The Australian football season has just commenced and by that I mean Australian Rules football, the most popular football code in the country, and the most played winter sport.
To the uninitiated, the term Australian Rules seems a joke because at first viewing there does not appear to be any rules. But rules there are, most of which are designed to keep the game moving at breakneck speed.
That said, a Mark is awarded when a player catches the ball which has been kicked to him. This leads to some spectacular leaps as a Mark entitles the player to an unimpeded kick, often being a kick for the goals.
The history of the game is as long and grand as the arenas on which it is played nowadays.
The early British settlers developed the game loosely on Gaelic football played in Ireland, but adapted it for the tough local conditions. Hence in the early days, and until quite recently, on-field thuggery was commonplace.
But with increasing professionalism, television coverage and parental concerns, violence within the game is now confined to legal body clashes below the neck and above the knee. Protective clothing is not used which adds to both the spectacle and perceived danger, especially for overseas spectators.
The pinnacle of the competition is the national Australian Football League (AFL) comprising eighteen teams, with a competition spread over twenty one rounds.
Most Australian States have representation in the AFL with the teams as follows – take your pick if you are still sitting on the fence:
Victoria – Hawthorn Hawks, Collingwood Magpies, North Melbourne Kangaroos, Carlton Blues, Western Bulldogs, St. Kilda Saints, Melbourne Demons, Richmond Tigers, Essendon Bombers, Geelong Cats
New South Wales – Sydney Swans, Greater Western Sydney Giants
Queensland – Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns
South Australia – Adelaide Crows, Port Adelaide Power
Western Australia – West Coast Eagles, Fremantle Dockers
If you think there is a disproportionate representation from Victoria, you are correct and there are historical reasons for this. Before fast and inexpensive air travel, it was impossible to have a national competition so individual states had their own local leagues.
Even today, for a Melbourne team playing in Perth (and vice versa) a six hour flight is required and teams need a day or so to acclimatize to the new location.
The season culminates with a finals series in September, fought out by the top eight finishers after the normal season has ended. The ultimate prize awaits the winner of the Grand Final as that team is crowned Premiers in front of a capacity crowd of 100,000 at the (ironically named) Melbourne Cricket Ground.
More articles about Australian Football coming soon.