Match Report 3: Hellratz vs The Doogs

Match Report 3: Hellratz vs The Doogs

The Doogs came to play.

From the south side of the river, this crew wouldn’t know an organic spinach leaf if it gently slapped them in the face, their parents cook with cubed rather than natural, home-rendered liquid stock, and some of them are even subjected to pasteurised rather than the more gut-friendly cold-pressed milk. In short, they were hungry, tough and high on lactose. A force to be reckoned with.

Led by their talismanic captain, number 80 with his electric mop of blonde hair, The Doogs stifled the Hellratz flow. Known down south as Funk-Yellow, number 80 was everywhere in the first half; slapping, scratching, scoring, and the Ratz had few answers. The loyal Hellratz supporters could only marvel at Funk-Yellow‘s tenacity and commitment and wonder aloud how much more dominant he could have been had his hair not obscured 80% of his vision.

The Hellratz limped to half time with no notable highlights to report. The score was tied 10-10, a fact known to nobody but this reporter because apparently keeping score in an under 10s game leads to hyper-competitive play, sideline arguments and a diminishment of the purity of the game. That’s loser talk, but to avoid developing a ‘tiger parent’ reputation I still surreptitiously keep score on a tiny notepad while pretending to check my WhatsApps. Keeping score and checking WhatsApps mid-game are both scorn-worthy activities for a sideline parent in 2022, but on balance score-keeping is the greater evil.

Regardless, as the Ratz sat on the bench at half time sipping water and talking about Minecraft they knew they were in a battle. The Boss and The Prodigy knew it too and so attempted to motivate their warriors with a stirring half-time speech. As all great coaches do when their backs are against the wall, they reverted to defence, defence, defence. And scoring slightly more than their opponents. For the first time this season The Boss produced a mini whiteboard complete with basketball court line-markings. As her marker danced this way and that with arrows and xs and swirls and loops the boys looked impressed and bamboozled, and then bored.

Early in the third quarter, motivated by the halftime Minecraft chat, the momentum shifter came from an unexpected Ratz player – Smilez.

Funk-Yellow was deep in the paint, doing his thing; jab step, dribble, small travel, pump fake, small travel, jab step. Smilez, seeing an opportunity, lunged at the ball. With surprising strength Smilez latched on and wouldn’t relent as Funk-Yellow shook and lurched like a tethered crocodile. Smilez was eventually flung out of bounds, but not before the whistle had blown for a tie-up. Smilez sprang to his feet, smiling, and received the hugs of gratitude he deserved.

Well, that singular effort turned the tide. Perhaps simply due to an increased level of effort, but also perhaps because of the low GI white bread The Doogs had enjoyed for breakfast, the Hellratz found their shape and intensity in the second half. Back and forth we went, basket for basket, and in the last minute the score was locked at 20-20.

Nobody on the court, or on either bench was aware of this of course so there was no alteration in strategy, effort or vigour. As chance might have it the Hellratz were on offence; pivot, pivot, pivot, small travel, pass, air-ball, rebound, pivot, small travel. As the clock ticked below 10 seconds I, alone, was on the edge of my seat, beyond the edge even. The Baby-faced Assassin had the ball in his hands, on the baseline about 10 feet from the basket. Any advanced metrics would tell you that for such a game situation BFA with the ball in that pocket of the court is precisely what you want. The Boss could not have drawn it up better on her little basketball court whiteboard. And yet it appeared as if The Assassin was just going to let the clock run-out. But then, pulse maxing out at 57 bpm, BFA glanced up at the hoop, squared his feet and stroked the ball into the air. Front rim, backboard, net.

As the clock ticked down to zero, I stifled a fist pump so as not to give away my contraband score card then, as the players walked languidly off the court I etched two more to the Hellratz tally: 22-20. It was then that I looked up and briefly locked eyes with another dad who was doing the same. 22-20? I mouthed to him. He nodded wisely at me and we both went to congratulate our non-plussed children.

I glanced over at Funk-Yellow who looked exhausted and still unable to see much. I am sure he was thinking… if only my mum had eaten my dried placenta in powdered form straight after I was born in order to transfer those dense nutrients to me. Imagine the player I could have been…

When should children get a vote?

When should children get a vote?

We are moving north, way north to the very top of Australia; warm weather, camping, big storms, guilt-free 4×4 ownership… that sort of thing. When deciding on such a move, families weigh up a variety of factors such as; the price of avocados, the availability of vintage terry-toweling singlets, and the likelihood of crocodile-related death (to name the three key ones).

Now, we are a family of four (six if you include the cats) and, unfortunately for the other four, only two of us got a say in this significant decision that clearly has a large impact on us all.

We recently took the boys north to visit our new home, to sell them on the idea, and ultimately bring them in on the plan. The itinerary was filled with dogs to pat, swimming pools to jump into, exotic fruits to be enjoyed in all forms; peeled, smoothied, frozen and ice creamed. We looked at sunsets, swam in rivers, ate fish and chips on the beach and importantly never wore jumpers (Monty barely wore clothes).

We chose the morning of day three to share the news over breakfast; a public cafe in case of violence. We workshopped the wording and the timing and agreed we would present the outcome as already decided, not a ‘strong potential’, nor a ‘likelihood’. Importantly this was ultimately a good decision for everybody, a grand adventure… but we were not voting on it.

Despite said workshopping our presentation fell flat. Milo (we’ll come back to Monty) was not at all bamboozled by any of the preamble, nor our blatant 3 day charade. His little brain took 8 seconds to process the information then went straight to the heart of it:

“Canberra is my home. We only just got back! Why do you always take me away from my home?”… he opened with.

Silence from us.

“I have made friends, and I like my school. Why would you do this?” … he continued, tears now streaming and snot bubbling.

More silence, but also miserable, sad, hopeless looks from us.

“I hate this place. I’m not coming.”

We looked at each other desperately but neither of us could think of anything cogent or useful to say.

Milo’s sadness had by now progressed smoothly into anger and he started pummeling me in the chest with his little fists. It felt like dozens of frozen quails flying into me at speed, one by one. He then grabbed my forearms with both hands and dug his fingernails in as hard as he could, leaving little moon shaped welts. Desperate to process and expend his feeling of helplessness and rage he then collected all the cutlery from the table and flung it onto the floor. He was careful not to choose anything breakable and he did it in such a way as to minimise injury to us or our fellow diners.

While Milo sobbed and snorted we briefly turned our attention to Monty who was sitting quietly, eyes slightly watery.

“What do you think Monty?”

“Can we bring the cats?” Monty asked, voice cracking slightly.

“Yes of course we can,” we replied. Monty nodded and continued eating his scrambled eggs.

By now all four of us were capable of conversing in a vaguely productive manner. It felt like an hour but had probably been no more than five minutes. Milo had stopped crying but was scowling and red and puffy and enraged and dejected all at once.

“You should have at least bought me chips before you told me something like that,” he said, again achieving absolute exquisite truth. We could only agree.

After breakfast Milo wouldn’t talk to anybody for an hour or two. We stole whispered conversations together, oh shit have we completely made the wrong decision? Perhaps we should delay by a year? Other topics centred on self-loathing, flagellation and regret.

But then, sometime shortly after lunch, Milo piped up “ok fine, I’ll come. But I get to swim in a swimming pool three times a day! And we have to have two swimming pools. No, five!”

“Of course!” we agreed (we can deal with that one later) and since then he has moved through resignation, acceptance and now perhaps there’s even a hint of excitement.

Parenting is littered with these types of decisions, made on behalf of our children. Sometimes we convince ourselves the decision is in their best interest, despite their views to the contrary. And sometimes we save ourselves that charade and just acknowledge we are making choices for us, and that’s probably okay.

Goodness knows we could have managed that situation better with Milo, but also goodness knows how we might have done it. Certainly children work their way through disappointment and frustration in a completely different manner to adults. Adults cling to their perspectives and opinions. A jilted adult wallows and processes and protests and argues and must be coaxed out of its inertial emotions. Milo seemed to work through his disappointment, accept it, file it and then embrace his new reality in the time it took us to find and buy a papaya and lime juice. He then set about shaping that new reality as best as he could, extracting a ‘non-core’ promise of a house with five pools from his parents. Bravo.

I presume one day the boys will get a vote on some of these big decisions, but I don’t know when that will be. As a wise friend of mine pointed out; if kids had their way they would be eating Happy Meals and living at Disneyland… not papaya and lime juice in the far, far north of Australia. Time will tell which is the better choice.

Children do not care about sunsets

Match Report 2: Hellratz vs Wyld Stallyns

Match Report 2: Hellratz vs Wyld Stallyns

The Hellratz started the match with 4 players, a classic Alpha move. In fact for a brief period there were more grandparents in attendance than players. Milo arrived 5th and so strolled directly into the starting 5 (after hugging his grandma).

Hellratz were without Stretch for this one, but with the Wyld Stallyns small, slashing line-ups the analytics probably would have pointed to extended rest for the lanky rim protector anyway. In his place we welcomed back Smilez, another junior member of the squad growing in confidence week by week. Don’t let the perpetual smile fool you, he is ready to do whatever is necessary to get a Hellratz W, including cuddling the opposition.

The most noteworthy aspect of the Stallyns unit in the early going was their coach. Some people might say his approach was somewhat more direct and forceful than is required for the world of under 10s basketball.. But those people would be losers. Coach Stallyn knows where he wants his squad to be and Coach Stallyn is prepared to make the aggressive, outlandish, arguably abusive public pronouncements required to get them there. Coach Stallyn was wearing red bike shorts under his other, also athletic shorts and a Woody Harrelson-esque tank top which suggested he had just come from his game, or was on his way there after dealing with the upstart Hellratz. Although I fear it was neither.

The Hellratz quickly established their groove, raining buckets on the Stallyns like there had been an explosion in a nearby bucket factory which caused many of those buckets to be flung into the air, only to shortly thereafter rain down on people standing around in the nearish vicinity.

Although I did not attend training this week in either a journalistic or ‘hanging around waiting for my son’ capacity, it is clear the theme of the week was pivot foot. One, two, sometimes seven times the Hellratz propped and pivoted, this way and that, flouting the three second rule, bamboozling the Stallyns. “Take it! Take the ball Keith!” Coach Stallyn would yell with increasing ferocity. But Keith could not take the ball. He slapped helplessly at air as Smoov and The Big Fundamental pivoted around, sometimes in a full circle, before making the perfect pass for The Magic Man or Pocket Lightning to finish in the lane.

Towards the end of the second half Milo found himself the recipient of one such pass; a crisp, wrist snapper from Smoov. In a classic example of Squircle Offence Milo was perfectly positioned somewhere towards the middle of the key with his back to the hoop.

He was wide. open.

In one smooth motion Milo spun around and caressed the ball into the air. Up, up it went with an atypical sideways rotation. The crowd gasped, Milo held his breath, Coach Stallyn yelled and then, just as it reached the climax of its journey, I am pretty sure the ball looked at me and winked before splashing through the twine.

Well, the roof of the stadium literally turned into confetti and tumbled down upon us all as the multiple grandmas roared in unison, the disgruntled siblings looked up from there ipads and smiled and even Coach Stallyn nodded with a you did good look of respect. The rest of the Ratz, intuitively understanding the gravity of the moment turned towards Milo and celebrated with him, The Big Fundamental even reaching down to give him a cuddle at the free throw line. Delightful stuff.

The second half saw the Stallyns increasingly ignore their coach’s carefully considered directives “Run! Make Space! Help him! Spread out! Run!”, and they did so to their detriment. Due to their lack of running, space making, helping, spreading and running the Hellratz ran riot. It must be said Milo missed several defensive assignments in the second half due to his skipping and double arm windmilling but he can be forgiven for this week only. He will need to quickly put that swish behind him and look to next week as the match-ups get tougher, and the coaching more nuanced.

One small postscript; in the dying stages, with the game well under control there was a moment of exasperation between The Baby Faced Assassin, not known for gesticulation or indignation, and Magic Man. Magic, dribbling at full speed on a fast break missed an opportunity to feed the ball to the Assassin for an easy lay-up and instead faded out of bounds and hurled the ball into the side of the backboard. Magic Man, to his credit, acknowledged his error, but this is something we will need to keep an eye on in coming days and months.

Final score, Hellratz 26 – Wyld Stallyns 10

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