18. Welcome to the Machine
The huge room was filled with hundreds of people sitting at round tables eating, drinking and talking. We were late for this President’s lunch at the stadium. As we sat in our seats our glasses were filled and we were served salmon frittata for an entrée. Giant screens named the many sponsors who filled this room. I looked up and saw the AFL boss preparing for his little talk to this audience. We introduced ourselves to our table mates to find we were amongst an extremely diverse bunch. A football guernsey was auctioned, a player from Jeremy’s team gave a little talk, the main course was hurriedly scoffed as everyone made haste to get to their seats in the stadium to watch The Game. This was the second last match of the season; the showdown round. We traveled interstate to watch this much anticipated clash of rivals.
Earlier in the day we had attended a breakfast at the Clubs function rooms. It was a beautifully prepared breakfast provided by the club for the host families and associated players parents. The facilitator for the day is a wonderful man who remembers everyone’s names without trouble and introduces everyone to each other.
Jeremy, John and I have been well and truly welcomed to the immense machine that is an AFL football club. We have been greeted by The Coach, the President, The CEO, the Team Manager, the off-field Player Development Manager, the on-field Player Development Manager, fitness coaches, the forwards coach, the media liaison person, the events manager, ex-players associated with the club, current star players, new players, host families, and other parents.
These people without exception have been positive, welcoming, hospitable, friendly, enthusiastic and energetic. They form the huge machine that drives an AFL football club. Jeremy is well and truly part of that machine now. They know him, love him and claim him.
The game was a success and a treat to watch. Jeremy did his bit to contribute positively to the victorious win to upset the favourites. He took a few marks, kicked a goal, and I counted three precise goal assists that resulted in a goal.
After the game the jubilant players ran around the boundary hand slapping the spectators and fans. Jeremy told me later that he felt weird at first doing that but joined in the frivolity because all the other players were doing it.
We went into the change rooms, but were too late to hear them sing their song. Jeremy was pedaling on a stationary bike with a smile from ear to ear.
Then we went back to the clubs function room where hundreds of loyal fans had crowded to welcome and congratulate the team. The Coach gave a short talk. The players arrived one by one and the crowd applauded. We stood in a separate area with the club officials, and friends and family of players. The Club President greeted us warmly, remembering our faces and names after meeting us only once before. We met more people that are a part of this machine.
I wonder where these people get their energy, passion, and drive to do all this week after week. We bid our farewells to Jeremy, feeling glad that he is so well thought of, and cared for. But also sad with the realisation that he is now part of the machine.