Tag Archives: football

FOOTY FINALS POSTSCRIPT – where’s the handshake?

It wouldn’t take much, guys.

I enjoy a game of tennis every week.

At the end of each set the four players meet at the net, try to say something witty to partner and opponents, and we shake hands.

Of course it’s only social – just a few old blokes hitting a ball around. There’s nothing at stake, no money involved and no months of hard training required. But we try our best to win each set and even get angry and frustrated when we don’t play as well as we think we should. Heated words are sometimes directed at ourselves, never at partners or opponents.

This weekend most of us watched two football Grand Finals, the Australian Rules ‘AFL’ final won by Sydney Swans and the rugby league ‘NRL’final won by Melbourne Storm. As the final siren sounded in each game, we TV viewers were treated to scenes of the jubilant winners hugging each other while the losers were left slumped on the ground. Not once did we see the simple gesture of the losers and winners exchanging a handshake. If it happened, the TV director didn’t consider it worth showing. Continue reading

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FOOTY FINALS – why do I care?

Sydney plays Hawthorn at the SCG a few weeks ago. Another heartstopper of a match – Sydney ahead until the second last minute, then the Hawks snatching the win.

Naturally I have to blog about footy today. It’s the only game in town this weekend.

I blame Robbie Cameron, the boy who lived up the hill from us in Boyanda Rd, Glen Iris, Melbourne. When I was an impressionable seven year old he made me a tragic follower of Australian Rules and a lifelong devotee of the Essendon Bombers.

The Bombers have enjoyed some good years during the decades that I’ve supported them, and started 2012 in fine style, winning 9 of the first 10 games and leading the competition halfway through the season. Sadly they lost the last seven games and finished out of the finals.

That left me supporting my number 2 team, Sydney Swans. A good choice, since the Swans are playing the Melbourne-based Hawthorn for the 2012 AFL premiership. But it took a long time for the Swans to grow on me. Continue reading


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The early game - Sculpture: Louis Laumen

The Australian rules foot-ball match played on August 7, 1858 must have been a scrappy affair.

There were 40 players a side from Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar School, a field a quarter of a mile long, and the rules of the game not yet written. The game was continued over two more days and finally ended in a 1-all draw. Continue reading


Filed under Sport, Travel-Australia


We’ve been doing our bit to help the march of the greatest game on earth – AFL or Aussie Rules football – across the planet. I can reliably report that it was football played at the highest level – 3880 metres in fact, with Mt Everest as a backdrop.

The Thyangboche Yaks are fearless, agile and incredibly fit, but they still have a way to go in developing basic skills in kicking and hand-balling, and their ground needs a bit of levelling. When the ball goes out of bounds on the western side of the field, the boundary umpire needs to scramble down through the bushes, clear cows out of the way and grab the ball before it winds up in the river.

Once supercoach Kevin Sheedy has finished setting up his new team in western Sydney, he could do worse than head for the hills of Nepal to give the Yaks a few pointers. A Nepali premiership-winning team may be some years off, but we can assure Sheeds he’ll have a good time.

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AFL FOOTBALL FINALS – go Sydney Swans!

Sydney Swans vs Hawthorn Hawks. Note some empty seats and Swans and Hawks fans sitting together.

Dear Overseas Tourists visiting Australia,

Do you want an authentic Aussie cultural experience? Don’t climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge or cuddle a koala – only other tourists do that. Instead, go to a footy match.

The AFL (Australian Football League) finals start this weekend, with the country’s top eight teams playing off in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth for the national premiership. Geelong Cats and Collingwood Magpies will start as firm favourites to meet in the Grand Final after finishing clear of the pack at the top of the ladder, but RT’s LOTR outside tip is the Sydney Swans to cause an upset. My own true team, the once high-flying Essendon Bombers, had a miserable season and missed the finals.

For those of you who don’t know the rules of this exclusively Australian game, here they are: prior opportunity, push in the back, out on the full, holding the man, holding the ball, dropping the ball, throwing the ball… oh, forget it. It will look as if there are no rules, just 44 blokes running around smashing into each other and kicking a pointy orange ball.

It’s almost non-stop action during four quarters of about 30minutes each. You won’t see players rolling around clutching their ankles the way those wussy European footballers do every time someone nearly bumps into them and scratches their nail varnish. In Aussie Rules, if someone, say, dislocates a collarbone, the game just goes on and team has to play without them. It’s remarkable how fast fit young guys can pop their shoulders back into place.

The Hawks arrive on the ground. Booooooo!

If you want to fit in with the home crowd in Sydney, learn the words of the club chant and yell them after every goal. “Sydney, Sydney, Sydney, Oi, Oi, Oi! Sydney, Oi! Sydney, Oi! Sydney, Sydney, Sydney, Oi, Oi, Oi!’’ Not exactly Shakespeare, but this is Australia, mate.

You should also come armed with a few basic terms of abuse. Don’t bother yelling them at players; save the insults for the umpires, and use them whenever somebody gets tackled: “Booooooo!” ,”Use yer eyes, ya green maggot!” (Interesting to notice that the umpires are sponsored by spectacle manufacturer OPSM), “Ball!”, “He’s been doing it all day, ya mug!”

Knowing the names of a few players will also help you feel like you belong. It’s not hard. To start with the Swans, there’s Kennelly, Hannebery, Grundy, Goodesy, Kirky, Malceski-y, Dennis-Laney and of course the coach Roosy.

Some tips:

(1) Don’t take alcohol to the ground – bag inspections make sure you can’t get it in, so you’ll have to buy beer and rotgut wine in the bars at absurdly inflated prices. But at least if you can’t get drunk, you can expect people around you to be fairly civilized too.

(2) If you want to eat healthy, take your own food – the Australian pies and chips (fries) on sale at the ground may be part of the cultural experience, but they’re not a great contribution to world cuisine.

(3) You and your kids are perfectly safe supporting either team, and it won’t matter where you sit or what colours you wear. There’s no segregated seating for fans, and while there’s plenty of verbal barracking, crowd violence is fortunately very rare indeed. Rival AFL fans do not trash towns or beat each other up.

Happy Swans fans after a win.


The AFL season runs from March to September. Nearly all games are at played on Friday night, or Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings. For full fixtures, see afl.com.au

Except for the Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in September, games are seldom complete sell-outs, and tickets are available at the ground or online. Individual tickets usually cost between $35-78, with family packages available. See: ticketek.com.au

STOP PRESS: My prediction of a Swans’ upset win is still on track. They struggled to beat Carlton in the second elimination final, but fell over the line and now face the Western Bulldogs in the semi. The Swans recently had a convincing win over the Bulldogs so they’ll give themselves a good chance of going further into the pointy end of the season.

STOP STOP PRESS: Swans are gone. Geelong v Collingwood and Bulldogs v Saints in the preliminary finals. Collingwood should be favourites now, but for reasons I don’t quite understand the world is divided into those who love Collingwood and those who hate them. I don’t love them, so I’m supposed to be a magpie-hater. I’d like to see a Geelong-Bulldogs Grand Final, but I fear Collingwood-Saints is more likely.

STOP STOP STOP PRESS: Collingwood thrash Geelong and are through to the Grand Final. Magpie fans will be unbearable.

STOP ALL THE PRESSES, THIS IS GETTING RIDICULOUS: I had to miss the Grand Final (on the TV) due to hiking commitments which took me out of mobile phone range. St Kilda and Collingwood conveniently played a draw, so I can watch the replay next week.

FINAL STOP PRESS: THAT’S IT, ALL OVER, MAGPIES WIN…I don’t want to talk about it any more.


Filed under Sport, Travel-Australia

HOLLAND’S WORLD CUP 2010 – Oranje fans get ready!

For once in my life I’m in the right place at the right time. Maybe a certain football stadium in Johannesburg would be a better place to be on Sunday evening, but Amsterdam will do me fine. Even bigger TV screens are being installed in the pubs and the parks and the orange t-shirts are already being printed – “NEDERLAND WORLD CHAMPIONS 2010”.

Meanwhile the bakers are busy pouring gallons of orange icing onto vanilla slices, a confection nobody should ever put in their mouths other than for patriotic reasons. Red,white and blue flags are being printed in their thousands.

A psychologist appeared on TV to tell us that the ‘happiness level’ in Holland has now increased to 8.0, nearly level with Denmark, the happiest country in Europe with 8.2, even though their team didn’t make it through the preliminary stages. This spike in the average Dutch happiness level could in part be attributable to the mood of the researcher himself, who looked overjoyed to be interviewed on national television.

Spain is the team the Dutch will have to beat. Surprisingly, Spain and Holland have never met in a World or European Cup match. Ideally the Dutch would have liked revenge on losing semi-finalists and arch enemies Germany. (Don’t mention the war, or the time Germany came from behind to beat Johan Cruyff’s ‘total football’ team in the World Cup Final 1974.) But Spain it is. A while back, Real Madrid dropped two Dutch stars, Sneijder and Robben, as being surplus to requirements, so they’ll be out to show the Spaniards what a mistake that was.

When the Dutch national anthem ‘Wilhelmus’ is played before the match, pay attention to the strange lyrics. Oranje footballers are not renowned for their diction, and not all football fans are familiar with the Dutch language, so I’ll help you out… The folk song begins with the words ‘Wilhelmus of Nassau am I, of German blood’ and ends, ‘I am a free prince of Orange. I have always honoured the king of Spain’. No wonder the players will be mumbling their lines.


Filed under Holland, Sport