Continuing with this series that I have in my head that I need to finish even if no one reads it, comes a game that is uniquely Australian. Twenty-two men on each team, running many a kilometre on a field that covers the area of two football fields. These same men are trying to kick an oval ball in the gap between four posts. The middle gap worth six points, the outside gaps worth one. No punch ups, only melees, which incur heavy fines for all participants.
The game itself is thought to have originated in the late 1850's in Australia's southern state of Victoria. Most clubs in the AFL hail from Victoria, and it is considered the heartland of Aussie Rules Football. The very first game is believed to have lasted three days and no goals were scored. Must have had a few Brisbane players playing...
Australian Football League (AFL)
Aerial ping pong. Blokes in tight shorts and sleeveless shirts running around, prancing like ballet dancers. No matter how you describe it, Australian Rule Football is a unique sport. While many Aussie expats and curious locals have started their own leagues around the world (Sweden, Thailand and the USA for example), the game enjoys steady support in many states of Australia. Exhibition matches have been played in London, and a hybrid version of the game has been created along with Gaelic football, a cross between soccer and AFL. Recent series against the Irish have usually descended into brawls, which is bizarre considering how sober the teams are going onto the field.
WHO IS GOOD:
I couldn't tell you more than three players on this team, yet they have won three of the last five grand finals. If they follow the pattern they have set, they should win this year. Geelong has no superstars on their roster, but have many great players in all the key positions. In 1998, Geelong once had a player name himself, by deed poll, after a cat food as a promotional gimmick. Geelong was in a rough state of affairs financially and this, surprisingly, helped a bit. Garry Hocking became ‘Whiskas'.
WHO TO SUPPORT:
These guys are akin to the Boston Bruins of late: young, brash, hard-playing but totally great at what they do, which is winning. Mind you, I'm not saying to support the Bruins.... Runners up last year but 2008 premiers.
WHO TO HATE:
The evil empire of the AFL. Just like the Yankees, they are rich, try to buy all the good players, and every now and then, they win a championship. Last won in 2010.
Everyone hates Collingwood. EVERYONE. I am sure that even Collingwood supporters hate Collingwood. Here's Exhibit A of why everyone hates Collingwood. Keep in mind that this girl is 13 yrs old:
Now don't get me wrong; AFL players are super fit, with great endurance and power to boot. They may not have the upper body strength of a rugby league player, but they will run all day, every day. Here's some awesome catches, called marks. The best marks are called 'speccies' (not Parisi), short for 'spectaculars'.
I'm not even going to mention my team. They suck.
In Part 3, Parisi gets his wish and we look at some manly pursuits that you could try at home. Just make sure you have a telegraph pole to throw or a spare plane sitting around to pull with your teeth.
Thanks for reading!