This is Greatness - the Skillful Game of Australian Football
A taste of an unforgettable day.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Come on Footy season!
As we come close to another thrilling heart stopping season of Australian Rules Football a footy tragic from way back recounts a year when her heart did stop..for a moment ..in time.. when her beloved team won in true Sydney nail biting style the coveted prize.
The season started off with an impressive win in the first round of the competition on a warm autumn day at Sydney's Cricket Ground (SCG) home to the Sydney Swans Football team. We'd seen this before it was no big deal. Then before we knew it things got serious with successive wins in the home and away rounds. And suddenly we were on top of the ladder with four straight wins. A bit of luck was on our side but we knew it was way too early to count on the possibility of being there at the end of the season.
Then win after win and excitement building we were at the half way mark and still up there in the prized position at the top of the ladder with sports journalist and media commentators alike hinting at the possibility of a final at least.
And for the first time for a long time, 2005 to be exact the Swans continued to play like champions showcasing their excellent running pace, skill at hand balling, defensive scraping and ferocious tackling style and we were past the half way mark with more wins than losses. Forging ahead into the second half of the season they continued their hold on the top of the prized AFL ladder, beating some of the strongest teams in the competition including Geelong who in recent years were three time Premiers and Collingwood, West Coast and Adelaide all super teams competitive and hungry for a win.
Some Explanation Needed
Now for those of you that read this article and haven't a clue about football, or more to the point, Australian Football sometimes known as Aussie Rules or AFL I will digress for a moment and do my best to explain some of the Rules of the game; the Teams in the competition; and the Passion it brings to a nation as it stands still.. in agony.. or ecstasy on the last Saturday in September before a hundred thousand plus spectators and millions of online lovers of it's favorite sport.
The Game - Established as an actual competition in 1887 the game began as uniquely belonging to the Sate of Victoria as the Victorian Football League. Six clubs Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne and South Melbourne (later to become the Sydney Swans) formed the Victorian Football League inviting two further clubs Carlton and St Kilda to kick off its inaugral 1987 season.
The formation of the league, and with the view to continue to invite more teams into the game kicked off many new initiatives including the beginning of the current scoring system of 6 points for a goal (between the two center posts and 1 point for a behind ( in between the center and outer posts).
The Teams in the Competition
North Melbourne Kangaroos
St Kilda's Saints
Gold Coast Suns
From South Australia
Port Adelaide Port Power
From Western Australia
West Coast Eagles
And from NSW
The Rules of the Game
Fast paced; skillful; what's not to love. Aussie rules began to keep Cricketers, Australia's other sporting obsession, fit during their off season. Thus said AFL is played on some of Australia's largest cricket ovals in our capital cities, the MCG in Melbourne, the SCG in Sydney, the WACCA in Perth etc.
At each end of the oval there are four goal posts; 2 tall in the middle and 2 shorter posts on the outer of the middle posts.
The aim of the game is to kick the ball between the center posts more times than your opponents. A goal between the centers results in a 6 point goal as opposed to a 1 point behind in between the outer and inner tall post. If the ball hits the posts, no score, if a player touches the ball before it crosses the line, 1 point.
Each opposing team has 18 players aside. The game has 4 quarters of approximately 30 minutes each. It begins with a center bounce by the referee bouncing the ball on the ground in center square, and is contested by the two tall Ruckmen from each side by play similar to a basketball tip off. Unlike most codes of football there is no offside rule which allows a player to run pretty much anywhere on the field creating a fast free flowing style of game.
The ball is then hopefully kicked or hand balled to team players to get the ball into the full forwards possession to kick goals. A player can also keep possession of the ball and run with it toward their teams goal end and kick for goal, providing he avoids a tackle from the opposition and he must not run any longer than 15 meters without a running bounce or the ball touching the ground or he will be penalised.
Their are two boundary, two field and two goal umpires, colloquially known as "green or yellow magots often hated and always unfair on your team
The team is broken down into;
1 full forward
2 forward pockets
2 half forward flanks
1 Centre half forward
Center Half back
2 half back flanks
2 back pockets
Terms of the Game
Mark - is when a player catches or takes the ball
Ball - is when a player is caught holding the ball
Deliberate - kicking or hand balling the ball over the side line purposefully
Charging - going for the player instead of the ball
Shepherding - keeping an opponent away from your team player attempting to get the ball
Hand balling - holding the ball in one hand and punching it with the other
Specky - this is when a player takes a spectacular mark by jumping head and shoulders above and often on the shoulders of another player
Interchange - a player must come off and tag another player before he can run on
Teams must have equal amount of players at all times
Some of the dont's in AFL
No holding the man without the ball - you can't tackle an opponent without the ball
No high tackles - tackles cannot be above the shoulders
No throwing the ball - a ball must be hand /passed balled or kicked only
No tripping anyone - tripping is penalized
No kicking the ball while an opponent is trying to pick it up - apart from the obvious disastrous injury it will be penalized
No illegal shepherds - shepherds are to stop your opponent from getting the ball by putting a bump on him or blocking him from another team player getting to the ball
No kicking or hand passing/balling the ball over the sidelines on purpose. This is called a deliberate and in Aussie rules this is a sin.
No pushing in the back with two hands
No chopping an opponents arms when he is going for a mark
And no holding any part of an opponent, physically or his clothing, which prevents him from going for the ball
No slinging a player to the ground
No advancing off a mark when an opponent player has a free kick, if you do a 50 meter penalyt can be given
No sledging the umpire which can also result in a 50 meter penalty
Blood rule - a player is sent off immediately with any blood flow
Now that you get an idea of the game and it's rules I'll return to the replay of one of the games most remembered final series.
Sydney Swans defeat Melbourne's Collingwood Magpies by 26 points at ANZ Stadium to book a place in AFL grand final!
Then with sheer determination and a continuation of the superb skills, that got them and before a crowd of almost 60 thousand the Swans smashed their way through the final decider taking out their strongest opposition in Collingwood. Dominating the best part of the first three quarters of the game with a 42 point lead they finished steadily and strongly to beat the Pies with a twenty six point win ending in a firm 96/70 finish. Before we knew it with the proud city's heart beating furiously we had made it through to the Grand Final to play Hawthorn's Hawke's on the hallowed ground of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Better known to locals and dedicated AFL fans as the MCG.
And the rest they say is history with a fourth quarter nail biter. With 10 minutes to go every Swans supporter in the stadium was holding their collective breath. But a lucky snap and a drop punt later straight through the middle goal posts we are back in the lead and totally inspired with the raucous crowd behind them the Swans take out the biggest prize in the game.
In the immediate aftermath of the epic grand final when Sydney stormed onto the hallowed grounds at the MCG to take out the AFL Premiership over a disappointed and disillusioned Hawthorn, fans, journos, and punters across the nation were concluding that it truly was the best decider in the 115 year history of 'our game'.