A non-believer’s view of football

Sorry, folks, it can’t be avoided. Once again the Maroons have massacred the Blues in the State of Origin series. And without JT!

Actually, I have to admit I don’t much care, but watching Jonathon Thurston put his body on the line for an unlikely win in the second game even impressed me. I expected the Blues to win the third and  last match because JT wasn’t going to be playing. I was wrong. I’m sure I’ll get over it.

Why have I even mentioned it, you ask? It’s a topic nobody up here can avoid, really. Rugby League is something of a religion, just as AFL is in Melbourne. And it can all get very confusing.

I mean, why do they call it football?

The idea in rugby league and rugby union appears to be to tuck the ball under your arm and run like hell until a couple of guys on the other team throw you to the ground. If you’re in danger of getting mowed down you’re supposed to chuck the ball to somebody running a little bit behind you, and let them have a sprint. To score you have to ground the ball (that is, have it actually touch the grass) past the last line on the field, where the goals are – that’s called a try (which always reminds me of Yoda (do, or do not. There is no try)). Often tries are scored when the person carrying the ball flings him/herself at full stretch onto the turf. THEN you get your appointed ball-kicker to kick the ball, carefully positioned on a little mound, from a standing start. If the ball goes between the posts, you get two extra points on the four you got for the try.

The differences between rugby league and rugby union are a bit beyond somebody like me, who (don’t tell anybody) isn’t really interested in either of them. It has something to do with scrums (where everybody goes into a huddle with the ball in the middle until somebody grabs it) and line-outs (where everybody stands in a line and somebody throws the ball into the field and a player is lifted up by his/her colleagues to catch it). I think. And something about union being the upper class game and league being played by the working class. I’m not sure how the All-Blacks (who play – dominate the world – union) would consider that definition. But like I said – what would I know?)

Let’s move on to AFL, the Australian Football League. It’s a legacy of our colonial past, very closely related to Gaelic football and brought here by the Irish convicts. At least in AFL there’s a bit more of yer actual kicking than in rugby. But you can move the ball from player to player via handball, which is not the same as a throw (which is illegal). You kind of balance the ball on your hand, then punch it with the other fist. You are allowed to kick, though, which (usually) sends the ball a longer distance. Then we get to see some spectacular jumping to grab what’s called a ‘mark’. (That is, he caught it). Then they get a free kick for being clever. And you have to kick the ball to score a goal if it passes between the middle two uprights (six points), or if you only manage the outer two uprights, you get a point.

And now we come to the round ball game, played all around the world, where the best players can earn obscene amounts of money. Over in Europe and South America they call it football. Only the goal keeper can touch the ball with her/his hands. You can use your head, or bounce the ball off your body, but basically you’re supposed to kick the thing. So ‘football’ is actually a very apt name.

That’s why in Australia we call it ‘soccer’. After all, both codes of rugby, and AFL, are footy.

Yes, soccer is played all over the country, and is commonly played by school kids, but it’s very much second fiddle at the elite level. Our better players go over to Europe to make a quid, just as the basketballers go to America. Soccer is supposed to be a non-contact sport, which is why you see the play-acting on the pitch (or whatever it’s called) when somebody pretends to be kicked in the ankle. Union, league, and AFL are all brutal contact sports where they’ve had to bring in rules to prevent serious injuries. It’s a bit like gladiators, I suppose. Only nobody is supposed to literally, you know, die.

I guess in that respect we’re a bit more civilised than the Romans.

Lorikeets have their own form of contact sports. Here’s a few pictures.

 

 

 

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