AFL Rules Septem­ber

THE AUS­TRALIAN RULES FOOT­BALL FI­NALS ARE ON THIS MONTH IN MELBOURNE. BY JENNY BURNS.

Where Melbourne - - Contents -

FOR MANY MELBURNIANS Septem­ber means two things— the of­fi­cial end of win­ter and Aus­tralian Rules foot­ball fi­nals. For most, both are causes of great celebration! For lovers of ‘Aussie Rules’ it’s the chance to see the best teams in the com­pe­ti­tion in ac­tion. For those not in­ter­ested in the sport it marks the end of nearly seven months of con­tin­ual talk about re­sults of matches, in­juries and spec­u­la­tion on who is likely to win the holy grail of foot­ball—the Aus­tralian Foot­ball League (AFL) premier­ship. If your team has had a bad year it’s the end of a very long sea­son! For­tu­nately this year’s com­pe­ti­tion has been one of the most even in many years so at dif­fer­ent times dur­ing the sea­son most sup­port­ers have had some hope of team suc­cess.

2017 has also seen a mi­nor chang­ing of the guard with last year’s fi­nal­ists Hawthorn and North Melbourne out of this year’s fi­nals. Teams based out­side Melbourne, in­clud­ing the Ade­laide Crows, Greater West­ern Syd­ney and the Syd­ney Swans, have con­tin­ued to per­form well while the resur­gence of lo­cal fan favourites Rich­mond and Essendon and the con­tin­ued good form of Gee­long have re­sulted in some huge crowds at­tend­ing matches. At­ten­dances of between 65,000 and 80,000 at ‘block­busters’ at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) have been com­mon. Games at Eti­had Sta­dium, the other venue for Melbourne-based AFL Games, have also been well sup­ported by fans.

Both grounds of­fer guided tours on non-match days, which pro­vide AFL novices to­gether with hard­ened sup­port­ers some fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights.

The Na­tional Sports Mu­seum, lo­cated at the MCG, is an­other must visit for any­one in­ter­ested in learn­ing more about AFL. The ex­hi­bi­tion, “Aus­tralia’s Game”, traces the his­tory of the game and in­cludes a se­lec­tion of the great­est VFL/AFL Grand Fi­nal mo­ments and a wealth of ma­te­rial col­lected from the greats of this uniquely Aus­tralian game.

Here you will learn that AFL all be­gan in Melbourne when in 1857 Tom Wills re­turned to Aus­tralia af­ter school­ing in Eng­land. He was foot­ball cap­tain of a rugby school and a bril­liant crick­eter and ini­tially he ad­vo­cated the win­ter game of

foot­ball as a way of keep­ing crick­eters fit dur­ing the off-sea­son. The code’s first recorded match oc­curred between Scotch Col­lege and Melbourne Gram­mar School in 1858. In the same year the Melbourne Foot­ball Club was formed and the game quickly blos­somed. To­day the com­pe­ti­tion fea­tures 18 clubs. There are 10 from Vic­to­ria—carl­ton, Colling­wood, Essendon, Gee­long, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Melbourne, Rich­mond, St Kilda and West­ern Bull­dogs; two from West­ern Aus­tralia—the West Coast Ea­gles and Fre­man­tle; two from South Aus­tralia—port Ade­laide and Ade­laide; two from Syd­ney—the Syd­ney Swans and Greater West­ern Syd­ney and two from Queens­land—the Bris­bane Lions and the Gold Coast Suns.

An­other ex­hi­bi­tion on at the Im­mi­gra­tion Mu­seum, “Game Chang­ers: Diver­sity in Foot­ball”, shows how cul­tural and gen­der diver­sity are chang­ing the world of foot­ball and how the game has changed the lives of in­dige­nous and mul­ti­cul­tural play­ers.

The ex­hi­bi­tion fo­cuses on the sto­ries of two West­ern Bull­dogs play­ers: Lin Jong, the first Aus­tralian of East Ti­morese and Tai­wanese de­scent to play in the AFL and South African-born Ja­son Jo­han­nisen.

Per­sonal items from the play­ers’ early years, trea­sured jumpers and awards are dis­played along­side pho­to­graphs and videos of the chang­ing faces of the AFL.

Jo­han­nisen was one of the stars who helped the Bull­dogs win last year’s premier­ship (win­ning the award for the best player on the ground). Bull­dog fans are ex­tremely hope­ful he will again have the chance to shine on the last Satur­day of Septem­ber—when this year’s Grand Fi­nal is be­ing played.

The eight teams who have made it through to the fi­nals will play their first matches from 7 to 10 Septem­ber. From this time on the at­mos­phere and crowds will grad­u­ally build un­til grand fi­nal day when over 95,000 scream­ing fans will de­scend on the MCG.

Like the game, Grand Fi­nal week has also grown over the years. Whereas once it was just the match on Satur­day, th­ese days there is a full week of cel­e­bra­tions. It starts with the Brown­low Medal (awarded to the best and fairest player) on the Mon­day night and fin­ishes with the two com­pet­ing teams tak­ing part in a pa­rade on the Fri­day. The State Gov­ern­ment has de­clared the Fri­day a public hol­i­day so all can en­joy the pa­rade and associated ac­tiv­i­ties.

Grand Fi­nal Satur­day starts with of­fi­cial break­fasts at­tended by politi­cians, sport­ing he­roes and cap­tains of in­dus­try. En­ter­tain­ment on the ground pre-match in­cludes per­for­mances by lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional en­ter­tain­ers. The choice and qual­ity of the en­ter­tain­ers is of­ten as hotly de­bated as the out­come of the match!

The roar when the play­ers fi­nally take the field is deaf­en­ing, as is the noise when the um­pire bounces the ball to be­gin the game. The roar at the end of the game isn’t quite as loud—af­ter all there’s al­ways a loser. The look of joy and relief on the faces of the win­ning play­ers and their fans is un­for­get­table. And for those whose team didn’t win the holy grail—well there’s al­ways next year! For more in­for­ma­tion on the AFL fi­nals visit afl.com.au

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Melbourne Cricket Ground. Photo: SDP Media.

Eti­had Sta­dium Tour. AFL foot­ball at the MCG. Photo: SDP Media. West­ern Bull­dogs play­ers Lin Jong and Ja­son Jo­han­nisen at “Game Chang­ers: Diver­sity in Foot­ball” at the Im­mi­gra­tion Mu­seum. Photo: Mu­se­ums Vic­to­ria. “Aus­tralia’s Game” at the Na­tional Sports Mu­seum fea­tur­ing Alex Je­saulenko’s fa­mous mark in the 1970 Grand Fi­nal. Cen­tre im­age, above: “Our Foot­ball Girl”, orig­i­nal cover art for sheet mu­sic, with spe­cial lyrics for Aus­tralian Rules, Rugby League and Rugby Union, at the Na­tional Sports Mu­seum.

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