Australia, broadly speaking, is a sporting nation.
For many of us, we are introduced to sports at a young age and never look back.
For the rare talents the dream is to become professional, but for myself and many others (aside from daydreams of scoring a World Cup winning goal for Australia), playing sports are a way to keep the mind and body healthy and to make lasting friendships.
When my family moved to Tasmania from England when I was seven, trying to fit in and make friends was a daunting task – made worse by my bad haircut and a funny accent!
I still vividly remember how nervous I was sitting in the back of my dad’s car as he convinced me to go out and have a kick with the local under 7’s soccer team.
Being anxious to step outside your comfort zone or into an unfamiliar setting is a feeling well-known to us all, but the great thing about sport is how quickly bonds are formed when there’s a competition at stake.
In the case of football (soccer) it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what language you speak, we all know the universal language of Jogo Bonito – the beautiful game.
Footballing clichés aside, I look back on my early days as a young sportsman as life defining moments and believe that my involvement in team sports of all kinds has helped shape me into the person I am today.
Image: Nathan and his under 9's football team. Nathan is back row, third from the left.
Sports are a big part of our social fabric, we love the stories, the passion, the drama, the highs and the lows, the club legends, the fill-ins, the rivalries, the comradery, the lifelong friendships, the banter… I could go on here but I’m probably preaching to the converted.
For those who don’t understand or share our passion, that’s okay, all we ask is that you feign interest when we force you to watch Dennis Lillee YouTube highlights. We aren’t members of some exclusive club.
Indeed, we’re quite the opposite. We welcome all and encourage newcomers.
For those of us in Melbourne, 2020 has been pretty rough to say the least.
We’ve been cut-off from so many things that are important to us, our friends and family, our local café and pub, our teammates.
Since moving to the sports capital of Australia (sorry Sydney) a little over three years ago, I have made many new friends in one of the only ways I know how: by finding a futsal or basketball team that’s a little short on numbers.
These last nine months or so I have struggled to fill the giant gaps left by my involvement with several mid-week social leagues, instead trying to scratch my competitive itch by attempting to get into the top 3 on my local Strava segments on my 12-speed commuter bicycle.
However, the light at the end of the tunnel is now tantalisingly close. As I write this, Victoria has just reached  days of no new cases and Dan (Andrews) has not only given us the go ahead to get on the beers, but more importantly to get back to playing sport later this month.
Seeing the cricketers in their whites back on ovals around the city over the weekend is akin to seeing the first green shoots of new leaves on the trees, a sure sign that brighter days are ahead.
So welcome back Melbourne, dust off the footy boots, tennis racquets, cricket bats and frisbee’s, pump up the ball of your choice, grab some witches-hats and get back out there.
Don’t worry about the expected lack of fitness, we’re all in the same boat and anyway, ‘no pain no gain’ as they say – see you on the courts/fields.