Is it any wonder that Australian Rules football shares nearly all distinct traits with the noble kangaroo?
I’m not talking about gnawing on grass or disemboweling opponents — although I suppose that would up the ante. No, I’m talking about the basics: the kicking, the punching, the bouncing; you know, all the stuff people love them for.
But before we katalogue the kangaroo komparisons, let me set up Aussie Rules’ situation to my fellow ‘seppos.’ Aussie Rules carries the same weight in Australia as basketball, tennis or four-square carry back home, with a professional league spread across the nation. Granted, the sport can’t hold a candle to rock-’em, sock-’em mainland rugby, but from the southern swath to the Tasmanian hinterlands, Aussie Rules is the game to play.
And boy, what a game it is.
Unlike most, I actually had an inkling of what the game entailed before I expatriated myself. My internship last summer gave me a glimpse into the underground world of the Portland Power, a local Aussie Rules club. The vague, over-the-phone hints of funky pigskins and marsupial mannerisms left me intrigued, but the opportunity to cover a game never came. So, when I learned that I could attend an Aussie Rules game in Sydney, I chomped at the bit, eager to abandon the cuddly koalas for a chance to watch this mysterious game.
Fortunately, my first opportunity to watch a match arose almost instantly, and with great anticipation I strode into the Sidney Cricket Grounds last month. As the stadium opened up, the emerald field sprawled on an oversized circle of grass, filled with 18 players a side. The turf was pinched on either side by eight multi-story posts, looking like hair-picks in a giant green afro, and random lines of chalk zigzagged across the pitch. It was truly unlike any field I had ever seen.
But still, it wasn’t the unique shape of field that captured my attention, nor was it the scarf-wearing, beanie-bearing crowd, whose lone cheer consisted, sadly, of “Syd-ney, Syd-ney, Syd-ney, etc.”
No, what caught my eye was exactly what I had set out for: the game.