Finally, I got to see the famous aussie rules football in action! A friend from University, Jamie, was in town and suggested we go catch a Saturday afternoon game with his team Geelong playing the local Bulldogs.
The first point about the game is that it is long – each quarter is about half an hour long, with breaks in between that can be at least 10 mins. So if you go to a game, be prepared to sit (in the cold if in Melbourne) for about 3 hours!
The next is that it is loosely organised mayhem! There were no obvious formations on pitch that I could ascertain, and the general rule just seems to be to find a bloke to mark and give him a really hard time (pushing, shoving, punches to the back of the head included). There are no red cards in the game, although you are penalised for holding other players, and making high tackles.
But overall, I really enjoyed the game! There is a high degree of skill involved in kicking the ball to your team mates (remember kicking rugby balls?!), and catching it requires alot of athleticism. The score lines are generally quite high (98-97 in our game), and the pace of the game is quite exciting once the players manouever themselves into kicking distance. You obviously need to be very fit, as the pitch is huge (well, it’s a cricket oval), and very strong or you’d just fall apart. Apparently the sport evolved from a need to keep Rugby cricket* players fit in the winter season, whilst keeping injuries to a minimum. This either means that Rugby cricket* players are even tougher than I thought, or that AFL today is a little different from its humble beginnings.
It was a great day out, a few beers and snacks and I was quite happy to follow the game for a few hours. It’s also made me consider going to some rugby and football matches in England, just for the experience. And next time I am in the USA, I really want to see a baseball or american football game, as the whole experience seems very American, with the big stadiums, scoreboards and the merchandising and marketing (compare AFL and NFL). Of course, the Americans are padded wussies compared to these guys. If I was to stay in Australia I could probably turn into a real AFL fan. Just don’t ask me which team I would support 🙂
So probably seems like a good point to add a little footnote to this article!
Okay, I’ve been away for almost 7 months, and people might be wondering where all this is going. So far it’s been a great experience, I’ve overcome my unexpected aversion to being away for more than a month from “home”, and I’ve had time to chill out and meet some really cool people. But now I’m reaching a definite crossroads in my journey. The factors affecting me on this highway are: money, homesickness, careers, autumn in Melbourne, and growing aversion to being a long term backpacker. Therefore soon I am going to have to decide whether I think it’s going to be worth carrying the journey on at this stage. Probably I could get by for a few months of cheap travel if I pick up random jobs etc, but I don’t really want to be going near any more hostels and backpacker shared accommodations. My plan for this year was always more on the side of getting some decent contract work and staying in a few places for a good amount of time, interspersed with periods of voyaging and seeing the sights. Since that might not work well enough for a whole years stay, I may have to return another time and just see the rest of Australia without worrying about working. The thing I would miss most is the chance to do alot more surfing and diving…So I’ll let y’all know soon!
*thanks to Amanda for the correction!