It’s a great time of year if you’re a sports fan in America. Hockey and basketball are in the thick of play-offs, baseball’s in full swing (pun intended), and the NFL draft is this weekend. Hey, word on the street is that kickball may finally freakin’ start, too!
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to broaden your athletic horizons and take note of a little something going on hemispheres away, in the wild untamed land of Australia. You see, around the same time baseball got started here in the states, the Aussies were celebrating the return of their national pasttime: Australian Rules Football, or “footy” for short. (Ed. Note: Australians love abbreviating)
When I spent a semester in Melbourne, I got to experience footy fandom firsthand. The season was winding down by the time I arrived, but there was still no shortage of games to watch; and with prices being reasonable ($12 AUS got us 20 rows behind the goal posts), there was no shortage of games to attend.
I instantly fell in love with footy. It’s totally unlike anything you’ve ever seen. If someone took the rule books of every major organized sport played across the globe, and cut and pasted chunks of each manual together into one document, such would be the founding articles of footy. It’s a fast-paced, high-scoring, tightly coordinated hodgepodge of a game. There’s also something to be said for the fact that it essentially boils down to 32 adrenaline-fueld meatheads beating the shit out of each other while wearing short shorts.
To give you an idea of how the game works, there’s a tip-off (like basketball) to start the play. The ball is shaped like a football. The object is for each team to get the ball between the goal posts, of which there are four. If you get the ball between the two center posts, it’s called a goal, and worth six points (like football). If you get it between one of the outer posts and one of the inner posts, it’s called a behind, and worth one point. You can not run the ball in; you must kick it in (like soccer). As for moving the ball up and downfield, players are given free range of motion on the oval-shaped field. There is no offsides. You can move the ball by dribbling it (like basketball), bumping it (like volleyball), or punting it (like football). You can not throw it overhand. Players have limited possession time. Opposing players can tackle the individual in possession, but they can’t do it below the knees, and you can’t go at the guy’s back. So, that leads to some pretty inventive take-downs. Oh, and if you manage to really boot the ball down field and have one of your teammates make the catch, it’s called a mark. Everyone goes nuts, and you basically get a free kick and can set up the play however you want. It almost always means you’re getting a goal.
I think that’s the gist of it. Check out the video below, of my North Melbourne Kangaroos taking on the Melbourne Demons, to see all this wildness in action. You definitely have to watch it in HQ. Not only is the game play clearer, the accents are stronger!