A Confused Pom's Guide To The Aussie Rules Football Grand Final

Ever tried to get into Aussie Rules football? I have and it makes no sense whatsoever...
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Today is the Aussie rules (AFL) Grand Final and I'm watching it in the Victorian country town of Bairnsdale. On the drive up, every town we passed through was a ghost town as Aussies plotted up in front of their tellys and stuffed disgusting meat pies drenched in ketchup (or "sauce" as they call it) into their faces. 100,007 are packed in to the MCG for the final which features Melbourne team the Hawthorn Hawks (brown and yellow stripes) and The Dockers from Fremantle, Western Australia, whose colours are, as far as I can tell, red, green, white, purple, white and orange. Everyone in the pub I'm in is barracking for the Hawks. Victorians are fierce proud of the AFL (formerly the VFL - Victorian Football league) and will support any Victorian team against an interstate rival.

The umpire starts the game by bouncing a traditional red Sherrin ball, not the regular season yellow version. The Stand Against Modern AFL mob will be happy.

Hawthorn settle early and Freo look nervous, as well they might be, playing in their first Grand Final.

The players settle into a bout of initial rolling around on the floor and kissing and cuddling as they size each other up. Viewers at home are kept informed by Channel 7's huge team of 9 studio commentators - overkill maybe, but at least none of them are Michael Owen or Alan Shearer.

At the end of first half Hawthorn lead Freo 2 3 15 0 3 3. Freo haven't scored versus the Hawks in the opening term for 7 years - it doesn't bode well for the Purple Haze. (Who actually play in white).

At the start of the second half, Hawthorn set their stall out and Freo's Mitchell gets the shit kicked out of him. All perfectly legal I'm told. Freo are put off their stride and Jack "Norman" Gunston gets the 1st goal of the 2nd half.

Freo are then punished for too much kissing and cuddling - Cyril Rioli takes the free kick - another goal for the Hawks. At this point Freo are showing no composure and are running around like a wanker with his head cut of.

That said, Muzungu goes into the record books as the first Fremantle player to score in a Grand Final - the Freo players look more surprised than anyone. So much so that Jack "Norman" Gunston immediately scores from 2 yds out. It's now 5 3 33 - 1 4 10 to Hawthorn and Gunston is having a blinder.

Someone is then penalised for "holding their man". Make of that what you will. Freo are now desperate - 2 of their players leave the pitch and then come back on - one dressed as Quentin Crisp, the other as Gunner Beaumont - Gloria - from It Ain't Half Hot Mum. It seems to have paid off - as Freo have a free kick from about 10 yds out... but they miss.

It's a blustery day - you need to be kicking low flat and hard - you have to wonder if these Freo players have any fucking idea how to play the game.

End of the 2nd half Hawthorn 5 5 35 Freo 1 6 12 That's the lowest half time score by a team since Collingwood in 1960. Apparently.

The half time show is by the legendary Aussie rock band, Hunters and Collectors... Nope, me neither... As you can imagine, they're woeful. Abject.


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Ex-player Cameron Ling provides the halftime analysis - the lad has done well for himself since the setback of being the kid, Rocky Dennis, in Mask. Cyril Rioli is the man of the match so far - he's been everywhere, breaking up Freo attacks, winning possession, kissing, cuddling. You can't teach that stuff.

Consensus in the pub is that Freo need to get more men around the ball. Make of that what you will.

The 3rd half begins with what looks like a fight in a pub car park. Something happens - I'm not really sure what and Freo get a free kick from which they score a goal. Game on? It's now 5 5 36 to 2 6 18.

Turn over! And Hawks have a scoring chance. Another goal. 41 to 18. Freo have shot themselves in the foot there and I find I need more beer than I thought I'd need to endure this spectacle.

There's a lot of talk of players "getting a bad bounce" of the ball. Have you seen the shape of the thing? How the fuck do you think it's going to bounce? I can't help thinking this game would be improved 500% with the introduction of a round ball. And maybe an offside rule. The poor Freo full forward is yet to have a touch of the thing.

I go outside for a fag and when I come back, Freo have reduced the deficit - 41pts to 31. Three more of their players are now dressed as characters from It Ain't Half Hot Mum. No sooner I have I sat back down than the one dressed as Lah Di Dah Gunner Graham makes it Hawks 41 Freo 38. It's a good job that Hawthorn's shorts are brown. As they are shitting themselves. Freo are closing in...

After a brief period of both teams shooting themselves in the foot it's the end of the 3rd half.

There was a 23 point deficit at the end of the 2nd half and at the end of the 3rd, it's now 10 pts. Hawthorn 8 8 56 Freo 6 10 46, but remember Freo have already played their It Ain't Half Hot Mum themed joker and the Hawks still have theirs up their sleeve.

First goal of the 4th half comes as number 16 for the Hawks - I don't know his name - scores from about 200 yds out and gives the Hawthorn fans a huge boost. Sensing that this is the turning point of the game, Hawthorn play their joker in the shape of two players on motorbikes - the increased pace of their forward line pays immediate dividends as they score 2 quick goals 20 pts the difference with 8 mins left. I can't see Freo coming back from this. I'm going for another fag.

3 minutes left in the 4th half and Hawks are up by 16 points. Or 2 goals and four behinds. Or put another way, 16 behinds. Or 2.8 goals whichever you want.

There's the siren! Game over. Final score is Hawthorn Hawks 11 11 77 Fremantle Dockers 8 14 62 and that's probably the worst game of anything I've ever seen.