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Introducing AFL Football to Newbies

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by Kristen Greening (subscribe)
Kristen Greening is a professional communications coordinator and full time lover of Melbourne.
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Published June 12th 2013
Tips to convert non-AFL lovers
A lot of Melburnians grew up here, but due to migration (interstate and international), Melbourne is opening its doors to some fresh faces – and the city is blooming because of it. And that's all well and good, but to be able to call yourself a true Melburnian, there are certain rights of passage you must travel.

These rights of passage may include, but are not limited to the following:

• Fearing for your safety and certainly your personal hygiene on the 86 tram

• Eating a South Melbourne dim sim

• Visiting Sydney and finding yourself curse the confusing, twisting maze of streets in the CBD – seriously Melbourne's grid is so much more convenient

• Performing a hook-turn

• Understanding what a hook-turn is

• Getting scared of the monsters breaking through your roof – only to realise that the possums are back

And finally...

• Going to the footy

footy, MCG, AFL, football game
Collingwood vs Geelong (Round 8, 2013)

I grew up in Melbourne as a Collingwood supporter, in a very Collingwood supporting family. When I was old enough to understand the concept of barracking for a team, I wasn't asked which team I'd like to follow, I was asked if I'd like to support Collingwood or move out – you get the picture. So when my friend who has lived in Melbourne for nearly 10 years, but is originally from Romania, told me that she not only didn't support a team, but she had never even been to a game, I was shocked. Honestly shocked.

How was it that she had lived here, in Richmond of all places, for nearly 10 years but not been to a game? I did what any true Melburnian would do, I took it upon myself to rectify the situation – and two years later, she eventually came to a game with me.

Now this was a rare opportunity to see our great game through the eyes of someone completely new to the sport. When I was trying to teach her the rules, I found myself asking "Actually I guess it is a bit silly that we can handball but not throw… and where did the concept of the handball come from anyway?" But I prevailed and learned some important things about introducing AFL to newbies.

• When explaining the rules, try not to overload. It's easy to go full throttle and start explaining about what is considered a high tackle and how some players (Joel Selwood anyone?) will duck into a tackle for a free kick and they're allowed to because of some rule loophole that means they can get away with it. No, it's best to start off with "They try to get the ball through the two big sticks" and go from there.

• Don't go overboard with the footy clichιs. Yes, we all love a pie and a beer at the footy, but don't forget that newbies will most likely be intimidated by the situation, so ease them into it. Try having a meal before the game at a restaurant, or choose a less quintessential footy food, like a pizza or some hot chips. Once the newbie seems to relax, then you can grab that pie and show a little more of the real "footy you".

• Cut back on the potty mouth. Ok, this one is obvious. For newbies to football, when the people they are with, along with the other 80 000 odd people in the stadium, start screaming at the umpire for being "soft", that's one thing. But when they start putting expletives before the word, that's just scary. And considering recent circumstances, perhaps everyone should consider their language, whether with a newbie or not. Footy is meant to be a family game.

• Don't judge. Remember, these people don't have footy running in their veins. Sure, they might be more interested in the bar, or the players' bodies, or the book they secretly brought with them than the game, but relax and let them get into it in their own time. They won't be able to resist the football game atmosphere for too long.
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Why? Convert non-AFL lovers
When: AFL season
Where: Melbourne
Cost: Free
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