There is only 10 minutes left of the game the score is 2-0 their way. We have to do something, and fast, if we have any hope of making it through the game and into the grand final.
Glancing around the field at my exhausted teammates it seems as though we were on our last legs, but then, so were they. If we could just get a couple of more goals, we would be back in the game.
Anticipation tingles through my leaden legs as a yellow and black player races towards me, pushing a small, white ball in front of her. The grass crushes under my feet as I run forward to meet her. Nothing matters anymore except the ball, and the brown haired girl with the ball.
As she comes closer my mind races, what will she do? Will she dribble around me? What will happen if she hits it at me? What if I don’t jump fast enough? I hesitate for a second. Then I charge forward. The ball hits my hockey stick with a thud that sends vibrations up my arms. A brief struggle occurs as everyone gathers around us. The ball rolls between us and this time I don’t hesitate.
Relief washes over me as the ball shoots back the other end. Safe again. My legs ache as I go back to my position. On the sidelines, there is black and yellow everywhere, but not much red and white. Gathered on the red and white side are my family, and all my teammate’s families, and no cheering on their part can match what is coming from the yellow and black side. I just hope that we can do better on the field than what they are doing on the sidelines.
A roar fills the air. Down at the far end of the field Donnybrook players surround one of my teammates, giving him high fives before running back to the centre line. The other goalie looks into the air as if to say, “How could this happen to me?”
The score is now 2-1 and there can’t be much longer left in the game. My heart races as the ball flies back down my end again. This time I’m not quite fast enough and the ball shoots past my reverse side. My heart beats faster. The only thing between the Springston player and the goals is the goalie. Guilt and frustration slow my movements. If only I was just a bit faster and hadn’t let the ball through.
The ground beneath me vibrates with a loud thud. My head swings around to see our goalie lying on the ground in front of the goals, on top of the ball. The sound of a whistle pierces the air as the umpire calls a short corner.
There are five of us behind the base line, the goalie, me and three other players. Around the goal circle Springston players surround us. The whistle shrieks a second time and my teammates dash forwards to meet the ball. I hang back, partly to defend the goals but mostly because of the terror rushing through my head. My mind rushes back to the short corner just a few games ago, when the ball hit me on the knee. The memory of that incident almost paralyses me with fear but my head knows that is in more danger standing there than running towards the ball, even if my heart doesn’t.
I have an overwhelming sense of vulnerability with only shin guards, a mouth guard and a hockey stick to protect me as one of the players smash the ball at the goals behind me. My legs spring into action as I jump in the air while still keeping my stick on the ground. The stick resonates with a satisfying thud as the ball rebounds off it and is hit out of the circle by one of the Donnybrook players. Almost immediately afterwards, the whistle blows. Full time.
Confusion reigns and no one knows what to do. The scores are even but there has to be a winner to go into the grand final. The umpire comes over to announce, “There will be 14 minutes of extra time, seven minutes each way, no break in between. First goal wins.”
I take my place in front of the goals and wait for the game to start again. The ball is hit down my end. No sooner than I manage to hit it out, it comes racing back towards me. The rest of the game is played much like a game of ping-pong, with the ball flying back and forth, but no one is able to get a point.
The whistle sounds for half time. My throat is crying out for water but I can do nothing about it since we are not allowed to have a drinks break. I trudge over to the other side, hoping we can hold out for another seven minutes.
The game starts again and still no one can get the upper hand. At one stage, the ball went into the goals down my end but the player was outside of the circle so it doesn’t count. After that shot my team forced the ball down the other end, but still no goal. The game continues without any actual goals scored until the whistle blows for full time. Again.
I move off to go shake hands with the other players, unsure what happens next since the game still ended a draw. Seeing the look of disappointment on my teammate’s faces and relief from the opposition, I could only guess. Even though it was a draw, the other team won because they were higher on the ladder.