I grew up with football being a game of 11 players, a round ball and a goal with a net. I lived in Wembley, within shouting distance of the stadium. On a game day we always knew when a goal had been scored.
Now in Australia, it is all very confusing.
Last month in Sydney, we went to “the footy”. This was NRL, rugby league, 13 players per team, an oval ball and an H shaped goal, an oblong pitch. This was running with the ball, throwing it backwards, scrums, tries and goal kicks.
NRL has a big following with some large stadiums. Manly Sea Eagles home ground is relatively small. It was a family afternoon out, some stands with undercover seating, but also open grass areas and rows of wooden benches, all close to the pitch. There were mascots and cheerleaders and kids played mini games on the pitch before the main game and during half time.
Last weekend, we went to “the footy” in Tasmania. This was AFL, “aussie rules”. A totally different game. Tasmania do not have an AFL team, so North Melbourne play a couple of home games in Hobart. This was a big event for the city. We joined twelve thousand others at Bellerive Oval on the eastern shore. Free buses took spectators from various points in the city.
Again it was a family friendly environment, with kids events on the pitch before the game. The grass seating areas were segregated into an alcohol free “dry area” and “wet area”.
The atmosphere was great, friendly. Supporters of all ages sat together and chatted. Some supporters had travelled from West Australia, others from Melbourne, Sydney, some were local Tasmanians. Prices were reasonable for tickets and for the high quality food, pies, chips and drinks. It was a fun afternoon out and a fast paced, exciting game.
This is what I think I’ve learned about “Aussie Rules” …..
played on an oval pitch with an oval ball
played in 4 quarters, 20 minutes each quarter
18 players on each team
7 umpires plus a tv umpire
goal between the centre posts is worth 6 points
a “behind” between the side posts is worth 1 point
can’t throw the ball or hand it to another player
can run with it – like rugby
can bounce it – like basketball
can punch the ball – like handball or volleyball
can kick it – like soccer
It looked rather chaotic at times with the players in the team colours, the umpires in yellow and trainers and water bottle girls in pink all on the field after goals.
Australia takes all sports very seriously. The sports pages of our newspaper covers … athletics, basketball, cricket, golf, hockey, horse racing including gallops and harness, ice hockey, motor racing, netball, rowing, rugby, rugby league, sailing, soccer, surfing, tennis, as well as EPL (English Premier League – Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea and all), TSL (Tasmania State League – aussie rules) and of course, AFL and NRL.