Festival of the Boot

Yesterday was the “Kelly-Woodford Festival of the Boot” at Nykolai’s school. Basically, it’s a Parents & Teachers vs the kids game of Aussie Rules Football that happens every year around the time of the finals. This was the third time it’s been run and the past two events were won by the kids, so could the adults finally win one this year?

Those of you who know me probably know that these days I’m not much into sport and especially not AFL. I think I’ve seen 5 or 6 professional games in my life, and a few of those were when I was a kid. Going to a football match takes me into an alien environment which I normally stay well clear of. I do wind up in the middle of it every few years or so having scored a corporate seat for an AFL game some 6 or 8 years ago and going to the Argentina vs Australia soccer game a year ago. Given this, walking around the school grounds yesterday with all the team songs playing and watching adults & kids running around the place in their gear (players and supporters) was a rather surreal experience.

I have a rough idea of how the game is played but otherwise have no idea what to do out there. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s played on a large oval shaped field with players roaming all over the place, no concept of offside and no time-outs for injury (play goes on around the medics on the field – amazing). Between the running around like mad buggers and leaping in the air to get the ball (often by leveraging off the back of others) the real game is amazingly energetic with players typically being lean and bloody fit.

Having grown up in New Zealand playing Soccer or Rugby Union then spending a bit of time mucking about with American Football, my instinctive reaction when getting a non-round football lobbed at me is to throw it like a torpedo or flick pass it so handballing and bouncing it while running are not immediate reactions for me.

If this is the case, what the heck was I doing in the middle of a game of AFL? Was it because Nykolai was playing? Nope – he was more interested in catching up with friends and mucking around – I don’t think he even watched the game despite being near the field. Was it because I really really wanted to play? Heck no! Did I want to relive my childhood? Get real!

No, I was there because one of the fathers had hassled me to attend, telling me it was all a good time and a bit of a laugh. After having my arm twisted a bit, I said I’d join in and wound up standing with a bunch of adults in sports team jumpers wondering what the hell I was doing there. Once the captain was aware that I’d never played before and had less knowledge of the game than the ball itself, he managed to arrange things so I never had much more to do than try to keep an eye on some of the opposition and generally block. Yeah, that sorta worked.

A few of the organisers had a go at commentary that was somewhat like Roy & HG complete with fashion advice and references to some adults being wiped out in the warm up let alone in the game. The kids enjoyed themselves and the adults had a good go at it, getting to within 5 points of the kids in the end. Some of the kids did amazingly well with a some of the grade 5’s & 6’s showing they’ve been playing for a few years already.

All up it was a fun day despite having to spend more time looking down at the kids than up at the ball. Nykolai had fun with a few friends, I did my duty and I’ve (hopefully) done my sporting bit for the year.