Shaun Hampson scores a rare goal for Carlton.
I had the pleasure of watching a very enjoyable watchable sport yesterday, at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds, where the Collingwood Magpies defeated the Carlton Blues 105-57. For Americans who have never seen the sport, it has elements of rugby and basketball and has quite a quick pace. The 105 scored by Collingwood was typical of a winning score. I'm not going to try to summarize the game, there are decent explanations here and here.
I adopted the Magpies because one of our hosts here in Australia, Mrs. Daddy's cousin is a big fan. Collingwood has the biggest fan base in the country, but has only won one championship since the league was changed from the Victoria Football League to the Australian Football League. This year, they are in first place, but the bookies still have the second place team, and last year's champions, the Geelong Cats as the favorites to win it all.
I liked the game, because it really took a minimum of explanation to understand the basics of play. Also, like basketball, your team can shift from offense to defense in a blink, as the ball is always in play. Because scoring often depends on getting a free kick close to the goal, tall strong players have an advantage, but the size of the field, about 150m by 135m, along with the need to run the length of the field, means there are no fat players on the field. In fact, there are a mix of players of varying speeds and sizes. The game puts a premium on overall athleticism. I saw some amazing catches (marks) with players going high in the air to grab the ball. The other amazing feature was the ability of some players to quickly launch an accurate kick towards the goal regardless of body position.
Given the relative size of the population, AFL is wildly popular. The cricket grounds weren't filled, but there were close to 78,000 in the stands. Like stadiums around the world there was overpriced beer and food for sale, some of it a little different. We all tried a meat pie; it was alright. The fans were overall well behaved. I was a little nervous because the fans are mixed in the crowd, there wasn't a particular side on sat on. (Also complicating the picture is that fans of both teams might be members of the Melbourne Cricket Club, as is our host. As a consequence, both Blue and Magpies supporters were mixed in the members section.)
The other interesting item was that we felt compelled to stay to the end of a blow out and not leave until we had sung the club song.
Good old Collingwood forever,
we know how to play the game.
Side by side we stick together,
to uphold The Magpies name.
Hear the barrackers a shouting,
as all barrackers should,
Oh, the premiership's a cakewalk
For the good old Collingwood.
Waynok and BDaddy enjoying the game.