AFL in Australia: a newbie's outlook / by Jessica Lee

I went to my first AFL (Australian Football League) game yesterday. It was at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne with Essendon vs. Geelong (these are suburbs in Australia).

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy going to a football game so much.

I think the reason I enjoyed it was due to the camaraderie in the stands. There were a lot of “bloke-y-bloke” types who would cheer, yell obscenities and make snide but funny statements during the game. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “dickhead” being yelled so many times in an hour, even better was the fact that all these statements were spoken in Australian accents. It was a hilarious environment. Everyone was out to enjoy themselves and I think I got caught up with their spirit.

Check out this photo of fans getting really riled up:

During the first half of the game, I didn’t know what was going on, but my friend Al quickly explained everything to me. Honestly, if I were to describe what Australian football reminds me of, it would be Quidditch in Harry Potter- mostly because of the wide goal nets.

Like many other sports, there is a lot of lingo to learn. For example, Geelong has a nickname of “the handbaggers”. Why? Because according to the burly men behind us who we asked, it’s because they “play like girls”. Ouch.

As a feminist, this came as a shock, but I learned to roll with it because they didn’t mean to harm.

Please note the differences between American football and Australian football: they don’t wear helmets and shoulder pads here! And their shorts are ridiculously short. And the field is round.

 I also think some of the team names are cute- see the “magpies”, Sydney “swans”, the “kangaroos”…

Also did you know, at the end of the game, everyone sings the song of the winning team. It was BRILLIANT. I loved how everyone was so cheerful.

I’m pretty glad I let Al drag me to a game before leaving Australia. At an AFL game, you get to experience a different side of Aussie culture. It’s like how hockey is so important to Canadians- which reminds me, I’ve only been to a Marlies game in Toronto, not a full NHL game; this is something I will have to go to once I’m back home.