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Authors: Bill Nagelkerke

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BOOK: Cauliflower Ears
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I
thought
I
was
going to be late,’ said Sprigs, as we stretched our legs and swung
our arms. ‘Man, it was hard finding matching
laces.’

This time Grubber and I looked at each
other. ‘Can’t have been as hard as me having to wake my dad up,’
said Grubber.


You two can laugh,’ said
Sprigs, ‘but no way was I

playing without a matching bootlace.’


We’re not actually
laughing,’ I pointed out.


Not yet you aren’t,’ said
Sprigs.


What I
don’t understand,’ Grubber said, forgetting his jitters for the
moment, ‘is why you only replaced
one
of the laces. They come in
pairs. You could have put in two new ones.’

Sprigs shook his head. ‘I just had to leave
one of the old laces in,’ he explained. ‘They’ve been my lucky
laces all season.’


Don’t we know it,’ I
said.

Sprigs was our top scoring fullback. He
hadn’t missed a goal kick all season. We were all depending on him,
and his lucky laces, in the Grand Final.

 

 

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
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 furthermore . . .

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 the capital I had felt:

like a stunned mullet

angry

sad

more angry

a little bit excited.

All of those things, all at once.

But I knew we didn’t
really have much choice. My

 

parents were from there
originally and they’d always said they’d go back when they got the
chance. Now

the chance had come.
Besides, both 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 Green
s.’

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, his jitters back again.

Chapter 6

 

Countdown

  

Five minutes to kick-off.

I checked the sidelines as we got into our
positions. Yep, I could see Dad, and Mum had arrived as well.
Choice! I’d been worried her plane would be delayed by bad
weather.

They’ve both always come to watch me play
and I was glad, and relieved, that today wasn’t going to be any
different.

Sprigs checked his
bootlaces one last time. The new one looked much too clean compared
with the old, so Sprigs poked his fingers into the soggy grass and
dirtied the fresh lace until he couldn’t tell the difference
between the old and the new. Now he felt a lot more confident,
except his fingers were wet and dirty and slippery and it was too
late to clean them.

Grubber tested his stomach by cautiously
poking it.

Butterflies gone?

Check
.

He held his hand over his heart again.

Flip-flop drumming stopped?

Check
.

Lips moist?

Check
.

He felt perfectly fine.

That was the way it
always
happened. As soon
as a match was about to begin he became instantly better. Full of
confidence. Couldn’t wait to start.

He wished he was like
that
before
a
game. If he was, chances were his dad would worry less about him
playing. It was too bad.

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

Kick off

 

We were playing into the wind for the first
half, which was good. It meant that the second half, when we’d be
tired, would be easier for us.

Spike Maynard, the captain of the Reds,
stared over at our captain, Chip Butterfield.


Got the collywobbles?’ he
asked.

Chip stared blankly at him.


Don’t you get it?’ said
Spike. ‘Colly as in cauliflower.’ He turned to the Reds. ‘Not only
thick ears but thick between the ears as well.’

Some of the other Reds laughed
maliciously.


We’re going to flatten
you lot,’ said Spike. He turned to look at me. ‘And you’d better
keep out of the way if you know what’s good for you.’


Takes more than a bad
haircut to frighten me,’ I said to him.

Grubber, listening to this
exchange of compliments, momentarily thought he might have to dash
for the

toilet again but then
something happened which made

him forget all about it. The Ref had blown
his whistle.

Danny Millwall, our first five-eighth,
kicked the ball into play. The Reds and Greens both dived for it.
Sprigs grabbed it but it slipped between his slippery, muddied
fingers. The ball bounced and twisted like it was alive, but
luckily ended back in Danny’s outstretched hands. Then Spike
suddenly rammed into Danny - it looked like a high tackle to me -
and bowled him over. The ball popped from Danny’s hands, bounced
again and was picked up by one of the heavy Red forwards who spun
round and raced into our territory. He was too quick for any of us.
He threw himself between the goalposts for a perfect try.

Five points to
nil.

Half of the spectators cheered. The Red
Brigade.

The other half, the Greenies, stayed
silent.

Five points to the Reds, and another two for
the easy conversion that followed.

Seven to nil.

Seven points on the scoreboard, in the first
few minutes of the game. What a way to begin the Grand Final. What
a way to begin my final game.

Chapter 8

 

Wings

 


Did you see how he
tackled Danny?’ I asked Sprigs. ‘The Ref should’ve spotted that, he
was right there. If I’d been the Ref I would’ve done something
about it.’


It was legit,’ said
Sprigs.


Barely.’


But legit.’

BOOK: Cauliflower Ears
8.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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