Wil Wagner – Footy Fucking Rules

wilwagner_column_footyIn another of his guest columns on D.I.Wireless, Wil Wagner talks Australian Rules Football – just in time for the September finals. Part introduction to the game to overseas readers – part ode to the positivity that can be found in professional sport. We broached the weird love affair between punk rockers and sport in Episode 50 of D.I.Wireless. Here Wil takes the ball…and runs with it!

Hello people of the Internet! It’s time to talk FOOTY!

I’m going to be sporadically writing articles here on D.I.Wireless, mainly about music and touring life, but as there is a bit of a lull in my world at the moment (Editors Note: back in June, whoops), I figured I may as well talk about my other passion.

Here in Australia, we play a ridiculous game called Australian Rules Football. It is a game where tough guys smash into each other, take speckies, and kick boo-na-nas. And it’s fucking awesome.

The game is played by two teams of 22 absolute legends. The aim is to kick the footy – also known as the FOOTY or Sherrin – through the middle of the four posts at either end. It also features a few umpires (unaffectionately known as white maggots) and 50 to 90,000 of the drunkest people you’ve ever seen in your life (think any Australian you have ever met multiplied by 15) who congregate at different stadiums all over Australia.

Now say what you want about organised sport, because I’m the first to admit it is simply a shiny blindfold to hide from the HORRIBLE PAIN OF EVERYDAY LIFE. But to me, this is why AFL is fucking great:

1. It’s fair

As in most sports, each year there is a draft where all the best young players from the junior codes compete with each other in an attempt to be picked by the clubs in the big league. In Australia, it’s no different, except the way the teams are allocated their picks. The teams on the bottom of the ladder receive the first picks placing them in the best position to get a few great players and rebuild their club. Naturally there are always some clubs that are struggling on field or financially. When this happens the AFL swoops in, chucks a couple of those millions of dollars from TV rights at the club, and before you can say ‘Melbourne Demons’ they are back and playing respectable footy (except for the Melbourne Demons). This guarantees not only a far more even competition but a very entertaining one, bringing in more TV rights money and ensuring the next club who cooks it can be saved!

2. It’s anti racism, sexism and homophobia

That’s right jocks! The AFL is not down with intolerance! Not one little bit! Emphasised recently during the indigenous round where a supporter yelled something racist to Adam Goodes, an indigenous player, and he turned away from the ball, pointed to the offender and got her kicked out. It was fucking awesome. There’s footage of caucasian players turning on their own supporters for what they refer to as ‘racially vilifying’ opposition players. And the media’s stance, even the Rupert Murdoch media, has been 100% against any kind of racism in football. Even on the football field, players can go around ‘elfin and ‘jeffin to their heart’s content, but any attack on someone’s race, religion, sexuality, or even references to personal tragedies of the player is met with massive fines and long periods on the sidelines.

3. It’s really, really, really, entertaining and people fucking love it!

Seriously. There are so many different types of players, but this team game is also one that celebrates moments of true individual brilliance. It’s strategic and meticulously planned at times and then caution is thrown to the wind at others and games can be decided in the last second after seemingly being all over after just 25 minutes. There are lots of bad tattoos and a few real babes and some excellent beards flying around as well as some of the most hilarious and quintessentially Australian characters ever to walk this earth. Also, it is a sure fire topic of conversation with anyone, especially people who you might struggle to connect with in the first place! Awkward family gathering? Talk about the footy. Uncomfortable pause in a job interview? Mention Jobe Watson. New to prison? Ask how many points Travis Cloke is gonna kick on the weekend. It’s one of the few things that truly unites Australia as a country and us as a people (unfortunately this is not a compliment). It is pretty broadly thought of as awesome. Unless you’re live in the rugby states. I don’t count the rugby states.

So yep, footy. I love it! I know it has had – and will always have – complete shitbags like Wayne Carey, but there are shitbags everywhere and their ‘shitbaginess’ shouldn’t bring us down!

Wil Wagner is frontman of The Smith Street Band. Photo: Aaran Gicquel (Spaceship News)