All Good Things Must End Eventually

This is it. My last day in Australia. It’s bittersweet to say the least. I’m surprised I’m not crying like a baby writing this. I guess I’ll save that for tomorrow morning on the plane.

My last few days in Perth went very fast. One minute I was at Monday night training, the next I’m hugging the other trainers goodbye. All the boys were surprised we were leaving so soon; they thought we were staying the whole season. I wish! It was sad listening to them joke around with each other and us, knowing that in just a week I wouldn’t have that to look forward to each day anymore.

The last week passed fairly uneventfully. West Perth played in Melbourne for the Foxtel Cup Grand Finals on Tuesday, but sadly lost in the lowest scoring game in the Cup’s history. The players who didn’t go got together at Branchy and Trent’s place to watch the game and chow down on pizza. It was entertaining watching them placing bets on their friends and yelling at the TV like they were down on the field too.

After the game Myelle and I went salsa dancing again. It is such a blast! I need to find a place I can salsa back home. We brought our gym manager Mel with us this time. She’s so adorable when she dances. There was one guy who refused to let her go, even though she didn’t know what she was doing. He was surprisingly a good dancer. We went to the Moon like usual when the dance shut down and got our traditional nachos. I’m definitely going to miss those. And Good Times Jackson von Smith, Toby Basco, and Jimothy (all the waiters we made up names for). Missoula needs a place like that.

We visited the US Consulate, which we honestly should have done the first week. Good information, but not too helpful when we were about to leave. I didn’t think we would actually be meeting with the Consul General because we were told we were just meeting with staff, but she came in and talked to us for a good hour. Tip: when you travel to a different country, register with the US Consulate for the area you will be in. They put on events sometimes for Americans and it also allows them to notify your family if something has happened to you.

Friday night we went out with the Jetts employees after their work dinner. Such a fun-filled night. We ended up in a little bar in Subiaco with not very many people in it. Their boss kept thanking us for helping out in Dianella. We tried to go karaoke afterwards but they wanted to charge us $53 an hour to sit in a little room with just us and sing to each other. No thanks.

Saturday’s game was a mess. Literally. It had rained hard the night before and the Leederville oval isn’t the best in terms of turf. There were large sections of pure mud throughout the field, which developed into small ponds of muddy water during the seniors’ games. It was entertaining watching the boys slide around on the field, almost like a slip ‘n slide. Their white shorts were definitely not so white by the end of the game. I ditched my tennis shoes in Perth they were so destroyed from running water.

Happily the mud didn’t sway our boys too much in the way of injuries. Benny pulled his hamstring, but that’s the only major injury I can remember. When they came into the change rooms at halftime, everyone was covered head to toe in mud. They looked like vicious warriors returning from battle. Then again, they kind of are. The Colts ended in a tie, the Reserves won, and the League sadly lost, losing our hopes of getting into finals for a second year.

Saturday night we went out again, and boy were we feeling the sleep deprivation. I think over those two days I got a total of about five hours of sleep. Great idea. But hey I’m only going to be here once. We headed over to Leederville and met up with Branchy and Jordy. No idea where everyone else was; supposedly they were at the place next door. I’m still not too happy with most of the guys: they were supposed to come out with us so we could say goodbye. Looks like I’ll just have to come back someday!

Now I’m sitting in my hostel in Cairns, reflecting on this whole summer. It really has been amazing. I won’t go into all that now, but stay tuned for another post when I get back to Montana. Cairns is definitely a tourist town. Barely anyone I’ve met has actually been Aussie. Our first day Myelle and I went on a jet ski crocodile tour of the mangroves. We only saw two crocs, but the scenery made it all worth it.

Tuesday we got to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef! Super impressive. So many fishies to see, and awesome coral beds. I managed to duck dive down while snorkeling (never done that before) and got to touch one of the huge fish that was swimming around us. I named him Jeffrey. In the process though I think I messed up one of my eardrums, even though I tried to equalize on my way down.

Yesterday we did a waterfall and wildlife tour which was fantastic. We saw the Babinda Boulders, Josephine’s Falls, Dinner Falls, two crater lakes, Millaa Millaa Falls, and my favorite, a platypus! I was so excited about the platypus. He was cute, but he was quite a ways away to see properly. We swam in two of the falls, and boy were they freezing! It was still fun though. And, as a Richards, it is standard for me to go looking for waterfalls. Just glad I wasn’t in a rental car this time.

A Whole New Ball Game

So far I have seen practically every level of footy there is: everything from the pee-wees up to the big dogs in the AFL. I would say it’s comparable to playing YMCA soccer back in the states. The little guys are just learning the rules, while the upper levels are going hard at the ball. This post will be all about the differences in the levels of footy, because believe it or not there actually are some major differences.

Let’s start off with the little guys. Usually they play during the breaks of the bigger games, so their matches only last about 15 minutes. They have basically the same rules as the other levels, just more basic. But man can those little kids tackle! They are still allowed to hit each other just like the big guys do, and they sure take that to heart. Some of the marks these kids take are pretty incredible too for their age. It’s mostly just adorable to watch them all scramble around for the ball.

Next up is the amateur leagues. These are the community teams that lead up to the WAFL teams. They have all levels like the WAFL: Colts, Reserves, and League, and some also have a team called the Thirds (what I like to call the “beer league” team. Mostly older guys just coming out to get a kick on goal). These games aren’t nearly as serious as others I’ve seen. The coach doesn’t yell so much, and the players are definitely more relaxed. They care if they win of course, but they don’t make a huge fuss about it if they don’t. The boys who do exceptionally well in their amateur league get recruited by the bigger WAFL teams and go from there.

The hits in amateur footy aren’t that big, so not very many injuries thankfully. I worked with an amateur team out in Ballajura for two weekends. Their kicks aren’t super accurate, nor are their handballs. But they mostly are there to have fun so nothing else really matters.

This past week I worked a little bit with a country team for country week. A lot of the surrounding suburbs have footy teams that fall under each WAFL league; West Perth’s area is the Eastern Districts. They needed help with trainers, I needed the hours. Boom problem solved. I would say these teams are a tad bit more serious than the amateur teams. The ages range from 18 to 35 or sometimes older, but you definitely have to know what you’re doing.

What I noticed about the country boys was their kicks were more accurate, but still not amazing, and the hits were a little harder. We even had a guy blow out his ACL, LCL, lateral meniscus, and fracture the head of his fibula off of a hit. One of the more gnarly injuries I’ve seen. Again the coach doesn’t yell much, but it definitely is taken more seriously than the amateur teams as some of those players get recruited to WAFL teams as well.

Finally my favorites. My WAFL boys. There is such a huge difference between this level and the others. The Western Australia Football League (WAFL) is comprised of three levels: Colts, Reserves, and Leagues. The Colts feed into the Reserves, and Reserves into League. From League some of the players get picked up by AFL teams (Colts players can get picked up too if they’re really really good. West Perth actually had two I think in the past couple years get taken up). More on that in a bit.

This is the level that everything starts getting very serious. The coaches and players yell. The players also fight. People get hurt (concussion anyone?). The hits are big. There’s danger of being put out for an entire season from one mark gone wrong. If your jersey isn’t grass stained with dots of blood by the end of the game, you didn’t play hard enough.

As brutal as I just tried to make that sound, it is an incredible thing to watch. It’s a very fun game to watch, especially when a team works really well together. The kicks and handballs are far more accurate than any other level below WAFL. Training is far more serious. But the injuries are also more serious. This past weekend alone we had a strained hamstring, two blown shoulders, a broken nose, multiple corks, and a partially torn bicep. And on top of all that, all of those injured players will insist on playing in the next game (Jess will kill them before they try though).

The final level a footy player can reach is the AFL. The difference between this level and WAFL is that not only do these players get paid, they play teams from all over Australia, not just in Western Australia. These are the stars that all little Aussie kids look up to. They become fans from before they can walk and know the words to the chants by heart.

The two teams here in WA are the Freo Dockers and the West Coast Eagles. We got to go to the Dockers v. Sydney Giants game yesterday. That stadium is huge!!! It’s comparable to one of our NFL stadiums, and every seat was sold out. At this level, every kick could possibly lead to a goal, and every hit is vital. The players have reached the peak, the best of the best, but they still strive to prove their worth. They still play together as a team instead of just looking out for their own interests.

That’s one thing I appreciate about the players here compared to the US: in our professional sports, the players don’t really have anything to play for anymore besides money. All they care about is getting a championship ring to get the money, and they are willing to leave a team in the dust to get there. The players here seem to have a little more heart than that. You can tell from the way they play that they know how to work as a team, and aren’t just trying to up their personal goal tally. It’s just an intriguing difference to me.

So that’s footy just about summed up! I know it’s not the most interesting in the world to you guys back home, but footy has become my life down here (literally every Saturday is devoted to footy in some way or another). I definitely need to find a way to watch it back home or I might die of footy deprivation. Going back to watching football just won’t be the same after this summer.


Faith Restored in Humanity

I thought people in Montana were friendly, but they might be rivaled by the Australians. Everyone is so incredibly friendly here. Back home, we will smile at each other when passing in the street, offer directions if someone looks lost, or occasionally pay for someone’s ice cream at Big Dipper. Here, they go above and beyond any people I’ve met in all my travels.

The people I work with are especially great. They immediately took Myelle and me in, treating us like we’ve been here for years. The players took a little bit more time, but they’re warming up to us pretty quickly. On our very first day, the other trainers offered to drive us back to the train station so we wouldn’t have to take the bus. They’ve continued to do so ever since. One night Lou Lou, one of the physio students, even drove us all the way back to the city.

Our first day we were trying to get to Joondalup, we got horribly lost with the buses. Luckily a girl at the station took an interest in us and helped get us all the way to the arena. She even came on the bus with us to make sure we got there ok even though it wasn’t the bus she needed. A selfless stranger.

A similar thing happened on the train home one night. We kept going out what we thought was the wrong exit (found out a week later it actually was the right one), and a guy we met on the train pointed us in the right direction. We thought it was still the wrong exit, but later figured out it was right. Again, selfless stranger.

The past two nights have been the icing on the cake. Last night, Sam asked if we wanted a ride to the station. Like usual, we accepted. Then she decided she might as well take us to the Edgewater station, which is closer to the city. In the car, she asked if we wanted to come over to meet her two super fluffy huskies. Then we could see what a “real” Australian house is like. Ummm… of course!!!

At Sam’s house we met her gorgeous poofy dogs, during which she asked if we wanted to try Milo, a Nesquick-type mix that we had been talking about at training. We would love to! The Milo was delicious, like a milky type of hot chocolate. While we enjoyed our drinks, Sam and her boyfriend were making dinner. Then she asked if we wanted to join for dinner! Gah! Too nice!

After dinner, on our way out the door, Sam even asked if we wanted to borrow any movies or some of her training books. We happily obliged; her books will be really helpful in the future. On the way to the station, Sam decided to drive us to Warwick instead of Edgewater, which is even closer to the city. When we got there, she even asked if we had money for the train.

Ridiculous! I can’t believe we’ve only known her for three weeks, and Sam is already treating us like we’ve been friends for years. I love it. I feel so at home here and it’s all thanks to people like her and the other trainers.

Today was also pretty great in terms of fantastic people. The Falcons had a bye week; our next game is the Foxtel Cup on Tuesday, then South Freo next Sunday. Instead, today I was the trainer for two amateur teams. First was the colts, and happily we didn’t have any injuries! The other team managed to have one player possibly strain his Achilles, and another knocked out his front tooth. Glad I wasn’t with them.

On a side note, it was so incredibly cold out today. It was raining cats and dogs, and on top of that it was windy. Not a good day to be standing outside as a trainer. I’m pretty sure I had as much water in my shoes as there was on the field.

The second game was for a group called the Thirds. They are older guys, so a lot of strapping was needed. I taped my first shoulder! I was shaking the whole time (maybe that was just because I was freezing). Later in the game, we even had a concussion! It was exciting, minus the player asking the same questions over and over. Stupid memory loss.

Anyway. Back to awesome people. The other girl who was a trainer for the teams today was Jade. She’s my age, and has about the same level of experience as me, so we were both a little freaked out by the huge amount of memory loss of the concussed guy. Jade gave me a ride not only to the second game, but also all the way back to my apartment in the city. Quite the trek. The two players she gave a ride to too were also great and fun to hang out with.

I think we could learn a lot from this sort of behavior. Everyone in America is so wrapped up in their own business that we don’t bother with anyone else. It’s little things like driving someone to the station that build a relationship that will last once the person leaves. It really does make a difference in that person’s life. We just need to start noticing the people around us, and take an interest in them as an actual person, not just what they can do for us.


A Word on Aussies

I decided I would dedicate a post to Aussies. Very interesting people. They speak English, so you would think they wouldn’t be too difficult to understand.


Not only do they have a thick accent that sounds like mumbling a lot of the time, they have different names for things. They shorten all words possible. And they talk really fast. Happily I’ve had some experience with thick accents (Ireland got my brain working on that wavelength) so I’ve been able to pick up the lingo a bit; Myelle… not so much. We’ve kind of just left the talking to me.

First the naming things. Australians are very similar to the English in some ways: they call the car trunk the boot, fries are chips, the TV the tele, soccer cleats are boots, and sweaters and jackets are jumpers. The accent here in Perth is also strongly influenced by the British accent. It’s nothing like what you hear in those Outback Steakhouse commercials. They actually call that a “bogan” accent, which is comparable to our hick accent.

A hard one for us to learn was the difference between an arcade, a mall, and a shopping centre. An arcade is like an alleyway that branches off from a main shopping street with more shops, not a place to play Pac Man. A mall is a large grassy area like a park, not somewhere middle school kids hang out to look cool. And a shopping centre is where you actually do your shopping. I kept wanting to say we were headed to the mall after work, but I really wanted to go to the shopping centre. Myelle also keeps saying fries instead of chips.

Another weird one I’ve found is bell peppers. They don’t call them that here. I found some in the grocery store, but they were labeled capsicans. I thought it was some fancy type of bell pepper. Turns out that’s what they call them here. My head trainer Jess giggled when I said bell pepper.

A big one I had to pick up is the word hey. They don’t use it like we do, or not nearly as much. When they say hey, they actually are asking what, like I didn’t hear you. I could be talking to Jess, and if she didn’t quite hear what I said, she would look up and go “Hey?” I was completely confused by that for the longest time.

A huge thing here is to shorten words. This has been the hardest thing to get over. Australian accents are said to be lazy: they use a slackened jaw, and parse all their words. One of the first places we saw this was at our first footy match last weekend. There was a guy in the crowd that kept yelling “Con West.” Jess explained after the game that it was a shortened version of “Come on West Perth.” Completely different.

They call McDonald’s mackers. Even in the commercials! The Reserves Falcons team are called the ressies. A presentation is a preso. They shorten devastated to devo. They also shorten Australia all the way down to ‘strala. There’s a lot more that I can’t think of right now; might update later on.

It’s been fun getting to learn all the different ways people speak. From Kenya to Ireland to Australia, everyone is so different, yet a little bit the same all at once. I’ve noticed I’ll start slipping into a little bit of an Aussie accent when I’m around a lot of them. Maybe I’ll have a good one by the time I leave! (fingers crossed)