Australian Football League – 15th May 2011
Rhys’ Note: This entry will be a little different as I must admit – I know very little about Aussie Rules Football. As such, I don’t really know what’s going on, so my usual witty captions will be missing. “Hurrah!”, I hear you shout. Anyway – this blog is by John Wilson of Twofromwales.com. You read about their experience at Thai Football, this is their experience at Australian Rules Football, in one of the most famous stadiums in the world, the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia.
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After a quick introduction into the rules of AFL, or Aussie Rules as I’ve always known it, when we first arrived in Perth, we both quickly got hooked on the sport and had to wait a further 6 weeks before we’d get to see a game in person.
The rules are pretty easy to understand while the concept is as simple as you’d expect from any competitive sport; out score your opponents. Either by scoring 6 points for a goal (kicking the ball between the centre posts) or a single point for a behind (the ball between the outer goals).
A scoring structure like this often leads to big swings in the game and plenty of high scoring and our first (and unfortunately only) game was no exception. Watching the action from close to the pitch side at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), we saw one team straight from the off go on to take the first quarter with a 30 point advantage.
Unfortunately, it was St. Kilda that took the lead. Some sloppy ball handling and very few attacks on goal saw our adopted team for the day, the Hawthorne Hawks, fall far behind. If things weren’t to improve in the second quarter then it would have been very embarrassing for a team who on paper, should win this game every time and we’d probably not get invited back by our Hawthorne supporting friends in case we brought bad luck with us.
However, with the start of the second quarter and probably some monumental hair dryer treatment for the Hawks players by the coaching staff, we saw a very quick resurgence with the Hawks scoring some very quick goals to bring them back into the game and better still, taking the lead from St. Kilda.
This new found dominance continued into the remaining 2 quarters with the Hawks running away with the game, finishing up on 99 compared to St. Kilda’s 69.
More like Gaelic football than proper football, and not so much like rugby as we first expected, AFL has a very quick tempo to it and some incredibly athletic players. The speed at which they play and some of the crunching blocks they put in, it’s clear to see why it’s such a popular sport. Each quarter should last 20 minutes but because of the clock stopping on TV between goals & other dead ball situations but not in the ground, each quarter lasted a good half hour.
Entry was pretty reasonable, AUS $30 (roughly £20) gets you a ticket and you can choose your own seat. The first quarter we watched from the gods to get a grasp of the size of the place & the size of the playing surface. The remaining quarters we chose seats half a dozen rows back from the pitch, just off half way.
For cricket fans, the MCG probably won’t need much of an introduction. As a cricket ground, this is one of the places where the Ashes are played. An extremely modern ground with around 95,000 capacity, great facilities and plenty of history. And that’s about as much as I know.
As with everything Australian, it’s very relaxed, family oriented & alcohol is very much permitted (not that we could afford it mind, over £6 a pint???). At half time, there’s some kind of mini-AFL competition played by kids, which is quite funny to watch while munching on a real Australian Angus beef pie. Mmmmm, this northern boy loves a half time pie.
All in all, a very enjoyable game & a very watchable sport. The only negative compared to watching football was the lack of atmosphere. Perhaps it was this game, which was far from a sell out with only forty thousand people or so, but there didn’t seem much banter or rivalry from the fans which you expect from a football match.
It’s a hard one to decide who had the loudest fans as, much like rugby, both sets of fans are intermingled with a small cheer squad behind each goal for one of the teams. These cheer squads only really becoming vocal when their team scores. It was humorous though to hear the odd proper Aussie shout random abuse at his own team, never the opponents and his equally deep Aussie sounding child copying a few minutes later.
After watching the game, I think I decided quite quickly that this would be my new second sport (behind proper football) and if it’s on Sky when we get home, then I’ll watch it for sure, although my team would have to be Freemantle Dockers from Perth rather than Hawthorne, sorry guys.