Follow the Aussie’s Own Rules Down-Under
Spending a significant amount of time in the continent that is also a country – Australia – is probably close to the top of most travellers’ to-do lists.
This is something most adventurers from the Northern Hemisphere are going to do sometime sooner or later; preferably when it’s the summer in the globe’s southern half.
Now of course, this huge land is justifiably famous for some of its more extreme and interesting geographical features in its unimaginably huge landscape – the Ayers Rock tourist hotspot chief among them. But if you’re more of a culture-vulture, then you really have to accept sport as being absolutely central to Aussie culture.
Pound for pound, Australians have to be the greatest sports people on the face of the earth. They’re particularly noted for their swimming abilities, they excel at both types of rugby, have what has probably been the world’s best cricketing team of the modern era and are even beginning to punch above their weight at international football.
But interestingly, there’s one sport that speaks more about Aussie culture than any other that really doesn’t resonate beyond Australia’s shores – and that’s Aussie Rules football.
Aussie Rules is usually simply referred to as “Footie” by the country’s inhabitants and is the most attended sports league of any kind here. The main centres are the main conurbations including Adelaide Sydney, Brisbane and Perth – whilst close to 100,000 spectators cram into the stands of the famous MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) for the Grand Final every year.
This is the event to see if you can get tickets whilst touring around. If you can’t, simply soak up the atmosphere in a bar where you can also usually get a bet on the outcome of the Aussie Rules final to make things a little more interesting. Even then – get here early because the whole country seems to grind to a halt when the game is on, the pubs and bars are packed and their adjoining TAB bookies do a roaring trade.
Otherwise, try and take in a game wherever you’re travelling as long as that’s between March and September when the season is on. Take a look at Australia’s official guide to Stadiums and Venues for where and when to see a game.
From March to September, all AFL (Australian Rules Football) teams all play in a league to try and make the top eight. Those that do so then qualifying for the AFL’s final series – which is staged in Melbourne every September.
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The top teams today include Collingwood, the Melbourne-based Hawthorn (the current holders of the trophy), Sydney Swans (last year’s runners-up), Port Adelaide Fremantle, and Geelong.
Melbourne itself takes on a real carnival atmosphere on Grand Final day. In a similar way to the November Melbourne Cup, this is a huge sporting occasion down-under that isn’t to be missed if you’re lucky enough to be here in September.