Aussie Rules football – what is that all about?
Well boys and girls, if you listen carefully, I can tell you. We are working for a premium broadcaster here in Oz, and they gave us a table in the corporate suite for a key Aussie Rules game. I knew nothing about Aussie rules, so I decided to try and do a bit of homework. I watched a game on TV, but unfortunately the commentary was not very helpful, as the assumption (rightly) is that those watching know something of the game. Thus most of this went over my head, and the game looked like a series of blokes pushing each other over while no-where near the ball, while elsewhere on a huge pitch the rest of the gang all chased after the ball like a school-yard crew of 7 year old kids playing football. There seemed to be little coordination and teamwork, just a mass scramble to get the ball, and then kick it through a set of 4 (yes 4) goalposts.
Seeing this goalpost setup added to my conviction that this game is for thugs s of, let us say “intellectually challenged” capacity. Nowhere else have I seen a game where the goalposts are there at the centre part of the back of the field, but if you miss, never mind, because there is a further, wider set of posts so your goal counts anyway. The only thing I couldn’t work out is why They stopped at 4 posts. Surely it would have been kinder to these poor eejits to put sets of posts all the way around the field – then every time the ball went out, someone would score. How exciting would that be? Oh, and by the way, the filed is round, so they don’t have to worry about knowing if they get backed into a corner, or figuring out where they are. You just keep running round the line, and eventually you will come to a goal.
So – with all this in mind, and having read of the reputation of “Footie” fans as being no more endowed with a blessed IQ than the players, it was with a mixture of interest and trepidation that I set off to the ANZ stadium on Saturday afternoon. I met Angela and David from work on the Ferry, which took us into parts of the river and city that I hadn’t visited before. The Paramatta river is very wide and undulating, with numerous inlets, coves and a pirate ship (at least I think I saw one), and goes inland a long way. The ferry was a powered catamaran, very stable and comfortable, and it headed up the river quite fast. There weren’t many on the boat, and the views of the river and houses were beautiful. It must be so lovely to have a house on the river here. Anyway, it took about 50 minutes to get from Darling Harbour to the wharf for the Olympic village – the Stadium was the Olympic flagship, built to house a capacity of 110,000, but now trimmed down a bit, so it only (ONLY?) seats 80,000.
A bus-ride from the wharf to the stadium complex passed through the whole Olympic area that was built for the 2000 games. There are a whole bunch of arena’s, hotels, business parks and the like. It was evening so I am not sure how well populated the area is during the day, but I hope it is in full use. Anyway – the bus was full of mostly Sydney Swans fans, with a few Collingwood supporters thrown in for good measure. The Swans are the only Sydney team, and have red and white kit, while the ‘pies (Collingwood) wear colours akin to Newcastle United, a black and white striped shirt, and I guess they either got their nickname from the shirt, or Newcastle, who are also known as the Magpies.
Apparently (I was told by someone who seemed to be very knowledgeable), the whole game comes from Victoria, with Melbourne as its’ capital. of the 16 teams in the Franchise, 11 are based in Melbourne, and the others, like Sydney, used to be Melbourne based, and 25 ish years ago some of the franchises were sold off to the other major cities to try and grow support for the game. The Sydney Swans used to be South Melbourne before they moved here. Also, a story that I heard is that the game was started to keep cricketers fit in the off season – this may also be true, and the scoring and umpires are certainly as idiosynchratic as cricket.
So, history lessons aside, we arrived at the stadium amidst a sea of red, black and white. There was a lot of banter in between the fans, but I didn’t see of feel any animosity in the way that football fans in England can behave towards each other. There were lots of families there. Also, there didnt seem to be any ‘away’ seating – the fans seemed to mingle happily so that when a team scored (which seemed to be every 1.8 seconds approximately) the cheers came from all over the ground. And what a massive ground it was – oval in shape, with various geometries within that, denoting various limits and areas. I reckon it was about 180 metres end to end. Thugs or no thugs, these guys are fit. They are always moving, and cover many many miles in the course of a game.
There are 18 players from each team on the ground at any one time, plus 4 substitutes that can swap as many times as they like. Then, there are 8 umpires, a whole load of guys from each team who can carry towels and water to their players, (during live play!), and then 2 guys dressed in fluorescent cycling gear, who kept running on and off the whole game, but didn’t seem to do anything useful. So – in all, you can have upward of 50 people all milling about on this massive field, and it would surprise me if anyone actually could follow the whole thing properly. To add to the confusion I faced, they have 4 quarters to the match which are supposed to be 20 minutes, but ended up lasting more like nearer 30 mins – so it did seem to go on forever.
The scoring also seemed to be somewhat cricket like in its complexity. With scores like 2-4-23 and 3-8-19, I was never sure who was winning and why. Anyway, it was an interesting experience, and one that will add to the richness of my visit here in Oz.
Work have asked me to stay involved in this project, so my stay overall in Australia is likely to be an extended one, with visits back home to see my kids and girlfriend punctuating stays of 5/6 weeks. I need to finalise things with the kids, their mother and with work, but I will probably be coming home in about 2 weeks time for a fortnight, then back out here again. Lena has booked us a visit to Riga for her Birthday, so will be over in Latvia for 5 days. I have mixed feeling about this – I want to deliver this project now that I have been involved in it – and it is an interesting one in terms of technologies that I haven’t been involved with before – but I miss my little peeps and my Lena. Oh well, nothing in life is ever straight forward, and the opportunity has been a great one, however it pans out.
Not much else to report on for the weekend. Some walking about Sydney, plenty of surfing (the web) and doing bits of work, expenses, money transfers and the like. There is an England football match tonight v Germany, in case you had missed the world cup, so will be watching that – maybe from the safety of my room, or maybe down in front of the massive screens in Darling Harbour with 10,000 other idiots.
Sydney is hosting the 93rd international Lions conference (you know, the organisation for retired do-gooders who meet up to raise money and share their mutual self-adoration for being such jolly good fellows), and I think all of them are staying in my hotel. That means that the lifts are always clogged, and stop on every floor (I am on the 7th), so that Doris and Butch from Wyoming can shuffle in and greet everyone at a volume that would embarrass a rock band. I have to admit that the Yanks are the loudest, and I actually chatted to one old dear who came from Joburg, and who was quite nice. She was still pretty impressed with herself, but then I guess they do a lot of good deeds so perhaps they all deserve to be. It is just making navigating the hotel and breakfast a bit of a challenge. Never mind
Be good, do good, and be impressed with yourselves…..