It’s that time of year sports fans. The season for the Australian Football League (AFL, Aussie Rules, whatever you want to call it) is drawing to a close with one of the biggest events in the Australian sporting calendar set for September 27th – it’s AFL Grand Final Day!
Held at the awesome Melbourne Cricket Ground and always a sell-out, expect to see over 100,000 screaming footy fans as the Sydney Swans take on the defending champion Hawthorn Hawks in a re-match of the 2012 Grand Final.
If you’ve never watched AFL – prepare to be confused.
It doesn’t look like football or rugby or American football. It kind of resembles Gaelic football but not quite. If you follow our guide to understanding some of the easier rules in play – you should be fine!
Firstly, the game is played on a cricket pitch with 18 players on each side and four subs. When you see the size of the pitch, you’ll understand why they have so many players! The positions vary but they fall into either forwards, midfielders and backs (or defenders) and on average, a midfielder runs about 15 kilometres a game!
The pitch is laid out with a semi-circle 50 yard line at either end where four goal-posts stand. There is a goal square that kind of looks like an 18-yard box in soccer but isn’t as important. There is a centre circle inside a bigger centre square but that doesn’t matter too much either.
Points are scored by kicking the ball (like an egg rather than a soccer ball) through the goal posts. The four posts stand together, two bigger ones in the middle and two shorter ones on the outside. A kick down the middle, bigger posts (called a goal) is worth six points. A kick either side through the smaller posts (called a behind) is worth one.
When you’ve got possession of the ball and are running with it in your hands you have to bounce it off the floor every 15 metres – which looks pretty strange during the game. The ball moves faster than the man, so expect a lot of kicking. You can also pass with your hands if you’re in close quarters but kicking is still the go to option.
Like rugby and American football where you can call for a mark or fair catch when someone kicks the ball to you, in AFL anytime you catch the ball from a kick, the play stops and you’re given a free kick.
This is important. You’ll see players jockeying for position in front of the posts so they can catch a kick and get an easy goal for their sides.
It is a much more fluid sport than American football or rugby but it can get scrappy although the umpires get sorted quite quickly.
The funniest moment in an AFL game has to when the umpires throw the ball in from the sideline. For some reason, they do it backwards and really get into it, keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see what I mean!
There are a load of little fouls and other rules that you won’t really need to bother with for one game and you’ll pick up the gist of the sport quite quickly.
One thing that isn’t quick is the game itself! Four quarters of 20 minutes each (with stoppage time) with six minutes break in-between the first and third quarter and 20 minutes at half time.
Now we’ve got the basics out the way – who should you be cheering for?
Well, this one is pretty simple to decide – do you prefer Sydney or Melbourne? Hawthorn are based in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs while the Swans play their home games at Sydney Cricket Ground.
If you love them both the same, Hawthorn are defending champions and Sydney won it the year before so neither are an underdog really. Sydney won the league this season and go into the Grand Final (like the Super Bowl or the Play-Off Final) as favourites but it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Hawthorn win again.
The Swans crushed their semi-final opponent, North Melbourne Kangaroos, 136-65 while the Hawks had a close call with a 97-94 win over Port Adelaide Power.
Sydney’s man to watch just so happens to be an ex-Hawthorn Hawk by the name of Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin. The forward left the Hawks at the end of last season following their Grand Final win and is looking for another title this season with Sydney. Keep your eyes on number 23 of the red and white Sydney Swans – he should have a very busy afternoon.
On the other side, Jarryd Roughead is the man to watch for the Hawks. Another forward, this time playing number 2, Roughead and Franklin used to be a dominant force up-front before they split last season. Roughead now carries the load and has thrived this season with 70 goals.
Franklin led the league in goals this season with 75 and Roughead finished second so expect this pair to trade blows.
Even if you couldn’t care less about AFL, the Grand Final is something to see. The sheer size of the crowd is one thing and the atmosphere inside the stadium and inside the pub will be electric!
Take your pick of some of the best pubs in Sydney – The Golden Sheaf (Double Bay), The Courthouse (Newtown) and The Cricketers Arms (Surry Hills) are our pick – and settle down for some serious AFL action!
Kick off is at 2:30pm, perfect time for some afternoon beers and a bit of fun!
Wear red and white for the Sways and cheer on the Sydneysiders!!
If our guide to one of Australia’s favourite sports has peaked your interest, get in touch with us and we can get you over here to check out the real thing!