Moments I’m standing in press tribune at the Manchester Evening News Arena. Before me England are playing Jamaica at Netball for the bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games. The air is filled with the smell of wood, paint, popcorn, beer and the perfume of one of my fellow volunteers. It’s warm. My ears are battered with the cheering and chanting of the crowd; my mouth is dry with screaming, the palms of my hands chapped with clapping.

The volunteering process had taken eighteen months from an initial course, through application via administration, through to picking up my uniform. For all of that time it was something I was looking forward, in my future, sentences throughout beginning with ‘When I’m at the games …’ or ‘After the games …’ The process was mostly painless and as time went on I was more and more excited – it was like Christmas in middle of the year. And everyone was happy to be there. It’s odd how when you’re not actually getting paid to do a job it somehow seems to mean more to you.

But it was also about the people. Thrown together, the press room staff were an odd bunch, but within hours we had started to bond and within days we were doing all of the things it takes some groups of staff months to do – you know, being able to fit in about each other, the shorthand. Because we all let our guard down slightly, and trusted each other to some extent, and actually liked each other, we all (I hope) had one of the best working experiences we’ve ever had. For the first time in ages, I stood on that press tribune and actually liked the people I was working with, and felt that collectively we were doing a good job, trusted them all. We could pick fun of each other without much offense being give when needed. It really is the weirdest thing in the world, but some of the friendships I had in those three weeks feel more important than some I’ve had for years. For once I was in on the joke; I was content just to be there.

Although some people had grinned when they heard I would be at the Netball, I approached it with a totally open mind. On the day before the main competition began, two school girl teams were invited to play in the venue, so that the various process which would be happening during matches could practices – the results, the media, and the volunteers. As someone new to the sport it seemed interesting but not something you would want to follow. Slow, and full of stoppages. Then on the opening day New Zealand, I think were playing their opening match. Sitting on the photography bench on the edge of the court, I don’t think I’ve seen anything so balletic, visceral and exciting. For a non-contact sport it’s extremely physical and even with my rudimentary understanding of the admittedly complicated rules my eyes were pinned at the ball and the court. My love for the game became so unique that when two drunk journalists appeared on the final day and told me they were ‘stuck covering it’ and ‘didn’t like this shite’, I felt like punching them.

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