On today’s edition of Atri’s #hermitadventureupdates, I am cheating. It’s not quite a hermit adventure, but Tari wasn’t around so I’m considering it as one! Haha! “Try to catch an AFL game live.” Was the first advice I received when I first said I was moving to Australia. I scoffed, because why would I really? Australian football is played only in Australia, and even in Australia, not every city had a team. So really, it can’t be that exciting, right? Wrong.
At the MCG, the 10th-largest stadium in the world, the largest in Australia, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
I am a convert to the cult of AFL, I now worship its feet, and pledge my life to it.
No okay, maybe not to the point of feet-worshipping-cult-convert, but I see the appeal, and I am definitely a fan of watching it live. Though played with a vaguely rugby-ball-shaped ‘ball’, and dubbing itself ‘football’, Australian football has nothing in common with the previously named sports. It didn’t take long for me, a complete newbie who only watches sports during international tournaments, to really get into the game. And I mean, sitting-at-the-edge-of-my-seat-and-grumbling-swear-words in.
I caught a game between the Freemantle Dockers vs. the Richmond Tigers, and I definitely picked the right match to watch. The game was fast paced, and utterly consuming. I barely had a chance to ask what was happening before someone started yelling “BALL!” in my ear. As I understand it, ball is short for handball – which is what happens when you dishonourably and stubbornly clutch onto a ball while tackled. It awards the other team a free kick – and that was about the only rule I fully understood.
Not that my lack of understanding in any way or form took away from the pleasures of enjoying the game. Though the endless bottles of cider might have helped some. This, I found utterly fascinating. To quote a (semi) local, “There would be riots if alcohol was banned from the games.” Now keep in mind the last time I saw any sports game live was in Jakarta, and alcohol was strictly prohibited. Not for any religious purposes, but more because there would be drunken riots. Indonesians think ‘hooligan’ is a nice and positive term for football fans. And that would be an understatement.
I now completely understand why most Australians I encounter enjoy AFL more than soccer. There’s less time spent faffing around, rolling around and arguing with referees in AFL. It’s just straight up game. The players rolled on the pitch and jumped straight back into the game without piteously pointing at opponents, and physical tackles seemed just a part of the norm. Though I did see an elbow to the face that couldn’t have been a legal move in the rule book. All I have to say right now is, I am currently #teamAFL! Tari also reminded me to say that for the record; dem short shorts. Thighs and butts. That is all.
Maybe it’s also because the game I watched was mind-blowingly close. The Freemantle Dockers had been leading for most of the game before the Richmond Tigers began smashing it in the last quarter, catching up by more than 10 points in less than 20 minutes, scoring their last goal just 2 minutes before the sirens wailed. But lo and behold, the Freemantle Dockers rallied in the last seconds and managed to get a goal in with seconds to spare. Talk about a dramatic ending!
The Tigers fans by far outnumbered Dockers fans, because the Dockers hail from way up in Western Australia, while Tigers were a local Victoria team hailing from… just down the road. My train carriage home carried two purple wearing Dockers fans (ie. My friend and I), while everyone else was decked out in the yellow and black of the Tigers colours. I had terrible flashbacks of avoiding certain colours during football games in Jakarta, but standing in the train with a purple hat clutched nervously to my chest, I felt cautiously safe. A novelty when sitting in a carriage full of opposing team supporters.
Since I had a Dockers hat on for all of 5 minutes, I am apparently a Dockers fan. I don’t mind since their uniform contains my favourite shade of purple. (Fun fact – my first ever uttered word was ‘ungu’, the Indonesian word for purple.) Right now I’m looking forward to their next game in the area. Which from the looks of it, isn’t until July. Bugger.
Go, go Dockers! #foreverfreo