So today I took an important step in understanding Aussie culture – my first Aussie Rules Football game! AFL (to give it its local name) is a weird hybrid of football and rugby, with a slight hint of American football too. It’s most popular in Victoria (of which Melbourne is capital) but other states are starting to pick it up now too – they’ve tended to be more into rugby league in the past.
It’s played on a circular pitch, there are 18 players per side, about 5 referees on the pitch at the same time and the managers get to send on ‘runners’ any time they want – blokes in fluorescent shirts who relay messages from the bench to the players (the pitch is too big for even the shoutiest managers to be heard from the sidelines!). You get six points for a goal, which is when you get the ball between two H posts (like rugby) and one point for a ‘behind’, which is when you miss the main posts but still get the ball between one of the posts and another post off to the side. (It makes sense when you see it).
The game we saw was a pretty important one because both teams were fighting it out for a place in the run-offs – the league splits towards the end of the season and the top 6, 8, (?) go into the run-offs while the rest play the season out for pride! The first half (made up of two quarters of about 25 mins each) was fairly one-sided (the Richmond Tigers were pretty dominant) but the second half was pretty exciting as their opponents, the Essendon Bombers fought back and it ended up coming right down to the last few seconds. The final score was something like 108-102 so you can see there was lots of action!
There was a bit of a lack of atmosphere compared to a football match (I refuse to call it soccer!) – apparently the crowd aren’t allowed to sing until the end of the game (!) and it’s weird because there’s no home and away stands – everyone’s mixed in together. But you can see it’s a ‘fun for all the family’ type of occasion, which can’t always be said for the terraces in Scotland!