At the footie, drinking a beer

Here’s an unusual sight – people watching football in the sunshine. Traditionally, it’s supposed to be raining and cold. But then, traditionally, you play football with your feet and there are goalkeepers and a rectangular pitch and a round ball.

Today I went to see Australian (i.e. “No”) Rules Football which was on my “to do” list since I arrived in Oz. I won’t go through all the rules – yes, there are some – instead referring you to the AFL page on Wikipedia.

Some hints for those visiting Adelaide to watch the sport:

The AAMI stadium (I assume this will change name as it changes sponsor) is located about 20-30 minutes’ bus ride out of the city. The big, oval cricket ground-shaped thingy near the festival centre… is a cricket ground.

You need to catch the 113, 118 or Footie Express for $3.80 each way from Currie Street. The Footie Express starts running 2 hours before kickoff and departs every 20 minutes. The last bus leaves 20 minutes before kickoff. Miss this and you have to resort to the 113 or 118.

Yeah, OK. Guess who missed kickoff? My main regret is that by the time I got there all the match day programs were sold out and I’d have liked one as a souvenir. Ah well.

But what an afternoon. 43,064 fans at a sell-out opener (though I wasn’t sat in the correct seat so some people hadn’t turned up) and no segregation. Home and away fans sat mixed up like M&M’s in a big bowl and no trouble was had at all. Families were there as groups and I hear tell that at times over 50% of the crowd at AFL games is female. Hugely different from back home.

Another major difference is the ticket pricing. I paid less than $30 including booking fee for my ticket. This is approximately £12 at today’s prices. A Premiership (or Championship/Old Second Division) ticket in the UK will average at £35 per match. Aussies on the whole don’t earn that much less than a Pom in the same job, so I guess it comes down to the way the sport is run.

AFL players aren’t paid extremely stupid amounts of money in comparison the “proper” footballers. Teams don’t shell out millions to buy players from other teams or to grab kids while they’re barely in their teens. Instead, the system works like the American Football draft where the team that finishes lowest one year gets first pick of the fresh talent the next. A much fairer system and proven by the huge variety of teams who’s won the cup over the last umpteen years. How many different clubs have lifted the Premiership trophy back home in 15 years? I think 4?

I got a barracking for saying this to a Crows (Adelaide) supporter, but watching them reminded me of watching Newcastle United. They were outplayed continually by a team which actually seemed to know what it was doing. They came second best at most challenges, lost the ball too easily, didn’t have the kicking accuracy of their opponents… Yet the fans didn’t give up yelling for them. Even with two minutes to go and four goals (24 points) down, the two guys in front of me were saying “two quick goals and a bit of luck and we can make something of this”. Our equivalent back home was a 4-0 drubbing at Anfield a few years back when the entire away section was singing “5-4! We’re going to win 5-4!” as the clock showed 89 minutes.

Final score: Adelaide 74 – 105 Essendon.

As is my tradition, I picked up a keyring as a souvenir of visiting a new football ground. OK, it’s not proper football but “as in Rome/Adelaide”…

The transport back to Adelaide was well organised with a huge bus concourse outside and staff ensuring as many as possible got onto each coach before it set off to be replaced by an empty one. Bus lanes meant that those who’d opted to come by car were sat sweltering as we zipped past them.

Overall, I still prefer “real” football but watching AFL was a hell of a lot more pleasant. I think I saw about four police all day and they were just wandering around trying to get a good view of the game. Now, if they can start getting these kinds of crowds for the A-League and stop calling it “soccer”…

As an aside, something I forgot to mention yesterday. Down a side street near the hostel Delphine spotted a wall covered in toy cars. An outdoor brick wall. Appoximately 1 gazilliong cars of various shapes and sizes. Held on with blu-tak. We could tell this as some had dropped off. There were no signs to say who or why, but… cool.

Oh, and don’t buy Coles’ “Sherbet Bombs”. They’re crap.

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