This evening, I am off to Cairns to train with the Cairns Trinity Beach Bulldogs Aussie Rules Football team. There are three contributing factors to this surprising turn of events:
Firstly, I always agree to trying new sports and games. I don’t want to stop doing so, just because the fund-raising for my Olympic Challenge has come to an end.
Secondly, I think it would be a lot of fun to try my hand (and foot) at the national sports and hobbies of every country I travel. I think you can learn a lot about people by the sports and pass-times that dominate their culture; perhaps it doesn’t provide as great an insight as their art or literature, but I find it an altogether more human experience.
Also, I don’t really understand art or literature – I am too stupid.
Finally, Juss is a relentless experience-finding machine. With the rain making my rainforest passtimes dangerous or impossible, she has managed to find all kinds of other things for me to do in and around Daintree. This is just one of her many brilliant ideas!
So here I am. In the changing room, pulling on my Bulldog socks and trying to remember the various rules of a sport I have never, ever seen played.
Here are just a few of the things I have been told in the club house:
- There is a lot of kicking, especially as this is the only way to score. This is a huge and troubling surprise to me, as I am bad a kicking.
- Just to make things harder, Aussie Rules kicking is different from Rugby kicking; you hit the ball squarely on the drop, rather than across on the bounce. This messes with my head all evening.
- To pass by hand, you must punch the ball. This also messes with my head, as instict takes over and I just toss the ball.
- You can run anywhere on the massive circular pitch and pass to anybody, no matter where they are. The pitch is circular because they used to play on cricket grounds, apparently.
- There are no knock-ons on penalties for dropping the ball; play just goes on in what can only be described as a clusterfuck of athletic brilliance.
- You can’t tackle from behind, but it seems as though pretty much anything else goes – as long as it lands between the knee and the shoulder.
- You run a very, very long way during the course of each 2-hour match (broken into quarters). The professionals run as far as 20km in a single match!
The list goes on and on and on and on. I’m starting to wish my brain was bigger…