From pitch-side seats to the top of the world

8 Aug

Saturday 30th July – Aussie Rules

One thing I definitely HAD to do whilst in Australia was to watch (and try to understand) a game of Aussie Rules football. Thankfully the Gold Coast Suns play at the stadium just down the road, and their last game of the season was on Saturday against St Kilda. Tickets were cheap as chips, so me, John, Phoebe and their friend Will snapped up some pitch-side “silver” seating.

Before the match, we ate some lovely spag bol, and me and Phoebe had a civilised glass of wine (I wanted to be able to concentrate on the game!) whilst John and Will had a rather large number of tequila slammers. The stadium was just down the street so we walked there, with John and Will carrying a cheeky bottle of beer for the road. John managed to be quite impressively discreet with his bottle – you get a $100 on-the-spot fine for carring alcohol in public – but Will managed to be less so: he ran home for his lighter, got halfway back to us before running back again convinced he’d “left his beer on the roof” (John and Phoebe live in a ground floor apartment, and his beer was with us), then got a bit hot and sweaty running back to us the second time so took his shirt off to cool down whilst sprinting slightly drunkenly down the main road. Having refused to put his shirt back on and retrieved his lost beer from John, he began drinking it in full view of the police across the road, who didn’t hesitate in coming over. John managed to successfully hide his beer just in time, but Will fell victim to the immortal police trick of “Could you pick up your bottle that you’ve just left on the floor, sir?” – needless to say he got a fine!

Anyway, after all that kerfuffle we arrived at Metricon Stadium and, after some minor stressing, found our seats, which were right at the side of the pitch! It was all very exciting: the ball even landed on me while the players were warming up!

Metricon Stadium - it's quite big

Before I go on I should probably try to briefly explain how a game of Aussie rules works. It’s played on a cricket pitch with a rugby ball, and each game has four quarters lasting 20 minutes plus stoppage time. Each team has 18 players who can be anywhere on the field at any time. The game starts when the umpire does a “centre bounce” with the ball – basically he just throws it at the ground really hard so it bounces unpredictably into the air – or, on the rare occasions that it’s raining, simply throws it into the air. Players can pass the ball in any direction by kicking, punching or slapping it, but they aren’t allowed to throw it. If a player catches the ball when it has travelled more than 15 metres from another player’s kick – this is called a “mark” – they get a choice of taking a free kick or playing on immediately. Whilst running with the ball players have to bounce it off the ground every 15 metres or so. If they are tackled they must let go of the ball. The goalposts look rather alarmingly like those found on a Quidditch pitch:

AFL goalposts

If a player kicks the ball cleanly through the middle goalposts, this is a “goal” and is worth 6 points. If it goes in but bounces off the middle posts, bounces off a player from the other team or instead passes between one of the two sets of outer posts, this is a “behind” and is worth 1 point – I find this amusing because they have essentially missed the goal but are given a point for trying! Most matches will end something like 100-80 because so many goals are scored.

So, having had the rules explained to me, I felt vaguely prepared for watching the game. However, because the rule structure is somewhat lacking, there are basically nearly 40 players on the pitch who pretty much do whatever they want, and a game of Aussie rules is really just disorganised chaos. I disliked the lack of strategy and found it very unsatisfying to watch, because there really isn’t that much skill involved in scoring a goal and subsequently winning a game. On top of that, for people being paid to play a game that involves handling a ball in various ways, most of the players were fairly crap at throwing, catching and kicking. This frustrated me even more!

Action shot: a Suns player actually manages to kick the ball

However, it was nonetheless fun to sit down pitch-side with some watery Australian beer and watch the game unfold. We were sat behind some really hardcore St Kilda fans against whom we indulged in some light banter and shouting. John and Will, who were rapidly becoming ever drunker, kept shouting hilarious insults at the players who ran past, forgetting that most of the time the poor lads on the pitch could actually hear what they were saying! I felt quite sorry for them! The game ended 74-54 to St Kilda, so although the Suns lost they didn’t lose too badly.

My overall opinion of Aussie rules: a mixture of football, rugby and volleyball, played on a cricket pitch with Quidditch goalposts, with far too few rules and far too many players. Enjoyable when drunk and within shouting distance of the players, but you won’t catch me watching it at home any time soon.

Sunday 31st July – Jamie

It had been brought to my attention that the lovely Miss Jamie-Louise Young was currently on holiday on the Gold Coast as part of her epic trip around Australasia. I couldn’t possibly miss out on the opportunity to meet up with her and find out what she’d been up to – it really hammered home to me the fact I’ve been on the other side of the planet for almost two months!

We decided to go up the Q1 tower to have a drink and watch the sun go down. I brought John and Phoebe, and Jamie brought Charlie (her new man) who seems to me to be a very nice and suitable young man indeed. After getting ourselves settled in the comfy seats with a drink and some unexpectedly massive bowls of chips, we had a lovely chat for a bit and gazed out of the windows. The sunset was beautiful:

Sunset over the Gold Coast 1

Sunset over the Gold Coast 2

Sunset over the Gold Coast 3

Sunset over the Gold Coast 4

Sunset over the Gold Coast 5

After all the excitement of watching a sunset from 80 floors up, we resumed trying to finish the massive bowls of chips and having even more lovely chat. Jamie and Charlie told us about their adventures on the Whitsundays and Fraser Island, and I did the medical student thing where you accidentally talk about gruesome gory details in public (e.g. prolapses, perineal tears and the like – oops). Me and Jamie also kept inadvertently slipping into conversation about recent goings-on in Misson, completely forgetting that everyone else didn’t have a clue what or who we were talking about. We also had general conversation about life in Australia, dogs and how weird it feels now that so many of our friends are married/having kids/both.

By now the sun was well and truly down so we had another wander around to look at the Gold Coast all lit up at night:

SkyPoint is quite high up!

Surfer's Paradise at night-time

I don’t know why but I think that cityscapes sparkling and twinkling at night-time are one of my absolute favourite things to look at: I was mesmerised! By now it was getting late – 9:30pm is pretty much bedtime by Queensland standards – so we dropped Jamie and Charlie back at their hostel (Charlie is under specific instructions to look after Jamie and will be in trouble if he doesn’t) and went home happy 🙂

PS/ for any of you who haven’t already: Dave is running the Great North Run for MacMillan Cancer Support this year. The big day is rapidly looming and he needs your help to raise his target of £150! Please sponsor him, even if it’s only a couple of quid, every little helps and it’s a fantastic cause:

PPS/ I just had an absolute panic when I realised that Austalian keyboards don’t have pound signs on them!


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