Take the most intense scene you can imagine. Okay, we’ll go with the movie “300”, because as I’m sure you are aware, Spartan soldiers are forever epically intense, hence why they are still making movies about them and their glory. Now, take away any protective equipment they might have (and yes, I’m aware they preferred to block weapons and attacks with their abdominal muscles over shields, but again, just for argument’s sake). Then divide them into groups of 22 (with 14 spectators), take two of those groups, and put their top 18 on an oval-shaped field that’s 1.5 times longer and three times wider than an American football field. Finally, give one of them a leather ball and tell him his team has a limited amount of time to kick it through some goal posts as many times as they can and anything goes. It will be brutal, painful, and war-like in all aspects. That, my friends, is Australian Rules Football.
Remember when I said the other 14 warriors could be spectators? That wasn’t just coincidence or the results of a poorly planned math equation. This is a sport where the fans might as well be playing on the field for all of their intensity and moxie. Take the mandated endurance of a soccer game, add in the full impact of an American football game, subtract the shoulder pads, and add the dribbling of basketball and you have a sport of most epic proportions (if you’re a die hard baseball fan and you feel that this sport is incomplete, they tend to fall on the ground and slide a lot, in addition to jumping to catch balls, so if you must, you can add baseball in the list of sports it encompasses and dominates) And that’s not even the most praiseworthy or glorious part. Positions stand, for the most part, as markers for where you start off. Everyone runs the same, kicks just as hard, and is required to dribble a triangle-shaped ball at one point or another.
So now that you understand just how much of a warrior you must actually be to play this game, I’ll further sever your ties to reality and continue to make you doubt what “humanly possible” actually means. Essentially, you have to kick the ball through two gigantic metal goalposts for six points, or between one large one and one smaller on the sides for one point. You run for your life carrying the ball, but after 15 meters (about 50 feet) you’re forced to bounce it on the ground and catch it in order to continue running. And in case you were wondering, no, the other team does not stop their assault and wait for you to figure out how to bounce that triangle shaped ball without having it go sideways. You have to dribble while running full speed. Or, as an alternative, you can pass it to a teammate. But, you can’t pass it like an American football. You have to punch it upwards into the hands of your teammate. So picture serving a volleyball underhand at top-speed, but you use an uppercut instead of your wrist, and try to get that to your teammate. Or, (yes, there’s another alternative) you can just punt the ball with the strength of a Spartan warrior down the field and hope your teammate catches it. If they do catch such a pass, they are then rewarded by the defenders backing off and staring in awe at their great display of athleticism as they wait for the catcher to resume play by either kicking or running the ball. Also, to catch, it is not only permitted, but also encouraged that you leap into the air and use the opposing team as a springboard to launch yourself up and catch the ball. I’ve placed a link at the end to show just what I mean.
A bunch of international students, including myself, got to go visit a team and learn the rules first-hand. We met some of the players, watched an incredibly inspiring movie, and learned just how incapable and unimpressive our athleticism was in comparison. That’s why my favorite team is now the North Melbourne Kangaroos.
Here’s that link. (Hall of fame catch and I was lucky enough to see it live!… It doesn’t matter that I was rooting for the other team.)