Anyone for Cricket?

I went and watched part of a Cricket match the other day. It was the third day of the Australia vs South Africa test at the MCG. Now, before you fall off your seats, I went with two American friends who were visiting in Melbourne, so I went along to share the joy of trying to confuse a poor foreigner, not out of any twisted love of the game or anything.

Laura flew in from San Francsico on Christmas Day and Bryce came down from Brisbane on Boxing Day. Given Bryce has been living in Australia for a while, he’s already learned the joys of cricket and has experienced a number of games at the Gabba. For Laura, however, it was all new.

I’d had a go at explaining the rules as I drove Laura in from the airport on Christmas Day. She’s not your average yank, as she watches the BBC, loves reading Terry Pratchett’s books, likes the Pythons and does remember that, according to Douglas Adams, Earth is shunned due to the game of Cricket being a warped parody of the most destructively genocidal galactic war ever fought (the Krikkit Wars). Given all that, she’s already well on the way to “getting” the game.

Thanks to my friend Stephen we were able to get three general admission tickets for the Sunday session. We went by train (Connex were late as usual) and shuffled through the station’s gates, swarming in with the mobs of people who were going to the game. Surprisingly, I ran into someone I used to work with back at EDS (Hi Mark) who immediately realised that I was, perhaps, the last person at the stadium who should have been trying to teach Laura about cricket. Fortunately I do recall that many of my misspent days of youth included watching cricket with my family and playing it with friends. So, while I don’t know shit about the current teams, details of coaching methods & support staff for the team and, in fact, may of the other items that fans may know, I was able to help give her a basic understanding.

Once in the stadium we found a good spot to sit (opposite the view board) that had shade, great views and let us get a feel for the size of the stadium. It was only about 1/3 full which is probably why we were able to easily get good seats. Not long after we arrived the teams came out with South Africa batting and Australia trying to get them all out and force a follow-on to their next inning. This, of course, made it rather more exciting than the usual test match cricket day (which can often be like watching paint dry).

We only wound up staying for the first two hours as Laura & Bryce wanted to scoot off down the Great Ocean Rd. While only a short time, it was enough for Laura to get a feel for the game and experience the following:

  • A good, running catch out near the boundary
  • A variety of different bowling method styles (pace & spin), fielding positions (slips, silly mid off/on, etc) and how the whole field adjusts when changing from a left handed to right handed batsman
  • The basics of the game (overs, changing ends, runs, attempted stumpings, etc)
  • Some poor person in the level above us having a medical emergency and getting CPR for about 15 to 20 minutes – no idea what happened as there’s been no news about it
  • The “yobbo crowd” in Bay 13 getting up to their usual antics (starting waves, chanting, bouncing beach balls, etc)

So yes, a great day to take someone new to the game and let them experience it. It wasn’t quite as exciting as a 1 day match but it did flow quite well.

The one thing that’s sticking in my mind about all this is a major “WTF???!”:

What the hell is it with Australia that you can’t bring glass bottles into the stadium but you can bring a freakin’ cricket bat??? I mean, hello? Leathal frickin weapon here!

Oh well…

I took a few photos of the cricket experience and have loaded them into the Gallery system I recently set up. I intend to sort out its look and feel (currently pretty yuk) and transition most of the current Photos into it soon.

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.

Sporty Weekend

Here in Melbourne we’ve just made it through a major sporting weekend. On Saturday was the AFL grand final and on Sunday was the NRL grand final (admittedly held in Sydney, but televised down here). For the sports mad people here in Melbourne, it was one hell of a weekend.

For the rest of us, we mostly managed to avoid it :)

We went shopping on Saturday out at Chadstone which is usually packed and very difficult to park or move around in. This time it was almost pleasant to be out there (almost!). We were coming home and it was close to “kick off” for the AFL final so we dropped Nykolai off at a friend’s place for the afternoon (family was watching but the kids just wanted to play) and then went home to relax. Very peaceful :)

On Sunday Nykolai wound up spending a few hours with another friend and then I picked him up and took him out to his horse riding camp at Underbank Stud. Due to the Horse Flu problem there were signs warning that horses were not to be removed from the property and non-resident horses were not allowed on. At least the camp was still going ahead.

The camp is happening out at Bacchus Marsh which is where my flying school, TVSA, has their HQ. We dropped in briefly for a quick chat and to check out the place – very nice.

Sadly, I didn’t manage to avoid the sports for the whole weekend – I wound up watching the NRL final on TV at a friend’s place when we went over for a BBQ dinner. One of the guys had put it on so we wound up watching it. While I much prefer Rugby Union over Rugby League, it was fun to watch.

Not something I’ll do often, but occasionally watching football can be fun. Given my last blog entry was about soccer, it does seem as if September has been my “football month” for the year :)

Australia vs Argentina @ MCG

Nykolai and I went to see the Australia vs Argentina soccer game at the MCG tonight. We went with our friend Nick and two of his kids, Darte and Violetta. Given they’re from Argentina and we’ve got strong Argentine connections, it was a given that we’d be in the middle of the Argentine contingent.

Much fun was had, the game was pretty good (Argentina won, 1 goal to nil – woo hoo :) ) and the crowd was pretty well behaved all round. An Argentine supporter was removed near us (no idea why) and some dickhead set a flare off over in the Australian supporters area. Otherwise, all good and friendly.

The game did get a tad slow towards the last 10 minutes or so when Argentina had their goal and were delaying to keep possession and prevent Australia from having a go. After a few substitutions on both sides, things got exiting again as both sides had a few attacks.

Weather stayed good, if cold, and there was only a very small shower just before kick off, otherwise dry. We were just under the edge of the layer above so we had cover.

The official attendance was 70,171 – not bad given max capacity of the MCG is about 98,000 (including about 3,000 standing area tickets).

The only complaint for the night was the big screen – you’d be getting ready to see a replay and they’d pop up a page which said “Australia” on it and that was it. This didn’t always happen – some times you’d see it, some times you wouldn’t – very annoying and definitely the worst part of the whole show (especially when we were trying to see what went on there).

Oh well, all up a lot of fun, Nykolai had a great time and Argentina won. Got to be good :)

Grand Final – the aftermath

Yesterday was the AFL Grand Final, held here in Melbourne and featuring the Sydney Swans and the West Coast Eagles – both teams from out-of-state (Sydney and Perth respectively). Apparently it was the closest, most exciting grand final ever and really packed in the punters. A friend of mine was doing a trip to Fort Worth (Texas, USA) for work and he was listening in with workmates in the hotel room. Not bad for a bunch of “foreigners” :)

The only drawback to the whole thing was the amount of glass on the roads this morning. I was crewing the balloons this morning and there was glass everywhere. Smashed bottles, tiny crunchie bits spread through lanes, you name it. From Richmond into the CBD and around, it was all I could do to dodge it – most of the time I had to drive over it and just hope it wouldn’t puncture a tire.

So yeah, the grand final is a big thing here in Melbourne. Yeah, it was a close game. Yeah, the fans can go wild. Yeah, it’s party time – but hey, how about a little respect out there, huh? How about you wankers with bottles learn to control them, eh? Assholes who throw and/or intentionally break bottles around the place should be forced to walk over it with no shoes.

Bet you they’re the some dickheads who bitch and moan about aircraft or balloons flying overhead :)