There were too many kids for my father’s almost average wage. Shoes were a luxury not the necessity of today, trying to keep up with what the rest of the class wears. Nike didn’t exist (yes, I really am that old) and a new pair of gumboots was an annual event such as a birthday or Christmas.

But they breed ’em tough in Darlimurla, and on all but the coldest mornings we fetched the cows for milking in bare feet.

The feeling of the grass in summer, the mud in winter, the cool water in the creek and the connection with that part of the world is beyond doubt a cause for my attachment to it.

The smell of freshly cut hay or on the golf course where we worked for $1 an hour for three hours before school lingers in my mind. Occasionally we would slip out for an illegal round or two, leaving our barefoot tracks in the dewy grass as we chased the wallabies off the third fairway and squelched through the lateral water hazard on the seventh.

We played footy, soccer, ran cross-country and sprints, competed in long, triple and high jump without shoes.

Grass and sport are intricately linked. The finest tennis in the world is played on grass, whether in Shepparton, Kooyong or Wimbledon.

Soccer would fail on asphalt as players would leave the pitch with gravel rash from a slide group hug gone wrong should a goal be scored. Rugby and Aussie Rules, cricket and softball rely on the ability to break a fall or slide on the tender grassy pitches.

Hockey and tennis, along with many other sports, have decided to ‘modernise’ to synthetic pitches. The lower maintenance costs suggest other sports will follow suit. The joy of playing on grass as a child is a distant memory in the old or the poor who cannot afford to join expensive clubs or teams.

Gay and lesbian sport includes all. Clubs with volunteer committees conduct their operations on the scent of grass or dust in stadia, chlorine in swimming pools, seaspray on the waters of the bay.

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