Australian Rules Football. Aussie Rules. Footy. Violent red egg kickball. The game of Australians running around a huge oval, chasing after a red egg, charging into each other and kicking said red egg into between big posts. A game where if you’re into a little man on man action or woman on woman action -not in that way- then you’ll soon find yourself captivated by everything that is going on. Even captivated by the wee yellow clothed referee waving their fingers around like they’re dancing to a tune in their head.
One of Australia’s unique past times that’s only played professionally in Australia but has seen recreational teams and leagues pop up in countries with a high Australian ex pat population. Mainly adored by Victorians, with the top flight, the AFL, possessing 10 teams in Victoria. 9 out of those 10 teams being based directly in Melbourne city, you can clearly see they love violent red egg kickball in Victoria more than you love finding money in an old jacket.
The game itself isn’t that overly complicated. A game consists of 4, 20 minute quarters. Two teams of 18 with 4 subs on the bench with the aim to kick the ball between the two big posts in the middle to get 6 points. Fail to score in the middle posts, and score into the smaller ones on each side or hit any post it counts for 1 point. Essentially that’s the scoring. All you math nerds would love it, with lots of goals are scored leaving a lot of counting for you to do, or a headache for all people who struggle to add.
The oval the sport is played on is larger than most sports pitches. You get out of breath and break sweat just by looking at it, let alone being one of the mad humans who find pleasure out of running on it. Those mad humans are in incredible shape with them bolting across it everywhere, like they’re running from the police after a robbery. On the pitch there is no shortage of action. People running into each other, tackling each other and the incredible sight of jumping on each other’s shoulders.
The action is fast paced and very physical, more physical than the song by Olivia Newton-John. Players are permitted to tackle any where from the shoulders down to the knees. The one time players aren’t allowed to tackle is when a player has got a ‘mark’, which is when they catch a ball kicked to them and caught on the fly. Players can take the mark and have the opposition step back a little whilst they make their next move or continue running. One exception to this is in the semi circle in front of the goals, where if you get the mark you get a free kick at the goal.
The most impressive part of the game is simply the way players try to catch the ball to get the mark. A lot of times this is done by doing what is called a ‘speccy’, which is when you essentially jump on top of a person, on their upper back and shoulders to get height to catch the footy. A complete different definition to speccy than a not so nice saying for someone who wear glasses. Seeing players go for the speccy is genuinely very impressive and also terrifying. There’s something just so brutal seeing a human physically jump on another human just to catch a red egg shaped ball, yet also so impressive when the ball is caught.
A lot of the game is impressive. A bit of it is weird though. The way the ball has to be passed is the weirdest bit. When running with the ball, you have to bounce it every 16 yards, which isn’t that weird, but when you want to pass it must be passed forward unlike in rugby. However, to pass it forward you must fist the ball. Yep, you have to fist it. Not allowed to throw it, shovel it or gift it to your friend in the same cute jersey you’re wearing, you have to punch it with your fist. To be fair to anyone who plays footy, it’s not the easiest to do and to do well, but if you’re good at fisting you could be a decent footy player. It’s just a little weird. Despite its weirdness it’s part of beauty the game.
The AFL and footy season is on from March to September, whilst visiting Australia you should take the opportunity to witness a game of footy, especially when visiting Melbourne. The sport is a spectacle of brutality and high skill that doesn’t get appreciated as much by non Aussies. After one game there is a high chance you’ll be hooked instantly, you’ll soon be finding yourself sucked into the heart of the atmosphere and wearing your new teams scarf with pride.
Swankie – 24, Scotland. Loveable Loser.