Footy at the ‘G

The City, The Culture

The Melbourne Cricket Ground was originally built in 1853.  It has obviously had some expansion and remodelling since then, but is still a history piece in Melbourne (it’s on the Victorian Heritage Register!).  The G (as it is colloquially known) has hosted the 1956 summer Olympics, 2006 Commonwealth Games, and countless Australian cricket matches (including the ever-popular Boxing Day Test).  It also houses the National Sports Museum which tells the great history of Australian sport.

The MCG is privately owned by the Melbourne Cricket Club, which was founded in 1838.  Various sections of the stadium (about 20% in total) are reserved for MCC members during any sporting event held there.

Cricket is a summer sport, so during the winter, the MCG turns into the main Australian Rules Football stadium.

Australians are absolutely crazy about footy.  The national organisation is the AFL (Australian Football League) and everyone has a team they go for (usually based on geography).  There is a team for each major city in Australia, but because the AFL was created from the VFL (Victorian Football League) half of the teams are from Melbourne and surrounds.  So in Melbourne, especially, it is important who you barrack for.

The totally capacity of the stadium is 100,024.  At the game we attended, however, it was only 63,537—minuscule, right?

The stadium regularly sells out for the AFL Grand Final.

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The classic meal at a footy game is a pie and chips.  Both help keep you warm in the chilly temperatures.

One of my favourite traditions regarding footy are the team songs.  Most of them were written in the 1800’s, so they have a very vintage vibe to them.  Also, most are to the tune of famous songs written around that time, such as “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “The Marine’s Hymn,” “Keep Your Sunny Side Up,” “The Yankee Doodle Boy,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

As each team is running in through their banner, their song plays and, of course, the fans sing along.  And then, which ever team wins, their song is played on repeat after the game throughout the stadium and the guys sing it in a huddle back in the locker room.  After a long losing streak, teams are so excited to finally be able to sing their song again after a win!

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There are 18 guys on each team on the field at a time, so we wanted to have a large-scope view of the game (which we don’t get watching it on TV).  So, we elected to get seats on the top-most level of the MCG, but near the front of the railings.

Heading up the escalators to the fourth level in the MCG, the surrounding walls are painted with the manuscript of the original rules of footy, written in 1859.  There were only ten rules; pretty much anything else was allowed, which is still somewhat true.  Footy was one of the first sports to be officially codified (even before soccer or rugby).

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The game we attended was Collingwood Magpies vs. Essendon Bombers.  Both are suburbs of Melbourne; Essendon is near the airport, hence ‘Bombers.’  The captain of Collingwood actually lives in our suburb and we’ve seen him shopping at our supermarket (!).  Collingwood has classic black and white vertical striped jerseys and Essendon has black with a red sash.  Football jerseys were originally made from wool, but are now regular sports fabric.  However, they have maintained the integrity of the design.

There is no in-stadium commentary during play.  This silence seems to invite more people to add their own take on the game more vigorously.  Also, as not diehard fans, it was difficult to tell who had the ball or who was kicking the goal.

At halftime, kids in the AusKick program (AFL for kids) get to come out onto the field and play on the MCG!  They are dressed in miniature versions of the teams jumpers and then they get to meet the team they are dressed to represent.  They’re so adorable!

After the game, the lawn outside is covered with families playing kick-to-kick and the train/tram stations are absolutely packed with people trying to get home…

Footy is all in the history, the allegiances, and the athleticism.  We’ve really enjoyed adopting footy as our go-to sport!!

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