Insouciant bon-vivant and erstwhile troubadour prone to verbose verbiage.
Published July 9th 2012
One of the major parts of Melbourne's culture is Australian Rules football - invented in that very city (though some historians claim it was invented by Irish miners on the Ballarat goldfields). Whatever the case the first ever game was played in Yarra Park where the MCG now presides as the premier sporting stadium in the country, and if you listen to the locals, the world.
Statue commemorating the first ever game of Aussie Rules
Best described as a cross between rugby and basketball the code of Australian Rules can confuse foreign observers because there is no such thing as offside or an own goal. Whatever the case, if you're considering an extended stay in Melbourne you really need to pick one of the ten AFL teams that calls the city home. If you don't understand the rules, don't worry; in fact you could probably get a gig as an umpire at that rate!
To assist newbies to the Melbourne scene select their team please see below for the football equivalent of a metric conversion chart. For each Melbourne Aussie Rules team I have given an equivalent English Premier League club.
Collingwood (Magpies) = Liverpool
Both clubs were founded in 1892 with working-class catholic roots (although Collingwood's strip is more similar to Newcastle United). Supporters have a reputation for rough heads and passionate support. Both have a proud history of success and have accumulated large collections of silverware. A word of warning, if you choose to follow Collingwood you will be reviled by all other supporter. Collingwood is known as the most loved and most hated club. They have the most supporters but everyone else hates their guts. On the plus side, at the time of writing this article they sit on top of the premiership ladder.
Carlton (Blues) = EvertonBoth clubs wear blue and are renowned for being the blue bloods. Their cross-town rivals and arch nemesis are Collingwood: each time Carlton plays the Magpies it's the equivalent of the Mersey-side derby. Proud and arrogant the Blues are the elitists of Melbourne's north. With a cupboard packed with even more trophies than Collingwood they are happy with their year if as long as they finish above their rivals.
Essendon (Bombers) = Manchester UnitedWith one of the largest support bases and a proud history of success the Bombers wear the black and red that United also proudly sport. For 26 years Kevin Sheedy was the eccentric equivalent of Sir Alex Ferguson coaching the Bombers from 1981 – 2007. As the moniker of Essendon is an aeroplane and a plane crash made United famous the parallels continue beyond club colours. Much like United nobody really likes this franchise.
Geelong (Cats) = Glasgow CelticThe boys from out of town who wear hooped jumpers. The Cats have achieved massive success in recent years but they'll always be the quaint out-of-towners, hailing from a place that seems to have even worse weather than Melbourne in the winter.
Hawthorn (Hawks) = Chelsea A talented group of players with a large bank balance behind them. Hawthorn's last president was a former politician who seemed to idolise Stalin. Chelsea's owner is Russian. They did win the premiership a few years ago but continue to under deliver since then. Hawthorn supporters, and many of their players, tend to care more about looking cool than winning games.
Melbourne (Demons) = Blackpool In the 1950's they were good. Really, really good. Now they're simply pitied. Melbourne fans have a reputation for disappearing to the snow during Melbourne's winter; Blackpool has the reputation for being England's beachside haven in the summer. Both Australia's snowfields and England's beaches are pale imitations of the real thing. Identically their football teams are also pale imitations of the real thing.
North Melbourne (Kangaroos) = Fulham A one-time glamour side the Kangaroos toil away in front of small crowds to achieve eternal mediocrity. Everybody's second side, North Melbourne recently struck a deal with World Vision. Given the parlous state of the 'Roos finances I think this means they are being sponsored by a family of Carlton supporters.
Richmond (Tigers) = Leeds UnitedSuccess in the 70's and 80's, feral supporters and all promise with no delivery. Richmond made a habit of finishing in ninth position (one place away from playing finals). Much like Leeds missing out on Europe this has proven to be disastrous for the club who continue to wander the football wilderness. They have improved this year and are in the running to finish ninth again.
St Kilda (Saints) = LA GalaxyNot a traditional power of the league (in fact St Kilda has finished last more than any other club) the Saints come from a part of town renowned for its partying. With a history of blonde glamour boys who spend more time at the hairdresser than do their girlfriends, LA Galaxy was the only club that sprang to mind. Given they have as much chance of winning another AFL premiership as the LA Galaxy do of qualifying for the Champions League there really was no other choice.
Western Bulldogs = Coventry City The club is broke and based in an industrial area where nobody wants to live. The parallels between the Western Bulldogs and Coventry are uncanny. Fortunately the Bulldogs don't have to worry about relegation and are likely to sit mid-table in the premiership until the end of time.
So there you have it. Choose your team wisely and enjoy the banter at the water cooler.
The writer clearly knows nothing about football! Equating Collingwood with Liverpool F.C. is incorrect. Collingwood is more akin to Manchester United, not Liverpool. Also the history is a bit off, Liverpool F.C was not founded by working-class catholics, it was formed when John Houlding split from Everton F.C. over a dispute relating to grounds (among other things). Nor, could Liverpoool's alleged 'catholic roots' be traced to Everton F.C. as that club was founded by a methodist church.