Melbourne is sometimes known as the sporting capital of the world. We Melbournites passionately follow anything that even resembles a competitive event. Two snails slithering side-by-side? An audience will gather. But, by far the most followed sport in this town is Australian Rules Football. To us, its just footy. It still amazes me that the rest of the world is largely unaware of its existence. A similar conversation to this has occurred countless times over my travels.
“What sport do you follow?”
“I really like Australian Rules Football.”
“Oh, you mean rugby?”
“No, Australian Rules Football. Its unique to Australia and not really like rugby at all.”
“So, its a lot like rugby then?”
I won’t bore anyone with a detailed analysis of the rules, but it isn’t really like rugby at all. It is played on an oval with a ball similar to a rugby ball, but less pointed. The basic idea is to kick it through the big sticks that are at either end of the field. You get 6 points if it goes through the big ones, 1 if it goes through the little ones. You kick and handpass the ball (not throw), and can go any direction you want. You can also tackle, and players don’t wear pads.
I had given Jess an ultimatum quite a while ago that she was to be a supporter of the Melbourne Demons. This Friday night, she got the opportunity to see her beloved team in live action for the first time. The Demons were taking on the Carlton Blues under lights on the hallowed turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, known to us locals simply as the G. It has a colosseum type feeling about it with a massive capacity of over 100,000 screaming fans.
Unfortunately the game was a pretty uninspiring affair. The injury ravaged Demons got comfortably beaten by the Blues. Skills were down thanks to a heavy shower just before the game, which made the ball slippery and took away some of the more skillful elements. Interestingly, pre-game entertainment featured Olivia Newton-John singing alongside club legend, Irishman Jim Stynes. Jim is a true champion. After his football career ended, he got involved in combatting youth suicide. Over the past few years, he has fronted the Melbourne Football Club as well as fighting his own battle against cancer, all with a smile on his face.
The lackluster game aside however, I was glad Jess got to experience what could be considered the most traditional of all things to do in Melbourne; a trip to the G to watch some footy.