Grace O’Dowd – 50 Games!

Written by Lane Cove Cats

25 July 2022

Sunday 17th July, marked the 50th AFL junior game for Grace O’Dowd in the famous blue and white hoops.

Picture a dark, wintry night at Blackman Park. The lights are operating as though they’ve been attached to someone’s old car battery. As the parents stand on the sideline looking at their watches and stamping their feet to keep the cold out, the session is coming to an end and The Coach calls the team together for “just a few” words. As the team gathers, The Coach gently encourages a straggler, bent over in the goal square. The response comes in that tweeny, singy-songy, vaguely defensive tone, “Wait a minute, I’m just doing up my LACES!”.

Laces starts her AFL career in the U12s, no doubt seeking an outlet for an internal energy source that could power the Lane Cove West industrial park. Even allowing for the fact that she is younger than most of the team, she is slight of frame and it usually takes two or three goes to find a uniform that will stay on while she is running about. Her footy is rightly a little cautious to start and there is a bit of watching the game rather than playing it, but she is soon getting involved in the contest. There are occasions where she runs in to the pack, only to bounce back out at a slightly higher rate. Inevitably she dusts herself off, and gets back in to the next contest and all the while the gears are turning, she’s processing how it all works and learning how to survive and thrive in the game. If your mother was a fan of the Hornblower series (google Ioan Gruffudd), you will be familiar with the ship HMS Indefatigable.  She may well have been named after Laces.

Come pre-season training 2022 and the 6″ taller version of Laces turns up. By now Laces is well across her game. She uses her speed to attack the ball and the ball skills honed on the basketball court have made her a serious possession gatherer. She’s also developed a good defensive game, learnt to roll with the contact and difficult to get past these days. You will usually find her in one of the pockets moving the ball into the forward line and snagging the odd goal for herself.

Most intriguing about Laces is that she has a deliciously different way of thinking about footy. The coaches will ask for input from the team at the quarter time breaks and Laces is never shy in contributing a thought that comes from somewhere to the South East of Left Field. A frown will cross the coaches’ brows as they welcome the input and ask someone else to speak. About twenty minutes later, A. Coach will lean over to The Coach and say, “you know, that’s a really good idea”.

Laces just enjoys her footy. There is running, there is tackling, there is talking – what’s not to like. A good team needs good players, a great team needs good characters and Laces is part of what makes this a great team.

Congratulations Grace on 50 games at the Cats.

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