Today was Australia's Superbowl, the Australian Rules Football Grand Final. We've caught bits and pieces of the games on TV, but honestly we had no idea what was going on. Our friends Paul and Rhonda offered to explain it to us, so had us over for a complete footy (as it is called) experience. They took their teaching role seriously, and so I actually feel like I know enough now to enjoy a game. We were barracking for the Geelong Cats. You say barracking, not rooting, since rooting is slang for sex here, which was news to us. Geelong is a city near Melbourne, pronounced Ja-long. Paul grew up there, and some of his cousins played for the team at one point. Queensland has two teams, one in Brisbane and another on the Gold Coast, but both were pretty bad this year. AFL started in Melbourne, so generally there is at least one team from the Melbourne area playing in the final. This year both teams were from Melbourne. The other team was the Collingswood Magpies (those swooping birds), and Paul informed us they were sort of like the Yankees of the AFL: the team with a lot of money that that wins a lot and thinks they're awesome and everybody else loves to hate.
Their daughter plays AusKick, the kid's version of footy at school, and they gave the kids a poster-sized diagram of the players on the field. Paul was kind enough to tape this up for us and run us through the game before it started. It was a handy reference to have throughout the game. He also provided us with a Footy magazine that detailed the season and the different teams for us. We even went out in the yard in between quarters with a ball and he showed us how to bounce, pass, and kick the ball. I kicked it a bit too hard and it ended up in the neighbor's pool. Once we understood how it worked and had tried the basic moves for ourselves, I have to say that this has got to be one of the hardest sports in the world.
I won't bore you with all the rules, but I want to give you an appreciation for it. They play on a big cricket oval, and it even started because they were trying to figure out what to play in the winter when it wasn't cricket season. In order to score, it is similar to soccer in that you have to get the ball all the way to the other side of the field to score. You do this by running, passing (which looks sort of like punching with your fist, not a toss or long pass like in American football), and punting (not soccer kicking, drop kicking) the ball to fellow players. Can you imagine instead of kicking the ball along the ground or throwing it, you have to punt the ball accurately enough that your teammate down the field can catch it while other players are trying to intercept it? Punting at a dead run, no less. They have figured that footy players can run the equivalent of a marathon during a game, yet they also have to be big and muscular enough to tackle (no pads). Then in order to score, you have to kick it between the goal posts. You get 6 points if you kick it in the middle goal post and 1 point of it hits the post but goes in, goes through one of the side posts, or if a player touches the ball before it goes through through the middle goal. Yet, the games frequently have scores like todays final: 119 to 81 (Geelong won). I was definitely impressed. And to watch these guys leap for a catch is just amazing. Here's an example from the game today:
It's pretty brutal, too. The first picture above ended in the bald guy dislocating his shoulder. Another guy broke his nose. I can see why men get into it, but I can see why the women like it, too. I'm going to be honest here, these are some good looking men, more muscular than soccer players, but not the beefy no-neck guys of American football. Plus, they play the game in tank tops and short shorts, which is not hard on the eyes. I imagine I'll get some flack for that, since admittedly I'd give a guy a hard time who watched beach volleyball just to gawk at the girls.
Like the Superbowl, watching the game is often just an excuse to hang out and graze for hours. While Superbowl food at home usually involves chili and 7 layer dip, etc. footy food was different. You are supposed to eat meat pies, which we did. We even had the kind with mushy peas, which I actually liked best. Then you put tomato sauce on the top:
We also had chicken wings that were "ranch" flavored, but this was sort of a spicy BBQ sauce, not Hidden Valley Ranch. I brought some little quiches, and there was also a big bowl of prawns that you had to peel and dehead:
Even our soda was different, as we were drinking passionfruit soda. Rhonda also had some Thai chicken meatballs, but we had to cry uncle before then. She also made a very yummy caramel tart that had bananas in it:
We told them we'd have to do this again come November when cricket starts so we can figure it out and eat more good food.
We have actually been pretty busy with the social engagements lately which has been nice. We haven't seen a lot the last couple of weeks scenery wise, but we've been to a birthday party, had people over for dinner twice, been to a barbie, today to footy, and I even went with Julie Ann to Zumba this week. We even convinced our friend Katie from England to come with us on our trip north next week. So next week you might get multiple posts and lost of pictures as we do more exploring.
I suppose I should say a bit about the barbie. If you are like us, we were dying to know what one was like. It's basically just like a cookout in the States, but the food is a bit different. Instead of grilling burgers and hotdogs, because beef is so cheap here, every one has steak and beef sausages. Everyone from the small group was invited, so we had a good crowd and it was fun to get to talk more in depth with people.
We also finally went swimming at the beach. Daniel only got about half way in before he decided the water wasn't quite warm enough for him yet. I did go swimming, but I was worried about running into some sea creature I did not want to get up close and personal with, so I didn't swim long. Plus, the water was sooo salty just breathing out while swimming left a gross taste in my mouth. There really aren't that many creatures around, mostly just fish. We saw a whole school of smaller fish, which I thought was actually kind of cool, but occasionally you would spy a big barramundi and they have teeth and are a carnivorous fish, so I don't want to mess with them. I don't know that they chomp on humans, but that's the thing: I DON'T WANT TO KNOW. I do know that they are a very tasty fish, but I only care to encounter them on my plate. Tuesday we head for the Great Barrier Reef, so I guess I need to get a bit less skittish in the water so I can enjoy the sites.