Today I went to my first Australian Rules Football (AFL) game at Manuka Oval in Canberra. Canberra hasn’t officially got an AFL team to call its own, but following the inclusion of the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) franchise into the league last year, part of the agreement was that they play three games a year in Canberra.
Now GWS are not very good (not a surprise as they’ve just started in the league and have a very young team) and the games chosen for Canberra are usually against the other poorer teams in the league. However, today’s match-up was significant as St. Kilda are considered one of the glamour teams in the leagues, albeit they’ve fallen on hard times recently!
Additionally, this was the first game to be played under the new floodlights recently installed at the ground. Purchased my ticket without any problems last weekend ($48) and took the free bus down to the ground after taking a hike up Red Hill to test out my leg after last week’s fall from grace on my bike. The leg held out okay and I think I’ll jump back on the bike after a week on the bus into work. Arrived fairly early to soak up the atmosphere at the ground which was swarming with AFL fans who looked like they supported all sorts of teams other than the two playing. I suppose that most of them were ‘Out of Towner’s’ who live and work in Canberra and just wanted to see a real live AFL game, no matter who was playing.
Not sure I really understand the game and its rules, ‘Aerial Ping Pong’, I’ve heard it described as in the past and there certainly is a lot of the ball being kicked high in the air while groups of men garter underneath it vying for procession. However, there no faulting the athleticism of the player and when there was a flowing move up the pitch it was a thing of beauty to behold. Unfortunately, St. Kilda started the match like a house on fire and soon had 30 points on the score sheet without any reply from GWS (It’s six points for a goal and one for a ‘behind’, don’t ask!), so the result was never in question, which was a shame as the game lasted nearly three hours, including breaks.
A couple of points to note. First, it was great to see so many families there watching the game with no segregation. Second, the game was played in a great spirit by both teams, admittedly there was a couple of punch-ups, but the match officials decisions were never questioned and the GWS players kept battling to the end even though they were on the wrong end of a good hiding. Lastly, once the playing surface was cleared at the end of the match, everybody was invited onto the pitch to have a kick about (I wondered why loads of people were carrying balls to the game!) plus players from both teams came back out onto the pitch to sign autographs and pose for pictures with those who stayed behind.
Would I go again? Probably, but I would like to take in a game at the MCG in Melbourne where they regularly get crowds of 50K plus and the standard is higher.
Manuka Oval taken from the top of Red Hill
Some big guy who they let wonder around the pitch
Some of the crowd!
The St Kilda team arrive on the pitch
The GWS boys arrive
The Foxel telecast gets under way (Note the guy with the bald head!)
A GWS substitute waits on the sidelines to join the action
Ex player (Don’t know his name!) sats on the touchline.