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AFL for Beginners

Hotter than hell 🔥

What do you guys think of my new Tinder bio? Is that a snigger I hear? Rude.

Jokes. Clearly. It's not my new Tinder bio, I didn't even think of it myself, I just saw it on a banner at my first ever footy match. Plagiarism aside, I've finally, finally been to my first AFL match - at the G no less. Say hellooooo to your newest Demons fan 👋

Yes, after one match I'm officially calling myself a fan and I'm saving up to buy an official beanie - because nothing says 'true fan' like a novelty hat. Anyway, Aussie rules is a funny game. It's kind of like rugby but kind of not. To help out my fellow newbies, I've decided to put together a little post with all of the basics . . . as understood by moi.

What is AFL?

AFL = Australian Football League. There are currently 18 teams in the AFL, playing 23 'rounds' throughout the season (March to September). At the end of the season, the top 8 teams then play in the 'finals series': four-rounds, usually held in September, that culminates in the Grand Final. Confused? You should be.

23 matches (18 teams) --> Finals Series (8 teams) --> Grand Final (2 teams)

The winner of the Grand Final is then crowned the 'Premier' and they get a trophy. The Grand Final is such a big deal in Victoria, that the day before (a Friday) is actually a public holiday. I kid you not. The whole state has a day off to prepare for the Grand Final. Absolutely mental.

The Game

Each match lasts for two hours, is played on an oval pitch, and each team has 18 players. For those of you with weak bladders, don't worry about having to sit still for a full two hours as the game is split into four 30-minute quarters. The little breaks in between quarters gives you ample time to a) get another beer, b) go to the toilet, c) buy some chips.

In addition to the 36 actual football players, there are also loads of other random people on the pitch who I'm guessing are referees. Some wear yellow and grey, others wear a fetching pink. It's all a bit crowded really.

The game itself is really fast-paced. Take your eyes off the pitch for a second and you're screwed. Don't even think about flicking between watching the screens and the actual game because you will not be able to find the ball again. Honestly, I was so cross eyed.

In terms of the actual sport, it is really similar to rugby as in you run with the ball, tackle each other, but you have to kick it through the goalposts - no tries allowed, homies. But there are three 'goals': the big middle one (worth 6 points) and two smaller ones either side (worth 1 point). Just like quidditch.

Because the game wasn't already hard enough to follow, don't even bother trying to interpret the scoreboard. What's wrong with just showing the team and their scores, huh? For reasons unbeknown to me, next to each team are three numbers. The one furthest away from the team name is the actual number of points and is the only one you need to pay attention to. If you want to further analyse the game, one of the other numbers is the number of goals and I've no idea what the other number is, even though I did ask multiple times during the match. 

Throwing the ball

I've decided to dedicate a whole section to the way in which the referees throw the ball because it's just so weird. There are two different types of throw that I observed: the backwards throw and the angry ground throw.

The Backwards Throw: this one occurs when the ball goes off the side of the pitch. The referee person will stand with his back to the pitch, and throw the ball behind him in a very flamboyant manner. I honestly thought he was joking the first time it happened, but it happened on multiple occasions so I think it's a legitimate move.

The Angry Ground Throw: when restarting the game, the referee person will smash the ball into the ground like an angry toddler. The two teams will then try to catch it when it bounces. 

Steele Sidebottom

Hands down my favourite player name. As if the poor child wasn't burdened enough with the surname Sidebottom, his parents named him Steele. Does he have a sister called Aluminium? A father called Tin?

When you get so confused by the game that you can't keep up, it's time to start playing the husband game. It's very easy to play: you take your first name and see how well it goes with each players' surname. For example, Sarah Petracca, Sarah Harmes, Sarah Viney. The best sounding combo = your future husband. A husband and permanent residency: two birds, one stone.

The Big Freeze

Ending this post on a charitable high because I've just done a yoga class so am feeling all zen and kind.

Allow me to first set the scene: it's mid-June, in Melbourne. It's so cold I haven't been able to feel my toes in approximately 6 days. I'm wearing so many layers I have turned into an onion. I've forgotten what warm feels like.

As I take my seat, several Aussie personalities are taking turns going down a slide into a giant ice pool. "WHY?!?!", I hear you cry.

Well it's all for a good cause, my friends, to find a cure for motor neurone disease. Here's where it ties in to AFL: former Melbourne coach and Essendon player, Neale Daniher, was diagnosed with the disease in 2013. Since then he's been working tirelessly to bring awareness to MND and to finding a cure. Every year since 2015, the match between Melbourne and Collingwood on the Queen's Birthday has partnered with the Big Freeze to raise funds for the cause.

Even though the Big Freeze is done and dusted for another year, you can still donate online here and you can already register to purchase the official 2018 Big Freeze Beanie. Yes, I have registered because I cannot resist a charity hat. Or a wristband for that matter.

Anyway, until my next Aussie sporting adventure, happy AFL-ing!