When people think of Australia they envisage cute koalas, cuddly kangaroos and Crocodile Dundee with his famous hunting knife. Alternatively, Australia is also known as the land of omnipresent poisonous spiders, snakes, jellyfish, sharks, and the hot blaring sun. We even have trees that pose a potential threat to life and limb; the local blue gum trees are affectionately known as “widow makers” for good reason! In a place where it can seem that most things are out to get you, it will come as no surprise that to survive you need to make your own rules – Aussie Rules.
It’s not football and has nothing to do with rugby
Being a sporting nation, there is no sport more Australia than Australian Rules Football – affectionately called “Aussie Rules” by the locals. The name says it all – a game born and bred in Australia and played nowhere else on the planet. The stadiums draw massive crowds to watch 36 super fit guys spend 80 minutes kicking, jumping, and making the occasional very rough tackle with referees furiously blowing their whistles. Things like fumbling the ball, being off-sides, and knocking on the ball can seem quite confusing to those people who grew up playing rugby or soccer. One of the rules is that you must not be in possession of the ball when tackled, and there are four posts, not two, and no crossbar so even scoring a goal is not as straightforward as it first seems. The bad news for those not big on running is that the largest fields are roughly three and a half times bigger than a football field, the field is oval rather than rectangular, and field size can vary by as much as 100% (no hard and fast Aussie rules here).
Aussie rules for everyone
You might be surprised to hear that what may seem a macho, testosterone-filled game is actually a very progressive, open sport. Just recently, the Australian Football Leagues (AFL) announced the first clubs to compete in the inaugural year of the National Women’s League. The AFL estimate that about 25% of Australian Rules players are women and in 2017, eight women’s teams will be playing in their own professional league. Over the years, the aim is to increase the number of clubs. It really is a new era for the AFL.
Reflecting the Australian spirit
The first organised women’s football match was played in 1915 so the women’s game is even older than MANN+HUMMEL who celebrate their 75th Anniversary this year.
We’ve been asked to contribute something “typically Australian” to the collection of objects MANN+HUMMEL are gathering from their locations across the globe. I wanted something to show how the Australian spirit creates rules only to break them more or less immediately afterwards.
Australia’s an open, progressive country and what better to signify this than a football used in its indigenous game. The red oval football with a kangaroo logo may look like a rugby ball but it certainly is not!
Notwithstanding all its weather extremes and its isolation from other countries, the great southern land remains a very special place where opportunities, miles and miles of empty unpolluted space, and the concept of the “fair go” still rules. Aussie rules!