Football in Melbourne
Well I’ve been back three weeks now. Life is fine, but will be a lot better when I can start work. Things are ok on the job front, just waiting to actually start. Technically I’ve been an unemployed bum since March and I think for my sanity more than anything else, the sooner I can get out and work, the better. Hopefully by the end of the week! But that’s what I was thinking last week.
Anyways, today I turn towards a sport that is very much in my heart – Australian (Aussie) Rules Football. On the weekend, I went to my first game this year. My team played a team from Perth, who finished second out of 18 teams in the AFL – Australian Football League – last year. And we lost. My team is going through frustrating times at the moment, and has been for a few years now sadly. But teams go up and teams go down, it will be our turn again one day.
But as for the game of Aussie Rules, well, it really is more than just a sport. In Melbourne, a city that proudly boasts to be sport mad, it is part of our culture, our heritage. In the AFL, half the teams are from Melbourne. To look at sport across the country, the 8 states and territories are either rugby mad or Aussie Rules mad.
Queensland and NSW (New South Wales – the most populous state) are ‘rugby states’. You could include the small ACT (Australian Capital Territory) in there too I guess leaving Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Victoria (of which Melbourne, my home, is the capital) as fans of Aussie Rules. The AFL is the premiere league in the country, featuring 2 teams from WA, 2 from SA, 2 from NSW, 2 from Queensland and 10 from Victoria. In contrast most of the NRL (National Rugby League) teams are from NSW and Queensland, with one from Melbourne and one or two (I don’t follow NRL!) from New Zealand.
So, unless you hate all sport with a burning passion, if you’re in Australia during winter and you can, I thoroughly recommend you head to an AFL match on the weekend. The season runs from late March through to the end of September. September is finals time, and the Grand Final is traditionally played on the last Saturday afternoon of September. Tickets can be expensive and almost impossible to get for that one, but if you know some people in Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth, they might well be having a BBQ and watching the game. Some friends of mine held a small party in Iwate, Japan for the event even!
To the game itself. The game is a winter game as I said, designed originally as a sort of combination of Gaelic football and other sports to be played on cricket grounds in the winter when cricket wasn’t played. Cricket grounds are traditionally very big, and so the length of an Aussie Rules ground might be 180 or more metres. Usually at least 165 metres from goal to goal.
Go with friends if you can, and they will explain the rules to you. If you can’t, well here’s a very basic run down.
The object is to kick goals. At each end of the ground are four goal posts, two are tall, in the middle, with the two outer goalposts shorter. A goal is between the big posts and gives the team six points, either side is one point only. You have to keep the ball moving, but if you catch the ball (which is called a ‘mark’), then you can stop and go back for your kick. You can’t throw the ball, but you can handpass, which is done by hitting the ball with your fist as it sits in the other hand.
A game has four quarters that go for around 30 minutes each. There’s a five minute break after the first and third quarters, and a longer 20 minute or so break at half time after the second quarter. All in all, from start to finish, the game takes just under three hours including breaks.
Scores are read as – GOALS : POINTS : TOTAL SCORE
for example – 10 – 10 – 70
10 goals (60 pts) + 10 points = 70
People get very passionate at games, you’ll hear some amazing cheering, chants, and yes, abuse! The umpires cop it just as bad at an AFL game than in any sport. But don’t let that deter you! The game is full of pace, amazing skill, high leaps, awesome marks (catches), strong tackles and thumps and bumps. For me, there is no game in the world that rivals it as a spectacle. But – be your own judge! Here’s a little taste of what you can expect at an Aussie Rules game –
By the way, my team are the mighty Western Bulldogs, based in Melbourne’s western suburbs. They wear the red, white and blue and play at Etihad Stadium, the only AFL stadium with a roof which is great in the winter when it’s raining outside as it was on Sunday. So come down and cheer the bulldogs on! Don’t worry about any of those other teams!
So yes, from now on, you can expect a few more posts about my home country! Thanks for reading today, watch this space for more travel stories and pics, ideas and hopefully, a little inspiration! May the journey never end!