Football, Footy, AFL (or whatever you call it) is a huge part of Melbourne’s culture, and knowledge of the game and the team you support is integral to fitting into the city. Don’t barrack for a team? You may as well not exist. The Two have had extremely different experiences with AFL – Ally was brought up as a die-hard Geelong Cats supporter, while Brittany was only introduced to it when she moved here from England.
Considering The Two’s teams – Hawthorn and Geelong – went head to head last night (Go Hawks!) and with the Grand Final just one week away, The Two decided it was high time to review Victoria’s Footy Fever and the worshipped game that is Australian Rules Football.
What’s in a game?
A: Growing up as a Geelong girl, I didn’t really get to choose which team I barracked for, but I was happy to go
for the Cats anyway. My family are all strong supporters, and I can’t recall how many games and family days I’ve been to, and how many signed t-shirts and badges I’ve accumulated throughout the years. Despite this slight obsession with the team and the game, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
B: Before moving to Australia, I had never even heard of Australian Rules Football. The first person to ask me “What team do you barrack for?” received a blank look. What the hell did ‘barrack’ mean? Watching my first game, I was taken aback by two things. One: What aren’t they allowed to do with the ball? There was kicking, punching, throwing and bouncing – it seemed like such a mishmash of sports I was surprised they weren’t playing with tennis racquets too! Two: Why are their shorts so short? I was corrected early on about my pronunciation of ‘footy’ – pronounced more like ‘foody’ than the enunciated ‘foo-tea’ I was saying, and eventually worked out what ‘carn’ meant. Now as an Australian citizen, AFL ball owner and with a team to call my own, I actually find myself voluntarily watching the weekend games; the Brits would be throwing down their tea and scones in horror. I’m still clueless about most of the rules, but with the AFL app on my phone and a few players’ names committed to memory, I think I’ve put on a pretty good front so far.
A: If there is one thing I’ll cave into while sitting at Etihad, the G, or what I still like to call Skilled Stadium at Kardinia Park, it’s a good old footy pie. They’re hot, they’re messy, they’re unhealthy, and they’re fabulous. They are the best way to warm up your hands (and mouth so be careful) on a cold day watching the game. There are plenty of drinks on offer, and I do recall the last Grand Final of Geelong and Hawthorn leaving my pockets (and bank account) empty. Alcoholic drinks come at a hefty price, but if you’re in the mood for a couple of beverages to get you through the game, then spit up. There’s nothing like footy in Melbourne on a Friday or Saturday night at the MCG. The atmosphere is buzzing, anyone wearing the same colours wants to be your mate, and the entertainment of the game is worth every cent.
B: When it comes to food at the footy, it remains the one place I can’t blend in as an Aussie. I hate beer and I just cannot stomach the meat pies. During my time not eating these steaming hot concoctions, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe the strange ways Aussies eat their beloved meat pies. Some bite straight into them (often burning their mouths in the process) while others cover the top in sauce, then scoop out the middle with a spoon as if they were eating soup from a bowl. So strange. The stadiums have increased the variety of food and drinks on offer, so there is something for everyone – but how many people do you see eating sushi at the footy? The atmosphere of the game is certainly impressive though. I’ve been to a few Premier League games in my time, so the crowds at many Rugby and A-League games I’ve attended in Melbourne don’t even compare. Come finals, important games or intense rivalries, the atmosphere and crowd at an AFL game is hard to beat.
A: Something that comes with a game so loved by our city is its supporters. And by supporters, I mean crazy, obsessed, emotional, violent and full-on fair dinkum footy fans. They can dress up, wear wigs and face paint, and will without a doubt hold banners behind their respective team’s goalposts. They’re an essential feature of the game, but be careful not to bump into an opposition’s supporter after they’ve had a couple beers – they might have a bit of a potty mouth.
B: If there’s one thing I’ve learnt during my time in Australia, it’s not to come between a man and his footy. I made the mistake of attempting to ask my boyfriend a question in the final minutes of last night’s game. He was deaf, dumb and blind to anything other than the footy players on the screen (and understandably so, it was a stressful last few minutes). I love the dedication of footy supporters – I always look out for the ones in face paint, with banners, jerseys, jackets, scarves, hats and jackets, and admire their passion. It really is a game that unites everyone no matter what age. Everyone is so friendly and there’s a great sense of camaraderie – providing you’re wearing the right colours of course.
A: As a Geelong supporter, my strongest rivalries are with Collingwood and Hawthorn. But despite the hate, when they verse each other it’s always a good game. It was absolutely devastating to see Geelong loose to Hawthorn last night; the close games are always the most heartbreaking ones.
B: Last night’s game is obviously a sore spot for The Two, and just one example of the intense rivalries rife in the AFL. Richmond and Carlton, Carlton and Collingwood, and Collingwood and Essendon are some of the biggest ones in the game. Blockbuster games that exploit these rivalries are the ones that attract the largest crowds and are often the best to watch, as the teams have a lot on the line. I do find it great however, that opposing teams can sit next to each other and there is rarely any great deal of violence. In many games in England, fans are seated in different locations and you’re not allowed to wear your team colours/shirts when you go to the pub afterwards.
The Grand Final
A: AFL Grand Final day, always the last Saturday in September, is a very exciting day around the nation. No matter where you are, it’s a day for celebration and an excuse to consume lots of alcohol (or soft drink) and snacks. I’ve been to many grand finals in the past, with my first the 2001 Essendon vs Brisbane final, and my last Geelong’s 2011 Grand Final defeat over Hawthorn. This year I will be celebrating the beloved day in Ballarat at a house party, where I will be praying Hawthorn doesn’t win (and wishing my Geelong boys were in their place).
B: When you’re over the age of 18, a good Grand Final day usually only requires four things: mates, booze, meat and a giant TV. Of course, it always helps if it’s your team that wins the game! I remember my first Grand Final, in which my grandpa decided the final few minutes of the game would be a good time to call us from England, and my dad was certainly conflicted about whether to pick up the phone or just keep watching the game. In 2010, when St Kilda and Collingwood drew in the first Grand Final I was with six Germans on exchange; trying to explain what was going on was extremely difficult! With Hawthorn in the Grand Final, this year will be a big one. While it’s great to have your team in the Grand Final, with such a vested interest in the game it will certainly be a lot more stressful!
Verdict of AFL Footy Fever: 5 Auskicks
Melbourne certainly delivers! Team colours are proudly displayed in homes and shop windows – bring on the Grand Final!