Over the past weekends, my roommates and I decided to attend an Australian Rules Football game (AFL). We wanted to be able to experience what the sports atmosphere is like in Australia and how it differs from the atmosphere of the United States. We decided to go see the Sydney Swans versus the Giants, which ironically are also from Sydney. The Swans however seemed to have a much bigger following because almost all the people at the game were decked out in Sydney Swans apparel. From the scarves to the hats to the jerseys, we were easily out of place by our lack of red and white. Overall, besides the fact that it’s a different sport, the atmosphere was generally similar. There was half time entertainment with little children playing on the field. There was a money give away, which sadly none of us were fortunate enough to win. There was a big screen that would scan the crowds for something interesting. The people at the game were pretty similar, too. There was families with small children, groups like us with just friends going to the games and then there was, of course, the drunk group of guys shouting completely inappropriate saying and getting a little too into the game for everyone around them. It was a really fun experience, although none of us actually had any idea of what was going on. The funniest part about it though, was that for a good majority of the game we actually thought we were watching rugby. We were under the impression that Aussie Rules Football or “Footie” as they call it here was a more organized version of Rugby. Turns out they are two completely different sports entirely.
Aussie Rules Football originated in Melbourne in 1858. The goal is to kick the ball between goals at each end of the field. The teams consist of 18 players. In this sport you cannot throw the ball, and all contact must be made with the feet, explaining why its nickname is footy. The AFL brings in the highest attendance of Australian citizens of all sports in Australia. The AFL Commission governs the sports teams. The Victorian Football League (VFL) arose in 1897, which was a wealthier segment of the AFL. They originated in Melbourne, but the south Melbourne team actually relocated to Sydney and ironically became known as the Sydney Swans, which is who we went to go watch play on Saturday night. There is not much competition for the AFL internationally because of its origins here in Australia, but there are amateur teams throughout the rest of the world. It spread largely in areas surrounding Australia, and in Nauru, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, AFL is the national sport.
Rugby is divided into two different sections: The Rugby League and the Rugby Union. However, they both originated from the sport of Rugby Football. Surprisingly, the difference between the two leagues supposedly originated from a division between classes. The Union was supposedly associated more with the middle class, and the leagues with the working class. The main source of separation was because the union’s players, the working class, could not afford to take time off from working in order to devote to playing Rugby. The Rugby League is extremely popular in New South Wales and Queensland, and considered to be more violent than the Rugby Union. The teams consist of thirteen players each, and the games are played in three matches, with the winner being the best two out of three. The Rugby League allows for a six tackle rule before they are forced to hand the ball over, but this does not apply in the Rugby Union. Both the Union and the League have the same general goals to get the ball through the end goal, they differ significantly in the way in which to complete this task.
The Rugby Union competes on an international scale and the Australian team is known as the Wallabies. They were champions of the World Cup in 1991 and 1999, which is a pretty good showing considering they’ve only participated in 7 world cups. They were able to become known as one of the best Rugby Teams in the World. This division of rugby plays with fifteen players on each team and tends to have more tackles involved than the Rugby League. The Rugby Union competes annually against Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa in the Rugby Championship. They are currently ranked third in the International Rugby (IRB) World Rankings.