Little Local Larrikins – Part One: Meeting The Scot and The Beard

Oh gosh, I’m going to have to vacuum my room again!

I silently curse and berate myself as I sit on my bed, forgetting the regular customs of a tennis season. I put my shoe back down, making sure that it is facing up, as some old runners that are way too small for me currently are placed over the decent sized pile of red en-tout-cas lying at the foot of my bed. Before I make the same mistake again, I shuffle up out of my room in my socks, sliding along the wooden floorboards, before opening the door and emptying as much of the annoying red grains of crushed up brick onto the deck as I can. The process takes roughly five minutes for both shoes, as by the time I’ve eventually put my shoes on and gotten my tennis bag, Mum is ready to go.

I sit in the car, quite dazed and exhausted, having not gotten used to waking up at 6:30 on Saturday mornings after waking up after 9:30 for the past three months of school holidays. These are the times when I despise tennis, as I never stop day-dreaming about my bed and its comfort until the car parks. I jolt awake, out of my daydream, and slowly clamber out of the car. I get my bag and go and wait by the locked clubrooms, not knowing what to do.

It’s the first game of a new season, and I have moved up three sections from 8 to 5. The only person I know in my new team is our number one player; Luke, who I have done lessons with before. Every other name seemed unfamiliar, but I will meet them all today as Luke has been rostered out. I’m slightly nervous, but I’m still tired after the previous night’s tie in my juniors cricket match. I wait at Grace Valley Tennis Club (in Greensborough) for a good five minutes until all three of my teammates arrive within the space of 90 seconds.

I meet them all, with Lewis coming first. He has a great Scottish accent, which comes from him living in the UK for a few years. He is the number four player, but today he will be playing up at three. He moved to the mighty Eltham Tennis Club this season after my team beat his former team in Karingal to get into the finals last season. After seeing him play last season, I am more than delighted to have him on my team.

Next is Hamish, who is the regular number two. He is quite small and shy, but boy is he good. After the match today, I predict huge things for him this season.

The last member I meet is Stephen. He is comfortably older than all of us, with his ever-growing beard making him look around 17. With his hulking frame, I hope that he can put some fear into the opposition, as he can look quite menacing when he is serious.

After we all meet each other and have a bit of a laugh, the courts are finally unlocked and on we go to warm up. We are all quite rusty, with many balls flying into the net or just out. After ten minutes we feel slightly better, and start our first sets.

I am playing number two today so in the first doubles, I play with the number three in Lewis. Hamish and Stephen trudge to the opposite court, as we are lucky enough to have two of the four courts available, with a girls’ team taking the others. Surprisingly, with all of our rustiness, we start off well. We win quite convincingly 6-1, which makes up for Steven and Hamish’s 6-1 defeat. Hamish and I stay on for our singles matches.

Eltham and Mill Park are dead level as I serve, bringing back memories from the cricket match the night before. But it is soon to change as I start striking the ball strongly with my new Yonex racquet, replacing the tiny Wilson I had previously used for four seasons. I break my opponents serve every time he serves in the set, winning 6-2 in a surprising victory. The quality of my opponent was a lot higher than last section; I didn’t expect to win, nonetheless win so convincingly.

As I walk off the court, Hamish goes down 6-3, with Lewis and Stephen starting their singles with Eltham having a one game advantage. The lead extended further, with a chuckle coming from both Hamish and I as we hear Lewis call, “Out!” many times in his accent, as he smashes his opponent 6-0. He comes off smiling, and laughs loudly when we tell him why we were in hysterics. Hamish and I walk onto the court to play our last doubles as Stephen pulls through 6-4. We lead four sets to two, with a six game advantage on top of it. We shouldn’t lose from here.

The set starts off well, with a 2-0 advantage early on, as I finally shake off my rusty backhands, cracking a few down the line past a still bleary eyed opponent. I smile in frustration; it has taken two sets for me to start hitting my best shot well, yet I have still managed to pull through. We lead 5-3, negating the strong number one’s serve, until he cracks a few winners past us to bring it to a tiebreaker at 5-5. Hamish rallies strongly and finally starts to get pumped, as he speaks more to me and looks more joyful. It is 3-3 at change of ends, but it soon goes downhill as we can only hold off a few set points before going down. We aren’t disappointed though; it is our first time playing together and we are playing one rank higher than usual.

I bag the court and trudge back up the steps to hear the good news; we can’t lose. We lead by eight games going into the last set, as a Lewis and Stephen loss still gives us the win by games. We are pleased and excited, as I promise Stephen that I will come up with a nickname for him, which will of course be centred on his beard. I say farewell for two weeks, as I am rostered off for next match, meaning that Luke will meet the others.

In two weeks’ time I return to play St. Johns, and you will get the lowdown from what is hopefully another exciting match of tennis.

I hop back into the car, a lot more awake than when I was last in the car, as I am taken to my seniors’ cricket, all in a blur.

Eltham 4-4 Mill Park

2. Sean/ 3. Lewis- 6-1 Mill Park
1. Hamish/ 4. Stephen- 1-6 Mill Park
1. Hamish- 3-6 Mill Park
2. Sean- 6-2 Mill Park
3. Lewis- 6-0 Mill Park
4. Stephen- 6-4 Mill Park
1. Hamish/ 2. Sean 5-6 Mill Park
3. Lewis/ 4. Stephen 4-6 Mill Park

About John Harms

John Harms is a writer, broadcaster, publisher, historian, speaker and teacher. He loves stories.

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