Growing up in Victoria you couldn’t escape the Australian Football League (AFL). Currently containing 18 teams, Aussie Rules football was formally established in 1896 and has become the game of choice to both play and watch by most people in the state. It’s even spread to all the other states who have at least one team to represent them during the season (except Tasmania. Where’s their team?).
For those of you who are unfamiliar with AFL I will try to explain it as easily as I can. Firstly, unlike American football, players do not wear any safety equipment other than a mouth guard. They may choose to wear head gear, but that’s a rarity. The game is played between two teams of 18 who also have 4 interchange (or reserve players). Played on a large oval grass pitch, it is a contact sport and involves the team attempting to get as many ‘goals’ as they can. This is achieved by kicking the ball between two large white posts at the team’s end of the oval. The players generally kick, run with the ball or handball to another player to move the ball to their goal area. If running with the ball, it must be bounced at least every 15 metres. The ball can not be thrown and is handballed instead which is where the player punches the ball from one hand with the alternate fist. AFL played tend to leap in the air to ‘mark’ the ball. Of course, the rules and game are a little more intricate in detail than my explanation. You can read them in full here.
Having moved to Sydney on meeting T, I stopped following my team. Although NSW has the Sydney Swans, it is not followed by the masses who are more inclined to be passionate about NRL. It’s not played at my children’s school and they are unlikely to choose to watch it when it comes on television as it’s fairly foreign to them both. So, when we were in Victoria in the middle of the AFL season I knew we had to buy tickets and watch a match so both teams could get a taste for the sport I grew up watching. We checked the draw to see who was playing at discovered that North Melbourne were playing at Etihad Stadium.
To be truthful, I am not a big North Melbourne fan but my family has no idea about the teams so it didn’t really matter who we watched. The draw card was Etihad Stadium. As the only football stadium in the Southern Hemisphere with a fully retractable roof, Etihad has to be seen to be believed. It was amazing. It was briskly cold outside but with the roof closed we were warm and even removed our jackets for the match. Master R was enthralled from the start of the match right through to the end. He screamed with the crowd and applauded marks. He quickly picked up the rules and could even name players by the conclusion of the match.
A trip to the AFL for those who have never attended previously can seem drawn out and slow. They play on a massive oval with a large number of team mates. Given a good crowd, a passionate group, and the match will be brilliant as you are drawn into the atmosphere and enjoy the thrill of victory.
Want to attend a match? Head to the AFL main page to find out who is playing and where. Let us know what you think once you go.