Saturday, 14 April 2012

Tervets at the AFL

The Australian Football League (AFL) season is only a few weeks old, but already I'm an addict. Having opted to support Geelong - they wear the same colours as Tottenham - we watched their first two games on TV, including a pulsating contest with Fremantle Dockers in the opening round. Geelong lost narrowly and I was impressed by the Dockers. Our holiday schedule threw up the chance to watch Fremantle on their home patch and I grabbed it. Brisbane Lions were the visitors and Rachel joined me for a train ride to Subiaco's Patersons Stadium, via a stop for lunch in Perth city centre.

So... we arrived quite early. That's the journalist in me, I expect. We caught the latter stages of a youth game between New South Wales Dockers and Doncaster, which allowed for a re-cap of the rules before the main event.

I presumed - rightly or wrongly - that any Lions fans in attendance would be based in WA rather than having made the trip across Australia. After all, Brisbane to Perth is a round-trip of almost 9,000 kilometres! Either way, there were some good outfits and hats on display. Of which more later.

Brisbane go through their stretches in the blazing sunshine. The nets, which caught most of the pre-game shots, were removed in time for the first bounce, thus bringing the 'cup of tea smashed out of hands' hazard into play.

Like father, like son... Two generations of Aussie Rules supporters, from both sides, seated just in front of us. There is no segregation in the AFL, unlike the Premier League, which has its pros and cons. The friendly vibe attracts a comprehensive cross-section of society, as opposed to English football's male-dominated crowds. Great to see. On the other hand, though, there was virtually no atmosphere despite a healthy crowd and a strong display by the home side. Football's tribal nature, and the separation of home and away fans inside the stadiums, tends to generate much more singing, chanting and volume in general. That's something even the biggest AFL games lack.

Almost every 'Freo' fan inside Patersons was wearing something purple, so I fitted right in. Ish.

Something arty while we waited for the teams to emerge.

Here come the Dockers, bursting through the club banner. This will be mended and rolled out in time for the next fixture.

Although it's 18-a-side, the oval is still a vast area to cover. When play gets as congested as this, there are huge vacant areas of grass.

Bosh! Fremantle notch another six points. They conceded the first goal of the afternoon but never looked back after getting back on level terms and then getting their noses in front.

Sunglasses and a woolly hat: a strange juxtaposition but it seemed to work. Baseball caps were everywhere, especially in our section of the ground as the sun dropped ever lower.

Aaron Sandilands (31), the AFL's tallest player, leaps for the ball. Sandilands, the Fremantle ruckman, is hard to miss at 6 ft 11 in, four inches taller than Peter Crouch.

This kick skewed wide but the Dockers were pretty comfortable as they closed out a 64-35 win over an average-looking Brisbane. The home fans left happy and I'm already itching for another taste of the AFL. Next stop, Geelong in Melbourne...

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