I am currently locked inside a hotel room with no chance of an escape. This is no joke.
Having recently returned to Australia from the United States, I am in an understandable forced quarantine inside a hotel organized by the Australian government and federal police.
I do not have a key to my room and there is security patrolling the hall in which I and other’s are placed, as well as downstairs in the lobby.
Occasionally, when my boredom strikes, I’ll look out the peep hole of my door and watch police officers on their patrol.
If I chose to make a run-for-it, I’d be looking at jail time as it is a federal offense now to break these requirements.
So, I am locked in a hotel room with no escape…well, no physical escape.
I may not be able to leave my room but I have the greatest mental escape to turn to. Rugby league.
For the past year and a half, I’ve been watching weekend games through an iPad connected to my TV.
I found myself setting an alarm for 2-3 am more times than my body could truly handle.
I leaned on the support of my blood family and internet family for a sense of community while I unsuccessfully begged Americans to watch the game with me.
As time went on, it became harder and harder to keep up with the action.
When the game returned after the COVID-19 hiatus, I found it pretty impossible to juggle the footy alongside my work and developing social life.
Away from Parramatta’s games, I wasn’t watching anywhere near as much as I would’ve wanted.
Some teams, I hadn’t seen play at all yet. Realistically, I had probably only watched 20% of the games.
Then, I packed up all my things and hopped on a plane for 15 hours and flew down under.
After a crazy airport experience, two young men in their army uniforms accompanied me to my room, dropped off my suitcases and shut the door behind them.
It was a surreal experience that I can not put into words. The sense of uncomfortability sunk in almost immediately.
Then, I looked outside my window. There in front of me was the beautiful ANZ stadium.
Suddenly, I was rushed with emotion as I went on a nostalgic rollercoaster of memories inside that stadium.
From watching my first ever Parramatta final live to watching NSW claim the series in front of 80,000 screaming fans.
Just the look of ANZ made me feel home. I had no idea what to expect from the 14 days ahead of me but, I did know that I had a sense of comfortability in footy.
Thursday rolled around and I had something to look forward to.
Same thing on Friday then again on Saturday and on Sunday.
I was stuck in a hotel with no way to get out but I had 8 games ahead of me to watch after months of barely finding time to watch 1 game.
For the first time in God knows how long, I watched an entire weekend of football.
I sat in my little hotel room, jumping between my bed and couch, talking to friends online while I ranted about the commentators and celebrated the highs and lows of Corey Norman’s passing game.
I had looked at the prospect of quarantine and was terrified. I was scared that I would fall into a place of sadness and loneliness but that hasn’t been the case at all.
With the love and support of those around me and the game I love with all my heart, I feel free in a locked room. I will never call this sport “just a game” as so many love to do.
For me, right now, this game is my escape when I have no escape.