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Aussie Rules footy tips – making the most of winter in Sydney

Never thought I’d say this but I’ve just had the best beer and bogan night – at the footy. AFL, or Aussie Rules that is. We Sydneysiders have traditionally bagged this sport that our counterparts in other states love to mad levels (particularly south of the Murray River), but my friends and I had a hilarious time watching the Swannies (Sydney’s oldest AFL team) – so much that we’re ready to go again!

Here are some tips (albeit from a newbie spectator) to help you make the most out of your Aussie Rules experience, if you do decide to take the plunge while you’re in town.

1. DON’T attempt to learn the rules.
It’s much more entertaining if you haven’t a clue what’s going on. Even gold members we met on the night admitted that they probably only understood 80% of the game. And to make matters worse, many of the rules change from season to season!

All you need to know is that if the ball goes between the two tall sticks in the middle, the goal is worth 6 points, and it’s just one point for goals between the little sticks on either the side of the big sticks. The ball is a funny shape, so it’s pretty enthralling to watch in suspense as it bounces between the goals.

2. DON’T assume that any of the rules will make sense to you. At all.
The game may look like a random hybrid of volleyball, handball, basketball and soccer but none of the rules that you’re accustomed to apply. For example, there’s no such thing as being off-side, no penalties for knock-ons, and you can pretty much run with the ball as far as you want because you only have to bounce or touch the ball on the ground every 15 steps. Seriously.

3. DO be on time.
Don’t rock up late and expect ticket prices to be pro-rata’d. Pretty reasonable expectation I would’ve thought – but no. You’ll still have to pay full price, even in Sydney where most locals don’t really care for the game. But at least you don’t have to pay for the train*. You also don’t want to miss the kick off bounce – you’ll never see a ball bounce as high!

4. DO tell the box office which team you’re barracking for (if any).
Unless you enjoy the thought of being the only Swannies supporters on the wrong end of the stadium, surrounded by aggro Hawks (Hawthorn) devotees wanting to spit chips at you every time you cheer on your team – and then win in a nail biting 4th quarter. Kinda awkward.

5. DO keep up.
If you turn your head for a split second, even just to wipe spilt beer off your lap, chances are you’ll miss loads, possibly a goal (even if the ball was on the opposite side of the field a moment ago). The game moves ridiculously fast, probably because of the lack of sensible rules (see tip 2 above). I mean, it’s remarkable how the players are able to keep up with themselves. We’re talking about serious athleticism here.

6. DO cheer loudly.
Childish noise effects, big hand actions and ignorant commentary and/or heckling also enrich the experience. Depending on where you’ve been seated (see tip 4 above).

7. YES, there’s almost as many umpires as players.
They run about as much as the players do and all have important roles to play with incredible skill. Like throwing the ball backwards onto the field – this is known as a “throw in”. I’m sure it’s much harder than it looks.

8. NO, the ball hasn’t been lathered in butter beforehand.
It just looks that way. When you see a bunch of dudes scramble clumsily on the ground for the ball, seeming unable to keep their fingers on it (“just grab the flamin’ ball moite!”), there’s an explanation. I just haven’t worked it out yet!

* Pre-purchased match tickets include travel to ANZ Stadium on Intercity trains, Sydney Olympic Park Major Event Buses, regular metropolitan and out metropolitan Transport Buses, Sydney Ferries services and light rail. Simply show your membership card or ticket and pay nothing when boarding your train, bus or ferry.





Image. Photo by Hillyard Philip; Source: The Sunday Telegraph, 29 July 2013.


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