I was asked to join a team sport… and I immediately did that thing where you feign excitement (“Oh that sounds fun”) and in your mind you’re trying to remember the last time you actually ran anywhere (sometime in the 90’s) and what plausible excuse you can give to get out of it (every Monday I tidy my nan’s sock drawer). But as my new mantra was to say “yes” to things more than “no” (which had become too easy of late) I said a tentative yes to playing Oztag, cursed my 43 year old body for not being fitter and offered to put the numbers on the back of the team shirts.
The first email that did the rounds was ‘what to name the team’. I was CC’d in with a bunch of women I’d never met, but knew immediately I was going to like when reading their suggestions which went back and forth for D-A-Y-S.
They included ‘The Disco Sisters, The Root Rats, The Gamblin’ Gypsy Pigs, Show Us Yer Cleavage, The Frisky Chicks, The Undie Grunters and The Hairy Elbows’ just to name a few.
We settled on Ladypants. It both summed up our feminine nature and reminded us to wear pants.
All around the age of 40 we were a motley, unfit, giggly bunch and NONE of us knew how to play Oz tag… that is except Nadia.
Nadia was an ex-state player… and she was our hero. She explained the rules on the fly (sometimes mid-pass) and made some dashing runs to the try line. When Nadia had the ball… we all stopped running and started clapping … mostly because we couldn’t breathe and just needed a rest. Alas, Nadia had to leave Ladypants mid-season, (we talked about carrying her off the field on her last game but we were too weak after playing) and she was missed every game after (because we constantly forgot the rules).
Without Nadia we needed to knuckle down, so we started giving each other nick names for motivation… Myf Buster, Clarry Emdur, Mole and McTag. Sometimes we’d give nicknames to the opposition players too, straight to their faces to annoy them…. The Tornado, Helga and Twizzle Stick.
Suddenly we were starting to act like a real team, pre-game talk became about ‘marking our opposition’ instead of ‘I ate too much shepherds pie for dinner’.
One night we were playing our arch nemeses – Quick Stix – and while gallantly fighting hard to score, Mole and I fell over the try line. Fumbling at full steam her face ended up right between my bum cheeks (now you see how important it was that we remembered to wear pants).
During the same game an opposition player we dubbed ‘Helga’, wearing a Coke shirt and her hair in plaits, ended up getting a little too aggressive with Mole, resulting in a full-on tackle. This was the moment that the competitive nature I thought had disappeared along with my year 10 netball team and spiral perm, arose like red mist and I heard myself saying under my breath: ‘get off my friend or I’ll drag you off the field by your hair you Viking bitch’. Instead we turned our anger into motivation, won by one try and spent the next week messaging each other trash talk about Helga. Team sport was turning out to be LOTS more fun than I thought possible.
Injuries were a dime a dozen… and the post match chat was almost exclusively a colourful catalogue of busted fingers, swollen knees and sad tales of feeling like we’d been hit by a bus. We’d laugh all the way to the car park at how funny you can look walking with a groin injury.
My efforts on the field were comically consistent. One night I was passed the ball, saw an opening and ran like a woman possessed, only to put the ball down 10 meters short of the try line… where the shadow of the field light looked a lot like the painted grass boundary. Jumping up cheering like I’d won the showcase on The Price Is Right and about to pull my shirt over my face to do a victory lap I spied the ref who couldn’t blow the whistle for laughing. No try.
Weeks later overexcitement was my downfall again, as I ran with the ball tucked under my arm, crossed the try line to the cheers of my fellow Ladypanters, only to throw the ball down hard instead of placing it on the ground. No try dufus, this is Oztag not Gridiron.
The Ladypants finished the season a respectable 5th and we were both sad and glad that our frail, old lady bodies didn’t have to endure the pain of weekly competitive sport and we could get back to eating too much dinner on Monday nights and not running any more.
I will miss my fellow Ladypanters, the post match messaging, the on field camaraderie, the sweat and mosquitos, the feeling of a good pass and a defensive tag.
Now the talk is of an ‘end of season celebration’ and we’ve been designating inappropriate ‘Mad Monday’ behaviours to each other. “Nicola you’re in charge of the nudie run,.. Heidi you’re wearing the beer hat and Anne you can do the drunken poo in the hotel corridor – Shaz bring a dog”.
I suspect it will be a quiet beverage or two regaling the seasons hilarity and talking about yet-to-heal injuries.
Let’s hope that things don’t get too out of hand,… after all we’ve got to think about the next triumphant season for Ladypants.