Aussie rules football is game I’ve never understood. Something about the rule that you can score a point when you miss the goal. Also, it looks like rugby but you can’t pass the ball and you have to bounce the ball every now and then like basketball, but then can’t throw like basketball, there is no offside rule and it’s played on a circular pitch… you can see why I have trouble understanding it.
Nevertheless, it was something on the list of things to go and watch in Melbourne, and I recommend everyone do so once (perhaps just once).
I had been working a shift doing bar work for the AC/DC gig at the Etihad Stadium, otherwise known as the Docklands Stadium. The stadium is an English Premier League stadium by design, very similar to the Etihad Stadium in the UK (also known as The City of Manchester Stadium). I was in the middle of the pitch so had an awesome view of a brilliant gig. AC/DC being from Australia, there was a lot of support. When I first entered the stadium to setup the bar and security, I noticed that one of the stands was called the Coventry Stand – this took me by surprise and mustered up a lot of mixed emotions. Immediately I missed home, and felt very confused and proud of my little city the other side of the world. I had no idea why the name was up there, but it was and it was cool.
I managed to find out the that there was a player named Gordon Coventry who played for Collingwood. He was one of the Aussie Rules Football greats, a hall of famer and previous multiple record holder. I decided that as my piece of Aussie Rules memorabilia, I would buy a Collingwood jersey and have Coventry printed on the back. So influential was the player and his brother Syd Coventry to the Aussie Rules game, there was even a Coventry gate at the MCG (below).
Walking in to a sports shop on Bourke St in the central CBD, I was all prepped for the purchase when I met a chap called Chris. A normal Melburnian chap who caught on to my English accent and started up a conversation. I explained what I wanted and we ended up talking about football, the proper football (the english one) and it turned out he supported Arsenal, like me. We chatted over this and he decided I wasn’t allowed to be a Collingwood fan. Apparently, Collingwood wasn’t a team like Arsenal, Essendon was more of a team like Arsenal, with similar fans, so I should support Essendon. I still wanted the Collingwood shirt though.
In the end, he said he would use his staff discount to get me 70% off an Essendon shirt, but only an Essendon shirt and that he would call his mate and get an extra ticket to join him at the next game. This was, to be fair, too good to refuse. So I left with my Essendon Bombers T-shirt and told myself I would go to another store another day and buy my Collingwood shirt.
The match was between Essendon Bombers and Carlton FC – both good teams apparently. One thing I found really nice about the game was the atmosphere. Fans from each team were mingling, there were bars at every corner and beer was flowing. There were people of all ages and everyone was just having a good time. The game was at the MCG, so it ticked another thing off my list – see something played at the MCG. My plan had been to see the Boxing Day Test but as I had been offered work over Christmas, I wouldn’t have been able to make it.
I brought some of my hostel mates along to game and we had a good time working out what in the world was going on and coming to the conclusion that as with most things Aussie, it was probably a game made up after a few beers, sat next to a bbq trying to think of the most ridiculous way of playing a sport.
The game was good and Essendon won so a bonus for me. The beers were flowing some more and the sun was out. Chris invited us all out after to a bar in Fitzroy so we all headed over there for the evening. I felt I understood the rules of the game eventually but still couldn’t understand its existence as a sport, it is still a crazy sport. I definitely recommend anyone in Australia or planning to go, whether you’re a fan of sports or not, to go to a game.
I still don’t own the Coventry jersey so I will have to pick one up the next time I go to Oz!