Saturday night, May and I were able to attend our first AFL or “footy” match. AFL is the professional league for Aussie Rules Football which is quite cultish in this area of Australia. You can think of it in the same realm as college football in the southeast but condensed to a much smaller area for the most part. I caught a few matches on television when we first arrived and really took to it. I just had to understand the rules first.
The sport itself, in my mind, is a combination of football, soccer, and rugby. The basic premise is to score points by kicking the football through the middle uprights of the field. That gives you 6 points. If you hit it through the uprights on either side, then you are given 1 point. For those not following that Madden style logic, the team with the most points at the end wins. With teams of 18, your job is to work the ball down the field via kicks, running with it (and dribbling it, sort of), as well as handballing it. This keeps the game in constant action until the end of each quarter, though we struggled to figure out if that was in 30 minute blocks or whenever the screaming horn decided to sound. In other words, watch this video for a better depiction of an AFL game.
We chose this particular game as we wanted to check out the Melbourne Cricket Ground (a.k.a. The G). The G stands as a marvel to behold upon entering due to its behemoth size. To wrap your head around its size, the field of play, fence to fence, alone sits at 173.6 meters long (189.9 yards) and 148.3 meters wide (162.18 yards). It can seat 100,024 people which ranks it as the 12th largest stadium in the world. Its record for largest capacity is 130,000 so true capacity has some room to bend apparently. I do find it quite funny that I’ve been to 3 of the top 20 largest stadiums in the world and 2 of those 3 were due to college football in the south.
Another big reason we chose this particular match was because it was between the bitter rivals: Hawthorn Hawks and the Geelong Cats. As one person from my office informed me, “think of it as the 49ers and the Seahawks”. This statement was quite true as the game went on when one particular Cats player ever touched the ball as the chorus of boos would fill the stadium. Apparently, he left the Hawks several seasons ago to join the Cats. At least that was the version of the story I caught from the Cats’ fans sitting behind us.
To allow us to truly enjoy the game without having a particular team, May and I each decided to pick a team and enjoy the trash talk. With her exhaustive research, May sided with the Cats due to their logo and better color choice than the opponent. This left me with the Hawks and thankfully a W in the Win column at the end of the night, but it was stressful in the first half as Geelong took a nice lead. The second half was a different story though. Here’s a write up of the game to summarize it better than me.
All in all, it was a great time and we discovered many new things about Australia:
- Having Lady Gaga one arena over and AFL on the same night made for some interesting combinations of people in close proximity
- Watching a game live helps you understand it so much more than watching it on TV
- The massive size of the G in person is amazing to see. The field and the thought of running up and down it for 4 quarters makes me tired without taking a single step.
- AFL club songs are interesting: Hawks and Geelong.
- You have probably read this entire post pronouncing Geelong incorrectly. Don’t feel bad, we did too.
- Pronouncing Geelong pails in comparison to Adidas. It will take you half the commercial before you realize it.
- And finally, whenever a bird poops on May it is the funniest thing you will ever see and will make your night at the G even more enjoyable.