On the weekend I witnessed something that once again reminded me why I love sport so much. It was an education in how sport can be so much more than what it first appears. The Shute Shield Grand Final was set to be a close match, two teams who had performed outstandingly throughout the season scheduled to do battle. There was no shortage of talent as always but what struck me was the passion that was demonstrated on the day.
Tom Carter played his final match for Sydney University and delivered the same level of commitment, fire and passion he always brings to the game. He brought them back in the second half in what was an unbelievable shift of momentum, scoring a try and giving the University supporters something to cheer about. I found myself starting to believe the occasion was all too much for Northern Suburbs, with Uni’s prolific performances in the competition, having won seven of the last ten finals, coming to the fore.
Northern Suburbs however, had something that I hadn’t counted on. They had a greater purpose. They had waited 41 years to taste victory in the grand final and they were not going to wait another. Their efforts in the closing stages of the game were truly impressive to watch. Every tackle was laid with grit and determination; they were hungry for the win. In moments when they could not be blamed for choking under the pressure, as so many of our sporting stars often do, they grasped the opportunity, spurred on by the crowd thick with supporters decked out in red and black.
The guys on the field were well aware they weren’t just playing for themselves, or their coach. They were playing for their club, for all the guys who had toiled away over the last 41 years and not tasted victory. Members of past teams had visited them in the week leading up to the game and they knew they had the opportunity to do something really special, to be a part of something bigger than just a win.
They finished the game in style, with a penalty nudging them ahead and giving them the confidence to take control of the match at last. A strong piece of play set up Woolf, their lightning fast winger, to score, effectively destroying Uni’s hopes for a comeback. The scoring wasn’t over yet though with Northern Suburbs finding time to run in one final try. It was then that it became evident what these boys had just achieved.
We will never know if that final try would have been converted, as they never got to take the shot. As the final try was scored the Northern Suburbs fans stormed the field, their unbridled joy unable to be confined to the sidelines. It was a fitting end to a win that was so much more than a win, for so many more people than those guys who scored 28 points to Uni’s 15.