The try line opened up in front of me. I was just 10 metres from glory and my first ever try in rugby league, plus a chance to send my team into the final of the Sydney Metropolitan U/6 round robin tournament.
I fixed my eyes on the prize and tucked the ball under my right arm. I gritted my teeth and charged for the try line when I saw a shape emerge from my left. It grew in size as it approached with zest and I knew it was aiming to cut me down. Through pure instinct I stuck out my left arm and produced a fend which belied my size and strength and sent the opposing halfback tumbling to the ground.
The elusive prize was still within my grasp and with growing confidence and eagerness I tore towards the opposition line as fast as my skinny little legs could carry me. I was nearing the line and the white chalk shone more brightly against the scuffed green grass and stud-marked mud. I was adamant that nothing would stop me from claiming the four points and the resultant hero status.
My eyes bulged with excitement until I felt another presence looming up on me. This one approached from behind on my right and I knew it had to be the opposing team’s speedster who had scored two of their tries with his blistering pace. Through intuition alone I anticipated his lunging tackle and stepped deftly off my left foot to leave him grasping at air. The try was still on.
No more than five metres separated me from victory and I lowered my head and charged towards the intersection of the try line and the touch line, as I knew this was the only way to evade the approaching cover defence. 4, 3, 2 metres and I had to keep charging and commit to the corner. The ball was cradled firmly within my arm and I made my final push. Smothered by two opposing players I crashed into the corner and was trampled into the mud, legs buckled under the two tacklers and arm outstretched to plant the ball over the try line with downward pressure. I had face planted and eaten dust and mud and grass and chalk and I knew I would be sore all over for days. I didn’t care. I was elated. I had scored the winning try which would propel my team into the grand final and a chance for metropolitan glory at the tender age of 5, when winning any game felt like winning a world cup.
I heard a muffle of screams and whoops and claps and groans as both teams reacted to my victorious lunge. I felt my team mates simultaneously jump on me and drag me off the ground and all pain subsided in a rush of joy and adrenaline.
On the way up from the ground, it happened.
I caught a glimpse of the linesman.
I knew I was close to the corner. That was deliberate. That was my only chance to score. I knew I had made it. I was sure I had landed within the field of play. I was pretty certain I had made it. I was confident. Surely it was a try.
Or was it?
As I regained my feet and was revelling in the adulation of my teammates and supporters, I saw it. Through flailing arms and back slaps and high fives I saw the flag. The linesman’s flag left his side and slowly, in a painstaking, slow motion arc, rose from the his hip up to his chest, beyond his chest, to his shoulder. Up, up it went. Up, up higher. Not Up, Up Cronulla, but up, up above his head until it was a mere extension if his outstretched arm.
The try had been disallowed. In the commotion, we had not heard the final whistle. We had lost. Elation turned to despair. The knock-out comp had knocked us out. It was all over.
I looked despairingly at the linesman.
How could you Dad?