down to Chicago and goodbye to my Mom at the airport.  An early sign that the trip would go well came when I met, quite unexpectedly, two friends that I had gone to school with.  Jamie and Drew were on their way to San Diego and our chance meeting was a pleasant surprise for all of us.  I flew with out incident out of Midway and about five hours later landed safely at LAX.  It proved to be a rather boring six and a half hour delay that I spent waiting to board a Qantas 747 to take me half way around the world.  Finally take off arrived and we were in the air heading out over the dark expanse of the Pacific Ocean.  Fifteen and a half hours on a plane is a long time.  This time can be made to seem longer if your company next to you is not very good or it can seem to pass by with bearable speed.  Thankfully for me I sat next to a very nice couple, Kevin and Billy Joe, from Michigan, they worked at a private golf course in Detroit where Kevin was one of two pros.  As an added bonus our seats had their own TV’s built into the back of the seat in front of us.  The control on the armrest could come off and double as a video game controller.  I spent a bit of time playing Tetris before I gave up and turned to reading.  All in all the flight went much smoother than I had dared to hope.  A fierce tail wind even brought us into Melbourne half an hour ahead of schedule.  Since we crossed the International Date Line somewhere over the Pacific I lost a day in the crossing.  There fore I will pick up my tale on the 9th.

 

1/9/2004 – Did I Pack the Sunscreen???

As mentioned above I arrived into the Melbourne International Airport a half and hour early.  That put us at 9:00am local time.  Customs did not hinder me as much as I thought it would.  After a long wait in line my passport was looked at, stamped and I was sent on to baggage claim.  I had nothing to declare and after swapping e-mail addresses with Kevin and Billy Joe I was able to breeze out of the terminal.  There I found my ride and host, Nellie O’Keeffe, who is the niece of Paul O’Keeffe, from the Milwaukee Bombers and founder of the USAFL.  We drove about 20 minutes to her house in Essendon.  She is located about 10 minutes by bike from Windy Hill which is the Essendon Bombers training facility.  After dropping me off she had to return to work and I was able to unpack and explore.  I took a short jog to see a bit of the neighbourhood and get used to the weather.  Here would be a good time to mention the climate change that I am experiencing.  Wisconsin where I come from is in full winter mode at the moment.  It is snowy and very cold.  On the other hand Melbourne is in full summer.  The weather is gorgeous.  About 80 degrees and a little humid, I managed to give my self a bit of sunburn by not putting sunscreen on when I went out.  Lesson learned.  After my run I decided to see the city.  I took the 59 tramline for about 20 minutes into the heart of the city.  It was full of people out shopping and enjoying the weather.  I poked around a little while and then headed back home.  Once I returned back to Essendon I grabbed a book and headed to a little park a couple blocks away for some quiet reading.  I returned home around 6:30pm after a short stint of temporarily being lost but I came out all right.  Nellie by this time was home from work and we chatted for a little while until her partner Brent came home from work.  Both Nellie and Brent are very nice people, we went out for dinner at a little restaurant up the street and had a very relaxing time.  On the way home we stopped at a local video store and rented the ultimate guy movie……well sort of.  It was Charlie’s Angles and proved to be a good choice because I could doze in and out of the movie and not miss much.  All and all it was good for some laughs.  By this time jet lag was taking its toll on me and I could not keep my eyes open.  I bid goodnight to Brent and Nellie and went to bed.  I do not even remember my head hitting the pillow before I was asleep.

1/12/2004 – Leader of the Pack…Not Just Yet

 

Monday morning broke through my window bright and early pushing the sleep from my eyes.  Today was the big day I had been waiting for, first day of training with Essendon.   I ate a good sized breakfast and then hoped on a bike Brent and Nellie were letting me use and sped off to Windy Hill, the Bombers home training facility, about ten minutes away.  At Windy Hill, I was escorted up stairs where I met Dominic Cato who is in charge of operations for the Essendon Bombers.  Dominic took me around and introduced me to a lot of staff and players.  The two people whose names I could remember after being introduced to the fiftieth person was Essendon Captain James Hird and Coach Kevin Sheedy.  I was surprised at the size of James Hird who looked a lot bigger than he does on TV, probably about six foot three and around two hundred pounds.  Kevin Sheedy is a nice out going man, and he was interested in the fact that I came from Wisconsin which is now snowy, icy and cold compared to this hot summer climate.  After the introductions were complete and Dominic had given me a brief tour of the facility, I was brought to the equipment room to get some training clothes.  At this time a young man named Vincent who was from the Northwest Territory and also training with Essendon on a three-week scholarship joined me.  After we had changed we were sent to be weighed in by the trainers and have a skin fold test.  A skin fold test is a simple way to measure the amount of loose skin you have hanging off your body in certain places.  The idea is to perform this test multiple times over the season and to keep track of the values.  These can then be used as another way to measure player progress and development.  During this time the other players were doing their weight session, unfortunately we were not able to join in because the trainer wanted to go through a workout session with us before he turned us loose.  That pretty much left the rest of the morning and early afternoon off until 2:30pm when we went to Princess Park for a 3200m time trial.  It was very strange to be standing at the starting line facing about ten different news teams with reporters and cameras recording the time trial.  I quickly got over it as the task at hand dawned on me.  We split up into two groups; the first group was made up of the faster players while the second group was made up of players who couldn’t keep up with the first group.  I was feeling adventurous and decided to run with the first group.  I thought I had made a huge mistake when we took off from the start line in a dead sprint.  3200m converts into two miles, which is not a huge distance except when you are sprinting it!  Thankfully the pace dropped down to more manageable levels and I was able to keep the lead pack in my sights.  As the trial drew on, the leaders distanced themselves more and more from the rest of us.  Thankfully the finish came in sight at the end of a long straight away and I was able to cross the line with a time of 11:50 and more importantly not fainting and or puking!  The player who had the fastest time ran about 10:46, which is not a bad cross country time.  With that survived our team activities for the day came to close.  I caught a ride with one of the managers back to the club and forced my legs to peddle me home.  After slamming as much water as my stomach could hold I grabbed a book and enjoyed the outside until Brent and Nellie came home from work.  One of Brent’s co-workers joined us for dinner and we had a very tasty pasta meal flavoured with some very interesting dinner conversation.  I went to bed after dinner satisfied in a pretty good start to my training with Essendon.

 

1/14/2004 – Full On

 

Today training would be held at La Trobe University Football fields.  The practice session as Aussies call it would be “full on”.  We started at ten o’clock with some basic handball drills with a partner.  We then moved into a drill that involved the whole team.  This drill was basically a huge circle drill where you move in a large circle kicking and handballing to people next to you and in front of you.  After that we split up into lines and did some end-to-end kicking.  In between each drill there would be a brief stretching session.  After these warm up drills we worked on marking drills.  For this drill we split up into groups of four (Mathew Lloyd was in my group) and one group would start by kicking a ball high into the air for another group.  This turned the groups into a four on four free for all for the ball in the air.  A couple players received some charley horses from guys flying in from the back but it was of pretty low intensity.  The players then split up into two different sides, red and black.  These were the starters and reserves.  Those of us not on the Essendon roster had to sit this one out, so a coach took us off to the side and did some skills work with us.  This pattern happened a couple times during training.  The group of us not on the roster could participate in drills but not in the team activities.  The session lasted about two hours which might make you ask, “ Hey Jared, how are your skills compared to everyone else’s?”  Well, let me tell you, it was a bit frustrating because these players are at the top of their game when it came to skill level, while I am still in the beginning stages of the learning curve.  That was the most frustrating part of the day but easy to deal with and will improve with time.  From La Trobe we all piled into cars and headed back to Essendon.  There was a speed trial set up for two o’clock.  In the mean time, we walked down the hill that Windy Hill sits on to a local sandwich shop and ate a modest lunch.  A little down time watching tennis in the players lounge followed and then down to the speed trials.  These were timed trials over a distance of twenty meters.  You would get three chances with the fastest time being the one that would be recorded.  My legs did not produce a very good time; the best I ran was a 3.04s.  The fastest time of the day was 2.79s.  A simple cool down followed and the rest of the day was mine.  How did I spend the rest of my day?  Those details I would be happy to share.  I sat outside with a book basking in the warm sun and then to dinner with Nellie and Brent to one of Nellie’s friends house.  For dinner we had make your own Japanese rolls where you could fill them with anything green you wanted.  It was a fun and relaxing, finished off by going out for gelatos at a local shop down Lygon Street. 

 

1/15/2004 – How Warm is the Water?

 

It proved to be a challenge to get out of bed this morning, not because I was tired but because my hamstring muscles had curled themselves into little knots that did not like to be stretched.  This lead to a lot of shuffling around the house until my hamstrings loosened up enough to allow for almost full leg extension.  Riding the bike up to Windy Hill did not prove any easier as it was now time for my quadriceps to groan in protest.  Already sweating I made my way into the building to start morning weights.  The program Vincent and I were put on is the one the Essendon trainers give to their junior players.  It is a circuit workout that puts you through a lot of different exercises and running intermingled with no rest between exercises.  It took about forty-five minutes; once we had completed that we were off until two o’clock swim training.  Vincent, Nathan, Andrew (two rookie Bombers) and I grabbed lunch and then went over to another player’s house to bum around until it was time to hit the pool.  At the house we watched the tape, Street Fights about brawls caught on video in the mean streets of the States, then into a car for the short ride to Victoria University, whose pool we used for our training sessions.  The swimming almost killed me.  The trainers started us off with 2x100, 4x50, and then 8x25 laps.  I am not a very strong swimmer, but I completed the workout only because my body went numb and I couldn’t feel the strain and had no desire to drown.  After that we all lined up on a pool wall and kicked our legs out of the water for about thirty seconds and then had to swim about ten meters out and back.  That was one set, and we did about seven of those.  Next they had us go into the deep end and split into three groups.  A trainer would then toss a medicine ball into you while you were treading water and you had to throw it back to them.  There were slight variations in each set but we did four sets.   Next we lined up at one end of the pool and split into two groups, the group on the right had to swim as far as they could in a minute while the group on the left had to run in the water as far as they could in a minute.  There were two sets of each and the groups alternated activities.  Finally the hour-long session came to an end with a cool down swim. I staggered out of the pool.  Nathan gave Vince and me a ride back to the club where I hoped on my bike and peddled home.  Here once again I sat out with my friend the sun until Brent and Nellie came home.  They came bearing gifts of Indian take out which we ate out on their back patio.  An early night followed with a lazy hour or two in front of the TV and then off to bed to regain my strength for training tomorrow. 

 

1/17/2004 – Running, running, and more running

 

As I mentioned yesterday, I had to get up early today to make it to one of the player’s houses for a ride in to training.  Today training started at eight o’clock at one of the parks in the city along the river.  The agenda for the morning was to run, then run some more, and finally to do a little more running.  The first segment of running involved was doing a warm-up for about ten or fifteen minutes of running hills.  This warm-up flowed smoothly into running more hills, which in turn lead to running even more hills.  Finally the hill part was done and we jogged across the river to a long pedestrian bridge, probably about four hundred meters in length.  On the bridge we did sprints starting in length of fifty meters and gradually working their way out to two hundred meters.  Once the two hundred meter mark was reached we were given a breather and then ran stairs for about two minutes.  After the stairs we ran a small hill three times and then did two timed six hundred meter runs.  At the conclusion of the second six hundred meter run training ended.  All that remained was the jog back to the cars.  Back at one of the player’s houses I collected my bike and proceeded to ride home.  Unfortunately for my legs Melbourne is a rather hilly city, especially the suburb of Essendon.  After all that running the last thing my legs wanted to do was struggle up hill after hill on a bike.  Thankfully the ride was only about fifteen minutes, and I made it home without any serious leg cramping.  I picked up some pizzas for lunch and after a quick telephone call to Nellie I learned how to turn on their gas oven and cook the pizzas.  I spent a laid back night at one of my friend’s houses in Brunswick watching old shows of a program called Fawlty Towers and going to bed at a reasonable time.

 

 

1/19/2004 – Monday, Monday

 

A chilly Monday morning greeted me as I rolled out of bed.  It always seems hardest to get up on a Monday.  I again rode my bike to one of the player’s houses.  After the fifteen-minute ride up and down hills, I was sweating profusely and out of breath by the time I reached his house.  From there we drove to La Trobe University for our training session.  The day had quickly started to heat up, causing you to sweat just standing in the sun.  Thankfully the coaches were going to give us an easy day today because practice would only last for an hour.  Once again we started off with the handball warm-ups and then end-to-end kicking.  They then split us up into three groups to rotate through three stations that were set up.  All the stations were similar to each other; they involved some variation of goal kicking.  After that rotation was completed we did end-to-end kicking with a defender guarding you, then a little four on four handball drill.  To conclude practice we spent about ten to fifteen minutes doing lead out drills from the goal square.  This drill simply involved two lines of players who would break at a forty-five degree angle from each other while two other players would kick the ball to you in stride.  Lunch and then weights followed.  I am still on the circuit program that is designed to keep your heart rate up during the workout by allowing no rest between exercises.   Sweaty and hot I rode home to relax until Brent and Nellie came home from work.  Nellie’s younger cousin was coming tonight to stay for a couple of days.  She is doing a program that lets you experience college class structure for a couple days.  We had a nice meal of make your own burritos and then watched one of the matches in the Australian open.  Nellie and her cousin went to bed early, and Brent and I went outside to enjoy the clear skies and warm weather.  He strummed on his guitar and showed me some of the constellations they have in their sky that we do not have in the Northern Hemisphere.  It was a very warm night, which made for some uncomfortable sleeping, but I dosed off around midnight with the covers thrown off and a light breeze blowing through the open window.

 

1/20/2004 – Everyone Needs a Day off Every Once In Awhile

 

I got up early as usual today, but today was not like a regular day, it was my day off!  There was no practice scheduled for today, which meant I got to relax and amuse myself.  My plan was to go see the art museum in the downtown.  Brent recommended that I check out Federation Square while I was down there.  He said the architecture was pretty neat to see.  I hopped on a tram around ten o’clock and headed down into the city.  The day was starting to heat up, already sweat was starting to soak through my t-shirt.  Reaching the downtown area I found it to be jam packed, thousands of people were there for the Australian Open and that was causing the congestion.  Making my way through the crowds I soon found Federation Square, it was just as cool as Brent had said it would be - very original architecture.  After looking around Federation Square and snapping a couple pictures, I made my way over to the Art Museum.  Sitting right next to the Art Museum was the National Gallery of Victoria.  I decided to go into the National Gallery instead of the Art Museum; it proved to be a good choice.  I was impressed with the wide range of exhibits and works that were displayed.  I was there about two hours and barely scratched the surface.  Exiting the Museum I hopped across the street to a little park and ate my packed lunch, then wandered east along the river past the Casino and onto the Exhibition Centre.  This turned out to be a huge building with a bunch of close out sales going on in its different rooms.  Everything for sale turned out to be junk so I left fairly quickly.  I slowly made my way back home, reaching it about five-thirty.  Brent soon came home and along with Nellie’s cousin went to the grocery store to get some ingredients for tonight’s dinner.  It was a tasty pasta dish with ice cream for dessert and tennis as a closer.  So ended my day off from training.

 

1/21/2004 – There Had to be a Drill Sergeant

 

I awoke a little chilled today; a cool breeze was blowing through my window.  I did not have much hope that the day would stay cool, but there is always a chance.  The skills session today was at La Trobe.  I hitched a ride with one of the players even as the day was starting to heat up.  After the normal warm-up drills we split up into two groups again.  The group I was in started off with a drill that we had done last week.  It involved switching the play and then moving the ball quickly down field.  Next the groups switched and we started a drill that was a little more complicated.  The ball started in the full forward and was kicked out to the wings who would then kick it to the full forward on the opposite side, the full forwards on that side would have a set shot at goal, while another ball went into the centre where it was handballed once down the field and then kicked to a half back who in turn kicked it to the full forward starting the drill over again.  This drill was a little shaky for everyone so I did not feel so bad being lost.  Next the two groups came together for some tackling drills.  It was nice to be able to tackle but I ended up getting hit in the throat twice, which left me with a headache and a sore throat for the rest of the day.  Once the tackling drill was over the senior team scrimmaged the second’s team.  A couple others and I did a simple leading drill during this time.  Then Vince and I were taking away for a little boxing session.  One of the Essendon trainers teaches boxing to the players in order to improver their reflexes and coordination.  Since this was my first time getting boxing instruction it naturally was pretty hard.  My left arm soon felt like I was throwing jelly for jabs.  Fully drenched with sweat the trainer finally let us go.  By this time the rest of the team had moved to a new drill, this one involved four pairs of players in a square.  One of the players in a pair was on offence, the other defence.  The object of this drill was to create space for your teammates to get open and receive the ball.  This was thankfully the final drill, and we were able to head back to the club for a couple hours until a speed session in the afternoon.  The speed session was held at a local track.  We started off with about fifteen minutes of warm up and then did five 150m sprints.  There was ninety seconds rest in between the first three, with four minutes of rest after that.  The last two sprints were done with only sixty seconds of rest in between them.  I averaged about nineteen seconds for each sprint.  The purpose for doing this kind of work out was to improve our bodies’ ability to process and or coup with lactic acid in our muscles, allowing us to still be able to function when our bodies are tired.  I was home, showered, and relaxed on the couch by a little after five.  Today was also New Year’s Eve for the Chinese calendar.  Brent, Nellie, Nellie’s cousin, and I were going out with Nellie’s family for dinner in China Town.  Our dinner reservations were for eight thirty.  As we walked through China Town on our way to the restaurant we passed people out in the streets with fire works going off, everyone was in festive moods.  The restaurant was very nice; they served one dish after another for the meal.  All told there were about fifteen different dishes from appetisers to main courses.  They put the plates on a round about in the middle of the table and you turned it to help yourself to any dish you wanted.  The highlight of the night came when a Chinese performance team came dancing into the restaurant with drums and dancing in one of their long lion costumes that you see in parades.  We had been given envelopes were you put in your spare change to feed the lion as it danced by.  Unfortunately for my headache, the drums had set themselves up directly in back of me that caused my temples to start pounding to the rhythm.  The increased headache was worth the show and after about ten minutes the lion and entourage departed.  The meal started to wind down from there and after some long good byes we left the restaurant at eleven thirty, getting home a little before twelve.  I was asleep almost before my head hit the pillow with sounds of Chinese drums beating in my head.

 

1/22/2004 – A Short Lesson In Cricket

 

It was very nice to wake up today without a sense of urgency; I did not have to be to the club for weights until ten in the morning.  I ate a leisurely breakfast, cleaned my room, and typed up my journal entry from the night before.  I then rode my bike into Windy Hill where Vincent and I received our weight program for the day.  We were still doing a strength endurance circuit with rowing replacing running to get the heart rate up.  After weights, Vincent and I hiked back to my house for lunch where we watched a little TV to kill time before our two o’clock swimming session at Victoria University.  We called a cab and using Essendon Taxi vouchers arrived early for swimming.  Since training yesterday was pretty long they cut our swimming workout down quite a bit.  I was thankful for the reduction in the swim load because my body is starting to get worn down by constant training.  Finishing swimming early, I rode home to a bit of relaxation.  Nellie’s cousin came home soon afterwards with Nellie following close behind to bring her to the airport.  When Nellie returned from dropping her cousin off, she called Brent and had him pick up some Italian take out on his way home from work.  We spent the dinner in front of the idiot box as Nellie calls the TV and watched a little tennis.  Nellie soon went to bed and Brent and I turned to Cricket.  It was the second game between Australia and India.  India had batted first and had a good score when a thunderstorm rolled up during the Australian’s turn to bat.  When play resumed the officials dropped the game down to thirty overs instead of the regular fifty overs (an over is six balls bowled by the team in the field) to make up for the sloppy batting conditions.  With only the first thirty overs counted India’s score dropped to a manageable level.  It was going well for the Australian batsman until India got three wickets in about five minutes (a wicket is getting one of the batsman out).  Australia was almost at the bottom of their order with only three balls remaining to be bowled in the game.  They were down by seven runs.  The Australian bowler Brent Lee was batting and on that third to last ball crushed a six (this is where a batsman hits the ball on the fly so that it clears the white ring that encircles the field), now Australia was tied with India and on the next ball Brent Lee hit a single to win the game!  It was a very exciting finish to a sport that can be a little hard to watch.  With that finale I headed off to bed to recover and get ready for our last training session at La Trobe for the week.

 

1/23/2004 – Scrimmage Day

Training this morning was at La Trobe University; I used my last taxi voucher to get there.  The taxi driver was an Australian who was amazed that there was footy in the US.  We spent the cab ride talking about USFooty and how I found training with Essendon.  The team he cheers for is the Richmond Tigers, so thankfully he dropped me off at the right spot and didn’t abandon me in some remote place because I was not a Tiger.  Kevin Sheedy was running the show today, and he demanded a high tempo for practice.  We went through a pretty extensive warm-up, probably to loosen us up after the hard week.  For a change we did not split up into two groups for drills but remained as one group.  One of the first drills for the day was kicking to a player leading out into open space.  I enjoyed this drill because it is a lot of fun getting to run under a ball that is bombed perfectly in front of you.  Unfortunately for the players on the receiving end of my balls they were not perfectly aimed and tended to land well in front, or behind, or hit the ground somewhere in between.  After this drill we moved to a handball exercise that had six groups of players in lines of three facing each other about ten meters apart.  The three players in the front of the line were working together and had to move the football quickly to the other line.  We ran through it once to get used to it and then added defenders in the middle with bags.  It was now the job of the three players to work out who is going to get the ball and who is going to shepard for that player.  Once this was completed we did a couple more drills and then it was time for the scrimmage.  Good news, Sheedy said that Vincent and I would be able to participate in the scrimmage.  I was told to get in there and go get the ball.  It was a lot of fun, and I was able to get the ball on a couple occasions.  A scary part came on a ball up in the middle of the ground, one of the ruckman tipped the ball and before it had even started to come down James Hird had read the flight of the ball and came busting through the pack at a hundred miles an hour to snatch the ball and take off down field.  I was very glad I was not standing in Hirdy’s path because if I had it would have been a trip to the hospital for me, and swatting a fly for him.  When the scrimmage was over training was finished.  Unfortunately for Vince and I there was a presentation back at the club around four-thirty so we did not have the rest of the day off.  We got a ride back to my house and lounged around for a couple hours and then hiked back to the club.  The presentation was the unveiling of six paintings that the players had worked on during their camp this past fall.  Professional artists had taken their works and made compositions from them.  They were pretty neat paintings, though since I wasn’t there the imagery is lost on me as far as motivation is concerned.  On the way home I stopped at the grocery store to pick up ingredients for breakfast burritos that I had promised Brent and Nellie I would make for breakfast on Saturday.  Those two were out with friends for the night, which worked out well for me.  I was pretty tired and had training early tomorrow morning.  I fell asleep during tennis and woke up long enough to move from the couch to the bed sleeping soundly until early morning.

1/24/2004 – They’re Training Me to Find Nemo

 

I awoke earlier than usual today because I had to be at the club by eight for Saturday morning conditioning.  The team was broken up into a series of groups, with each group doing a different circuit.  The group I was in had to do a swim pyramid and then jog for half an hour.  The swim pyramid consisted of two sets of swims in the order of 3x25m, 2x50m, 75m, 100m, 75m, 2x50m, 3x25m.  I was not able to finish both sets because my shoulder was a bit strained and would not pull me through the water.  After we dried off we proceeded to run around the footy oval for the required time.  The run was a nice way to loosen up stiff muscles that had tightened up over the week.  Once we had completed the run I slowly rode my bike back to the house.  There I started to make breakfast burritos for Brent and Nellie.  The burritos were a hit and if I might say so myself, they were pretty tasty.  Later on that morning the dog that Brent and Nellie are watching was dropped off.  The dog’s name is Indy, and he is a mix between a greyhound and Border collie.  Later on that afternoon Brent, Nellie and I took Indy to a nearby park where he went swimming after tennis balls in the river.  Then Indy enjoyed chasing the footy that we kicked around the park.  Back to the house we tromped and started to make dinner.  We had lamb and beef for the main course and a nice salad for the side.  With some persistent begging Indy also got his fair share of the bones.  The movie Any Given Sunday staring Al Pacino and Jamie Fox was on, and that dragged on till close to midnight when I went to bed.  Tomorrow I would be meeting friends in the city for an open-air market and then visiting some museums

 

1/27/2004 – It does Rain in Melbourne

 

It was a little hard waking up this morning after the long weekend.  Australia Day, which was yesterday passed as a day of leisure and rest for my sore muscles.  Today would be a hard day with training at La Trobe and then weights back at the club.  The weather for the day was promising (for me only); there was a light sprinkling of rain as I rode to the club to get picked up for morning training.  I hoped this weather would hold to keep me cool while running around.  The drawback to rain was going to be a slippery ball; since my kicking is sub par compared to AFL levels on a regular basis, the added slipperiness might send my skills to a laughable level.  The warm up was cut very short when the coaches thought no one was taking it seriously.  After some yelling we moved right into drills, doing about the same things we had done in the last couple of weeks.  The weather kept up its steady drizzle and thankfully the ball behaved itself coming off my foot and found the target I was aiming for with my usual consistency.  The training session lasted its normal time, and we were done and heading back to the club by about noon.  Vince and I headed home for lunch and then met back at the club for weights starting at three.  After weights I went home and got ready to meet Brent at his work place.  Tonight Nellie's Dad was in town and we were meeting him and Katie (Nellie's sister) out for dinner.  I made it to Brent's work just in time as he was walking out.  Nellie picked us up from the corner soon after.  We then met Nellie's Dad and sister at a gym in Richmond and from there went to a Vietnamese restaurant.  The dishes came out one at a time and each person would just take a little off each plate.  That way you were able to try many different foods and were stuffed before your stomach had time to realize it.  For dessert Nellie's Dad wisely insisted on going to Lygon Street for Gelati.  I was a pig and had a cone with three scoops; it really hit the spot after dinner.  We chatted for a bit outside the shop and then went our separate ways with Katie and Nellie's Dad going to her house and Brent, Nellie and me off to our house.  We returned to the home about ten o'clock to a very happy dog Indy who jumped and pranced to meet us.  Brent took Indy for a walk and I turned in to bed, training would be at La Trobe again tomorrow so I needed my rest.

 

1/30/2004 – Double Duty

The rain from last night had not slackened.  It was pounding when my alarm went off, and if anything the intensity of the rain was greater this morning.  I called Dominic Cato who is in charge of operations at Essendon to see if practice would still be on at La Trobe or if they were moving it indoors somewhere.  Dominic said that rain or shine we’d be at La Trobe.  It promised to be a wet morning.  I arrived to training right on time, maybe a little late if anyone noticed.  The trams this morning had fallen thirty minutes behind.  Brent and I had to abandon the tram after about five stops because it was going too slow; causing him to be late for work.  We hiked about six blocks to the nearest train station and then caught a train into the city.  From there I was able to catch a tram heading out of the city and that was much faster than coming into the city.  The rain had let off by this time but as I expected the fields were a sloppy mess.  The first drill we did went over badly, the ball kept flying through players’ hands and people were slipping and sliding all over the place.  The coaches were not impressed and blamed it on a lack of concentration on the player’s part.  After that little pep talk, things went a little smoother for us.  We finished up the session with a scrimmage.  I was able to participate in this one as well.  Since the ground was so water logged, huge chunks of turf were being torn up every time there was a contest for the ball on the ground.  I did my fair share of slipping and sliding and still managed to have a pretty good time.  After practice one of the players dropped me off at home; I was done with Essendon for the day.  Later on this afternoon I was going to another training session with Williamstown.  They are a VFL team (one step below AFL) and the feeder team for the Collingwood Magpies.  They wanted me to come out to one of their sessions so they could have a look at me and see if I would fit anywhere into there organization.  Mark Wheeler picked me up and we headed west to Williamstown’s temporary ground.  My legs were pretty tired from the morning’s session so they did not make me do any of the running parts of training.  I enjoyed it at Williamstown, the atmosphere was more laid back then it was at Essendon and the players on average were younger.  After this training session they invited me to train with them once a week and play a little in games when the opportunity presented itself.  I accepted and said I would see them next Wednesday for training.  On the way home Mark took me out to dinner at a local pub.  We were surprised at the quality of food they served at the pub.  After dinner Mark took me home where I was able to catch a much needed shower and then get ready for bed.  My last training session with Essendon was tomorrow and that entailed running hills in the centre of the city, what a way to finish my scholarship.

1/31/2004 – All Good Things Must Come To an End

 

Once again my alarm pulled me out of sleep to the sound of rain beating against my window.  My last day of training with Essendon appeared as if it would be a wet, cloudy, and chilly day.  I biked out to the club at seven and waited to get picked up and then headed into the city to the Tan.  This is a large park by the Docklands and the Tennis Centre.  This Saturday morning session was labelled as a conditioning workout that meant running lots of hills and then finishing with sprints.  At the start of our warm-up the rain was still falling steadily.  Thankfully by the time we started running hills the rain had stopped and the temperature raised a little to take the chill out of the air.  This session of hill running was harder than the first one I had to do two weeks ago.  We spent an hour running up and down and around the hills before finally finishing that stage and crossing the river to a large pedestrian bridge to do sprints.  The sprints were not a lot of fun either.  We ran six 100m sprints with tired legs.  The coaches finished the session by challenging us to running a circuit in one minute thirty seconds.  If the last person did not reach the finish line in that time we would have to do it over again.  The start of the dash was on a gravel, sandy path and as we took off those of us in the middle and back were showered with dirt and sand that was kicked up by those in front.  We reached the pedestrian bridge with 30s to spare; fighting for traction on the wet wooden planks the mad dash for the finish line began.  The crush of players in the back forced their way over the finish line with not a second to spare, exactly one minute thirty seconds.  Excited about finishing for the day we made our way back over the bridge.  Since it was Vince’s and my last day, we took a team photo (Mark Wheeler was the USFooty photographer), I also got a picture with James Hird and Kevin Sheedy.  Vince, Margaret (the woman Vince is staying with), one of the players Josh, and myself then headed to Brunswick Street for coffee and breakfast.  The restaurant we ate at was called Mario’s; the food was excellent as well as the atmosphere.  The owners were very supportive of the arts so their walls were decorated with paintings made by local artists.  They would only hang on the wall for about two weeks and then be replaced by other works.  During those two weeks almost all the paintings on the wall would be sold, a little sticker was placed next to them to denote they were off the market.  I was impressed by this practice that obviously helped the local art community.  Once we left Mario’s we headed back to Vince’s house to rest and watch a movie on this dreary day.  Josh and I left after a couple hours; during that time the weather had completely changed.  The sun was now shinning and it was getting hot, strange weather.  I got home showered and then read for a bit.  Brent had taken off to go fishing with a couple of his friends and Nellie was going to a movie with one of her friends.  I made plans with one of my friends, Shaun, and headed over to his house in Brunswick.  From there we set off to Bundoora for a house warming party for one of his friends.  Since Bundoora is in the suburbs on the other side of the city it took us an hour and a half to reach his friends house by tram.  We had arrived right in time though, the food had just come off the barbeque, and unashamed I helped myself to the large spread of eats.  The people at the house were very nice; we had a couple beers and sat around talking for about two hours when Shaun and I had to leave to catch the last tram into the city.  Once again it took about an hour and a half to get back home, my bladder was bursting by the time I could get to a bathroom but there were no accidents and I made it home safe and sound. 

 

I would like to thank Newmans South Pacific Vacations, the Essendon Bombers, USFooty, and all those who made it possible for me to have this opportunity to come to Australia and learn about footy at the highest level in the world.  It was a very educational experience; I feel that my abilities have improved as well as my knowledge of the game.  I look forward to sharing what I have learned when I return to the US in July.  Thanks again to many people for their help and support!

 

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