Each weekend from April to September, footballers across South Australia lace up their boots and prepare to get muddy.
The Hills Football League is one of many Australian Rules football leagues the state has to offer. It may not be your local league but is one of the largest and perhaps one of the most satisfying to attend with lush landscape, fresh country air and charming old towns. Not only do you get the exciting atmosphere of a game of footy but also a relaxing road trip- a chance to escape the city and appreciate nature.
The Hills Football League features twenty different clubs and divides over three thousand players between them. There are two divisions- central and country. The central division is made up of the larger towns in the area and the smaller towns belong to the country division.
With eighteen rounds in a season, the minor round is coming to an end for 2012 but footy is by no means over. Things are only just starting to heat up with teams contending their place in the finals. The teams to beat this year after their premiership wins in 2011 are Echunga and Uraidla.
Recently I was able to attend a match in round 15 with Kangarilla playing Macclesfield in the Country division. It was a sunny but chilly Saturday as we made a leisurely forty minute trek to Macclesfield, stopping along the way the sample the goods at the Clarendon Bakery (pies and footy go together like Vegemite and cheese, you know). Driving through this region of South Australia is like being transported back in time circa 1850. The towns have not only maintained the old world, village quality of the era but many of the buildings along the main road actually date back to this time.
Finding a prime location was easy as we arrived early for the 2.30pm show down. Perched on the hood of my car with the winter's sun warming my back in preparation to watch this battle of the midrange teams. Kangarilla and Macclesfield (ranked 7th and 8th respectively) seemed to be evenly matched and both were coming off the back of convincing wins the week before so it was anyone's game. Kangarilla had a little more to gain as they still have a very slim possibility of making the top five to play in the finals. They certainly seemed motivated with a substantial lead at half time. Macclesfield had not given up and made a third quarter comeback to level the playing field. The slight whiff of finals footy kept Kangarilla kicking goals to finish victoriously with a final score of 21-16 to 16-4. The next few weeks will be imperative in Kangarilla's campaign for the finals.
So if you enjoy local footy, love a country drive or are simply looking for a cheap Saturday afternoon outing ($7 for adults, kids free), then a Hills Football League match is for you. It is a great time of year for it with winter coming to a close and the sun beginning to make more of an appearance. The road trip is a pleasant drive winding through the beautiful countryside of South Australia that is often taken for granted. Make a day of it and pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the magnificent views that country SA has to offer. Along the way you'll be witness to rolling green hills and valleys, beautiful gum trees and forests, friendly cows and alpacas, welcoming and historic country townships. Take a breath of fresh air and enjoy nature as you cheer on your chosen football team.