Monday, June 16, 2014

Country Footy

This is Erik’s third season of playing Australian Rules Football. For the past two seasons, Erik has played at a local club where I was working as a sports trainer. He started the season with that club again this year, however, he was not getting as much playing time as he would have liked. He was attending two training sessions per week and seemed to be playing quite well, but the coach must have thought otherwise.

While Erik was getting limited playing time, my co-workers were always in my ear about the possibility of Erik playing footy with them. The thing is, they play country footy just outside of Ballarat, so it’s not just around the corner if you know what I mean! Regardless, Erik decided to give it a go and went to training with them one night a few weeks ago. The rest, I suppose, is history, and Erik is now a Newlyn Cat. He and my co-workers and a few other guys who live in Melbourne drive to Newlyn on Thursday nights for training. They leave around 4:30 and get back at 10pm after they’ve eaten dinner with the club (the dinner thing is not just a country footy thing, all clubs have a team dinner on Thursday night after training). For the last two Saturdays I have driven with Erik to the games to keep him company and to watch him play with his new team. Fortunately I already know a few of the guys on the team (my co-workers!), so that always makes the games a bit more fun to watch.
Erik's first country footy game, played in a town called Waubra.
Erik is spending time as a "ruckman". Here he is going up in the "ruck" (like a "jump ball" in basketball), which as you see can be quite physical. The difference between this and basketball is that it happens many times per game, after every goal and when the ball goes out of bounds.
Country footy is a bit different than what we have been exposed to so far in regards to Aussie Rules Football. The most noticeable changes are at the games themselves. Firstly, we had to pay to get in! $10 per person is charged at the gate, even for players. We have never had to pay to get in to any of Erik’s games before, so this was a bit of a surprise to us. After the money has been paid, each driver tries to get a parking spot around the oval so that he/she can sit in the car to watch the game. I've learned that this comes in handy when it starts to rain! Whenever a team scores a goal, a chorus of car horns is heard "tooting" (honking) in support of the team.
Front row seats!
Watching from the car is nice when the weather turns bad!
In addition, country football teams are linked to netball teams. What is netball, you ask? It is a little bit like basketball, but you cannot dribble the ball and there is no backboard on the basket. The girls wear dresses and they play outside in winter, right alongside the football game.
The letters on the dresses signify positions on the court.
Note the strange-looking basket. Netball has limited contact compared to basketball.
Most country footy teams seem to be literally in the middle of nowhere. There are fields and farms along a country road and then all of the sudden there is a footy field where there are a hundred or so people watching the game, most from the warmth of their cars.

A wind farm in Waubra. Fortunately the turbines were still that day!
The culture of country footy is definitely a bit more unique than that of the footy played in Melbourne, and thanks to my co-workers, Erik and I will be enjoying the quirks of country footy for the next few months.
Newlyn's home ground. Not a bad spot to be on a nice winter day.

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