Cauliflower Ears by Bill Nagelkerke – Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Team talk

‘Listen up now,’ said our coach, Mr Marlow.

We stopped exercising and listened up.

Mr Marlow had been a top player in his day. We knew this was true because of his cauliflower ears. The left one especially was flattened and lumpy from having been in too many scrums and rucks.

Mr Marlow’s ears had given the Green’s our other name. We didn’t often use it as a name ourselves. It was the rival teams, especially the Reds, who did. Whenever they called us the Cauliflower Ears, which was each time we played them, they used it as an insult. But we took it as a compliment, just as Mr Marlow had suggested. We’d even put it into our team slogan to show how proud we were of it. Grubber had written the slogan. He was good at writing poems.

‘This is a noteworthy day,’ Mr Marlow continued.

We all nodded. It couldn’t get any more noteworthy than this. The Greens were in the Grand Final for the first time ever.

‘Repeat after me,’ said Mr Marlow.

‘This is a noteworthy day,’ we repeated.

‘It’s the Grand Final of the Junior Home World Cup.’

‘It’s the Grand Final of the Junior Home World Cup.’

‘And futhermore . . . ’

Mr Marlow paused for a second or two, then went on.

‘. . . it’s Wings’ last match with the Greens.’

I felt really weird when Mr Marlow said that. It made it seem more real than ever.

When mum and dad had first announced that we were going to live in Wellington I felt:

  1. like a stunned mullet
  2. angry
  3. sad
  4. more angry
  5. a little bit excited

But I knew we didn’t really have much choice. My parents were both from Wellington originally and they’d always said they’d go back there when they got the chance. Now the chance had come. Besides, boths sets of grandies and most of my aunts, uncles and cousins lived there, too.

‘You’ll find another team to play in,’ said Mum.

‘Maybe.’ I said. ‘But they’ll be nothing nearly as good as the Greens.’

Wings’ last match with the Greens.’

Everyone turned to look at me as they repeated Mr Marlow’s words. I turned away and gazed at the muddy ground. We’d played together for so long, it was going to be tough to quit. That’s why we had to win today. Mr Marlow had called this game my swansong, my final appearance.

‘We can do it,’ Mr Marlow said.

‘We can do it,’ we repeated as one.

‘We can win.’

‘We can win.’

‘All it takes . . .’

‘All it takes . . .’

‘Is applying the skills we’ve learnt and practised . . .’

‘The skills we’ve learnt and practised . . .’

‘Our determination . . .’

‘Our determination . . .’

‘And consideration . . .’

‘And consideration . . .’

‘For each other . . .’

‘For each other . . .’

‘And . . .’

‘And . . .’

‘The opposition.’

Silence.

‘I’m waiting guys.’

‘The opposition,’ we said, knowing that consideration was the last thing the Reds would show us.

‘Great stuff,’ said Mr Marlow.

Then we chanted the Green Team’s slogan. It was short but sweet.

Three cheers

For the Cauliflower Ears!

‘Remember,’ said Mr Marlow, ‘you’ve come this far by fair play and by following the rules, so don’t let yourselves down.’

Then Grubber said the thing we’d all be thinking. ‘But the Reds give me the jitters Mr Marlow. They’re thuggish. That’s why everyone calls them the Devils.’

‘And that’s why you’re proud if they call you the Cauliflower Ears,’ said Mr Marlow.

‘Why?’ asked Sprigs.

‘Because you know how to play the game,’ said Mr Marlow. ‘And a good game played by Cauliflower Ears will always beat a bad game played by Devils.’

‘They foul all the time,’ I said,‘and they always try to make sure the ref doesn’t see what they’re up to.’

‘Then they’ll be the losers, whether they win or not,’ said Mr Marlow, which sounded strange but true at the same time. Not that we wanted the Reds to win, of course.

‘I’ve got to go to the toilet,’ said Grubber, suddenly all jittery.

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