Aussie Rules game in Melbourne

I stayed in Melbourne a few days longer than I had planned to catch one of the Aussie Rules games on at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds(the MCG). Having been a rugby fan for quite some time but never delving into the details of the Aussie Rules version of the game I was excited to see what it was all about. Apparently in Melbourne there is Aussie Rules (AFL) and cricket. Nothing else matters.We knew we had to be at the MCG at 2pm for the game so we headed out there a bit early to figure out what was going on and find out way down there. We ended up walking a bit further than we intended because apparently the City Circle trams go from one point all the way around to another and then back again, not around in a circle. The weather was nice,  I didn't mind the extra walk. The MCG is quite big. It can hold about 100,000 people and since the fields for cricket and Aussie Rules are round, the stadium is round as well. I'm curious to find out if they made the field for Aussie Rules round just so they could play on a cricket field.We found our way to the right gate and then headed inside. General admission seats gets you a spot in a select section on the main floor or one one of the upper floors. Levels 2 and 3 for reserved for seasons pass holders and boxes I think. After trying to get into level 2 and 3, and being turned around at both, we found some fun seats on level 4 overlooking the entire field. I still can't say whether those seats or the ones on the first floor would have been better but I guess it depends on what you're looking for. We got a more bird's eye view of the game. The view from the first floor is a little more personal.More and more people started to arrive and our section was packed. Just before the game started the rain started and everyone moved back as much as they could to get under cover. We stuck it out at the front and it stopped for us after 15 minutes. Being a bit wet and out in the breeze it sure wasn't the warmest time!All the support staff started to come to the field and the players came out to warm up, kicking the balls huge distances through the posts and to each other. Kicking is a huge part of the game and is how the ball is moved around the field for the most part. I couldn't tell if the players kicked with either of their feet but I'm assuming they'd practice that.After the players were warmed up and some people said some things into microphones that I couldn't here the game started.  The fields are round with 4 poles at each end. The 2 middle poles are taller than the outer poles. You get 6 poles if you kick it through the middle poles and 1 point if the ball makes it through  inside the smaller poles. Every time a goal is scored an umpire in a green shirt between the post vigorously points his finger like he's drawing a gun and then draws a white flag and waves it. If you get 1 point you get one hand and one flag. If you manage to get it through the middle 2 you get 6 points and you get 2 hands and then 2 flags. The umpires look like they take great pride in the flag waving. There looks to be a highly refined technique behind it.The game starts in the middle with the umpire throwing the ball straight into the air. From there it's a frenzy of slipping and sliding and grabbing the ball until it goes out, someone scores or someone lays on it.When someone scores 6 points, it is taken to the middle and play restarted. The ball is taken from the end if the goal was only 1 point.If someone lays on the ball, play is stopped and restarted with the umpire throwing the ball straight into the air. Most of the time the jumpers simply tried to tip it to their own team members.When the ball goes out of play the closest linesmen grabs the ball, lines up carefully on the sideline with his back facing the field, and hurls the ball over his head nearly losing his balance in the process. I can only assume this is to reduce the chances of a linesmen taking favorites and throwing the ball to a particular team.The ball is moved around the field one of 3 ways. The first, not technically an approved method, was fumbling and dropping and pushing it around with some part of players bodies. This seemed to happen a lot of the time. I'm not sure if they realize half the team looks like a 5 year old soccer team, merrily following the ball wherever it went. The other half looks quite bored waiting for the ball and could go for a smoke at any minute.The other 2 ways to move the ball around are the prescribed methods and are much more exciting. You can't throw the ball to other players you have to punch it. There must be a good technique for this but I couldn't see one. Some of the players wear gloves to protect their hands from repeated bashing on the ball. The best method was to kick the ball.Once a player on the same team catches a kicked ball, play technically stops and restarts ones the catcher kicks the ball or starts to run. The catcher is allowed to back up for where he caught it to get a run at a kick. The opposition is not allowed to follow any further from the point where it was caught. Most of the time the play just kept going and the ball was kicked very soon after it was caught.If the ball is caught within a large semicircle around the goal posts, play tends to stop while everyone waits to see if the kick will go through the uprights. The line on the field seems to be the limit where anyone would try and get it through the uprights and most of the time they were successful. The odd time the player would botch the kick sending it 90 degrees to one side giving everyone a good laugh but this was few and far between. These guys kick for a living. They've gotten quite good at it.There are 4 quarters of about 30 minutes. They go by quite quickly providing the play and/or the crowd is exciting. All the guys around us had many friendly things to say to the umpires and were going about it quite excitedly. I feared I might end up with a meat pie on my head intended for a man in a green shirt.Some younger teams played on a bunch of small fields during half time and then it was back to the action. The field and ball were wet and slippery from the rain the night before and just before the game so it made for a sloppy match. Tempers started to flare and one player got a penalty for clotheslining another between plays.It was definitely an exciting game, especially compared to the other type that's played on the round pitches. I have yet to see a game and it doesn't look good for this trip.  I'll have to put that on the list of things to do for England.[gmap]