Marysville and “JR”

Marysville was a bit of a ground zero in the Black Saturday bushfire more than 10 years ago. We’ve been there several times since. It is now a beautiful part of the Yarra Ranges again. I spent the whole of Saturday there, as part of St Alf’s men’s camp. Most of the campers had trekked up on Friday night, but the drive there includes the Black Spur, which is a stretch from Healesville onwards, finishing just before Marysville. The mountain ash trees are magnificent and the view is stunning, but it is also a winding, narrow and dark stretch. I didn’t think I’d enjoy the drive on a Friday night after a long week, so I decided to only trek up there on Saturday morning.

Tress and I had been out for dinner on Friday the night before, and after dinner, we got home and I toggled between the cricket and footy, although not much was happening with the cricket which was interrupted by rain. It was the second test of the Ashes Series and it was a cracking contest too, truncated play notwithstanding. It turned out to be a draw overnight, but it was by no means a dour or boring draw.

Early Saturday morning, Tress ducked out to get a couple of coffees and after a quick toast, I left home soon after 7am and drove out to Marysville. The drive was cold and foggy but when I left Healesville and started the Black Spur stretch, those trees again took my breath away. It has to be, along with the Great Ocean Road, one of Victoria’s most beautiful gems.

I got to Marysville around 8.30am, and spent the morning listening to talks about health – mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health – among some 60 men from St Alf’s. After lunch there were a few activities to choose from and I opted for a forestry walk with someone who was a retired State forester. It was a really good walk, with that expert providing interesting commentaries about trees, shrubs and vegetation as well as wildlife. We saw wombat poo galore and on the home stretch of the 5km walk, we also spotted a black wallaby.

Tress’ text messages made their way into my phone intermittently, as the talks and walk happened. She had busied herself with lots of housework – cooking, cleaning, weeding – as well as some of her ethereal activities. I guess the both of us being separately engaged in entirely different activities, only enriched our relationships as when I got home that night, we excitedly told each other what we had been up to.

After the forestry walk and some chats and discussions – formal and informal – with numerous fellow men, we settled down to a substantial dinner, where I sat with Peter, the senior minister of St Alf’s, and had a casual conversation. I left Marysville after dinner and started the drive home a bit after 7pm, getting home a bit after 8.30pm.

On Sunday after St Alf’s and a quick lunch, we got home and walked the little guy before heading off to Marvel Stadium for a late game (first bounce 4.40pm). Ordinarily, we wouldn’t go for games at such times, and would more likely watch it on tv. This game however was special. It was the Hawks’ last home game of the season, and it was Jarryd Roughead’s finial home game. He would retire after this season finishes, which is next weekend, unless for some miraculous reasons, we tumbled into finals footy.

Roughead – “Roughy” – has been playing as a Hawks champion since I started following AFL soon after we got here. The Eagles got up against the Swans in the 2005 Grand Final and that was the first season of AFL football for me. I started following the Hawks that year and other than when he was out to deal with cancer, Roughy has always been part of the Hawks that I followed. Together with other champions of that cohort – Hodge, Lewis Franklin and Birchall – Hawks have had a dream decade. So to farewell Roughy was a special privilege and what a farewell it was too. He kicked 6, and even though it was a long trip home – Melbourne Metro had cleverly ignored the prospect of over 30,000 fans cramming into Southern Cross station to get a train home, so thousands of fans waited on crowded platforms for the better part of half an hour – it was time well worth spending. I also had to pick up a t-shirt with “JR” blazoned across the front, with a tiny silhouette of the champion’s kicking action embedded in the middle. Tress thought $31 for a t-shirt was a bit much. I though so too, but I just had to get it…

We got home close to 9pm and I got to follow some of the cricket as the Aussies battled to retain the 1-0 lead so far. I went to bed late and even though I was groggy this morning while on the train, this past weekend has been a pretty special one.