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6 observations from an AFL newbie

Written by
Claire Finneran

I went to my first ever AFL game the other day and I have a lot of thoughts about it. 

It was the 'Sydney Swans' verses the 'Collingwood [insert animal]s' match. You know the one? No? Me either. It was pretty fun, but obviously so, so confusing to me. In spite of being from a family whose 82-year-old matriarch knows all the words to the Swans club song, I've never really gotten into this particular game. It's always looked a bit too elaborate for my NRL-comprehending brain. Rugby League is an allegory for war, right? A historical cosplay battle between geographical classes. Just me? Anyway, those human nuggets run in a straight line – at least it's easy to get.

AFL on the other hand is an older sport, with more time to fancify and fortify rules and here are my observations as a relative 'outsider' who is nonetheless curious to know what all the fuss is about. If you're a massive fan you're probably going to get offended (stop reading, my entire family, please), if you've never seen a game before you're probably going to be more confused than when we started. Apologies to those wanting to be educated, I tried reading the Wikipedia page but my eyes glazed over. Check out the page for Marn Grook though, because that's heaps interesting. Anyway here goes. 

1. When you arrive at the AFL the most striking thing is the shape of the bloody field. They call this ‘an oval’ and it is the most bullshit thing I have ever seen. The objective of a football game is to get the ball from one END to another. So why then, does this playing field demand a circular detour? The goals are right there you dummies, aren’t you supposed to be charging towards them? Instead, AFL players whimsically pad around the curves of the outside. There is no A-to-B here, it is what can only be described as a theatrical cauldron of meandering for entertainment. Someone told me it's because they started playing on cricket pitches. This explains NOTHING. Run towards the goals you doolies.

2. To be honest, sitting in the SCG, the atmosphere is pretty bloody electric. The loyalty of the crowd is palpable. Everyone knows the words to the songs. I only know the 'shake down the thunder' part (thanks Ma) but everyone is singing at the top of their lungs. Also much fanfare is made of basic actions like kicking and passing. The crowd seems more active and loud than other games I have been to and it's super fun to sit amongst the roars.

3. They will go to great, elegant lengths to express themselves through movement. AFL is dramatic AF. They are not content with just catching a ball and running towards glory. They have to get really So You Think You Can Dance about it before they score. They even do ‘lifts’ like the poignant part of any contemporary routine in which the principle dancer is reaching a climactic 'break free' crescendo. They should change their name to the Sydney Swan Lakes, because this balletic fanfare (which is called a 'spectacular' LOL) seems unnecessary albeit beautiful and impressive. 

4. They all have very long legs and their butts are less rotund and pug dog like than NRL players. If you're interested in men it's very 'hubba hubba'.

5. Hot chippies are the food of gods. Especially paired with cold beers and footy. Oh man, what a combo. This is available aplenty at the Sydney Swans home turf the SCG. I got two batches of chippies and I feel it elevated my experience.

6. There is no doubt that these are really talented athletes and they are super compelling to watch. The aforementioned legs are not just muscular columns to ogle but powerful kicking machines that can make you audibly gasp. There is a lot of strong moves that happen really suddenly and this makes it fun to watch. Even if you don't know what's going on there's always heaps of surprising action with matching exuberance from the crowd. I spent most of the time fluctuating between furrowed brow analysis and then just jumping on the screaming bandwagon. I assume AFL is better enjoyed with deeper knowledge but that didn't stop from giving in to enjoyment. Even though it is played on an superfluous circle, I reckon I'll go back to watch again.

Tune in to the grand final this weekend if you'd like to work it all out, it is between the "West Coast Eagles" and the "Collingwood". I think Eddie Maguire owns one of them maybe? Make a real event of it by hitting up one of the best pubs in Sydney and demanding they turn the telly up to eleven. Or, just blow-off the whole thing and have a no-nonsense kick with a ball of your choice at one of Sydney's best parks.

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