My initial secondary education was undertaken at the Footscray Technical School for Boys. For the three final years at the school I was a member of the school’s soccer team. During that time one of our opponents was the Williamstown Technical School for Boys. It was normal for the FTSB to beat the WTSB by a considerable margin.
That was not the case in the very last match I played against our old rivals before ending my years at Footscray aged 15. The Williamstown boys beat us 1-0! As the captain of the Footscray team, it was my task to give the team results and reports to the school assembly on a Monday morning.
On the Monday following our defeat at the hands of Williamstown, I started my report on the match by saying: “With the help of the referee, Footscray were beaten 1-0 by Williamstown”. There were some murmurings from the assembled students and staff. But, it was when I announced the best Footscray players from the match that the assembly really erupted. In the list I included…..yes, yours truly, Stewart Culbard!
Needless to say, that was the last assembly report I gave for some time. It did not matter that the Footscray boys unanimously agreed with my view about the perceived bias of the referee – and wanted me to report the same. Neither did it matter that the best players for either side were selected, rather ironically, by that same referee!
More than coincidentally, I also announced that one of the best players for the Williamstown team in that match was a wingman whose first name was Andy. In later years Andy was to become a close and valued mate. He still is.
I was unaware if Andy was ever told about that incident. But it came to my mind again a year or two back. At that time, Andy had made a comment on one of the articles I had written in my personal blog. He finished with the words: “Good on you, Stewart, it makes one vulnerable to write a blog.”
Way back in 1959, when Andy and I were playing football for our respective schools, “vulnerability” was a little-known concept – at least amongst 15 year-old boys! However, now that we have both celebrated our 70th birthdays, we are aware of what being vulnerable can mean. I certainly learned a worthwhile lesson in vulnerability (and perhaps humility) as a schoolboy at Footscray Technical School for Boys (now the Victorian State University at Footscray).
At times vulnerability is a result of being somewhat innocent – and maybe too honest. At other times it is a consequence of being foolish – and maybe somewhat vain. Youth can be all of these things. However, I will continue to appreciate Andy for many things – especially his more recent comment that vulnerability can be, by implication and in fact, a sign of strength and maturity.
But the story does not end there. Andy celebrated his 70th birthday in 2014. At the request of his family I wrote a piece to be included in some greetings for his birthday celebrations. Following that event, the response from Andy was salutary:
“Do you remember it was me who scored the goal (for Williamstown) that day? I crossed the ball from the right wing and I think your goalie misjudged the flight of the ball in the air and it dropped behind him into the net. I mention it because the next day I was late for school and was lining up for my allocation of yard-duty from Mr. Reeves, one of our sheet-metal teachers, and he asked me if I played on the wing against Footscray, to which I said yes and he said ‘Off you go, no yard duty!’”
I had forgotten (sub-consciously, of course) who it was had scored “that” goal for Williamstown on that memorable day. So I duly informed Andy that I did appreciate the addition to my tale and the very gracious manner of his recollection. It did not escape my recollection, however, that the outcomes of the incident recalled were that I was carpeted at my school, with Andy being given the “red carpet” treatment at his. “To the victor goeth the spoils”. Life can be so unfair!
Life also contains lessons that need to be learned, remembered and applied. One of these lessons is about the value of friendships – especially those that, irrespective of circumstances and personal outcomes, endure.
A recent conversation with a respected member of my extended family expressed the viewpoint that, throughout life, relatively few genuine and lasting friendships are made. Such friendships are to be highly prized. As one year ends and another begins, this is a lesson of life about which it is appropriate to be reminded.
May I take this opportunity to express the wish that 2015 will be a happy, prosperous and friendly year for all readers of this blog.