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It has football’s laterals and lots of punts. It has soccer’s precision passing and nonstop action. Add in rugby’s aggressive tackling and wide open field, and you’ve got Australian rules football.

On a recent trip to Melbourne Australia, I decided to find out what this game is all about. The day I staggered off the plane after the 15 ½ hour flight, I found myself in the standing room section of the Melbourne Cricket Ground while the raucous cheers of 72,000 fans roared up from the large circular green below. It was a Sunday match between Richmond and Collingwood, and it seemed like the center of action in the city at that moment.

 

This game is not played anywhere else on earth, and it combines what I like about many sports in a uniquely Aussie style. It has all of the above mentioned qualities and it gets fans very excited.

Oh, and the refs throw the ball in from out of bounds by heaving it backwards over their heads. What’s missing in football down under is the constant stopping, refereeing, and pauses that make the NFL’s game so tedious.

Meat pies and Beer

I got a beer and grabbed a Four and Twenty brand meat pie and stood at the railing watching the action. I felt a little like my girlfriend Cindy probably does when I make her watch the Super Bowl.

“What are they doing?” I wondered, but it was clear that scoring involved the four posts on both ends of the circular field. The scoreboard, though, showed three figures, later I realized they meant goals, kicks and total points.

Goal points are scored by either kicking or passing a red football through the middle two poles. I am still not sure why there are four on each end. Today’s game was between Collingwood and Richmond, two teams based in Melbourne, each with their own mostly uniformed fans one with referee-style black stripes and the other with distinctive orange and black.

Here there are special places to sit for the members of each football club, and strict rules about what you can and cannot wear. “Thongs,” as flip-flops are known, are banned, as are belly shirts and anything with an offensive slogan. Fans here join the clubs, wear the gear and take the whole thing pretty seriously. READ MORE

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