Six things AFL has taught me over the years…

The Australian Football League is underway. I love this home sport; a sport which no other country understands or is really that interested in. Australians are damned proud of their football and let me tell you, every one of us has a team, even if we are not avid supporters. We also have a team we hate. I support a team called Essendon. There are a number of reasons why I do this; the first is that my older brother and father drummed it into me that Essendon were THE team to support when I was about 2 years old, the colours of this team are awesome in my opinion; red and black (sure beats yellow and brown!) and Essendon is the suburb right next to where I was born in Victoria, Australia.

When my younger brother came into the world, he too was drilled into supporting Essendon and we grew up as a family of Essendon supporters, apart from my mother, who supported Melbourne.

Essendon shares the most number of premierships won with one of its biggest opponents (Carlton) and is therefore a pretty good contender in the game. That is however until their last premiership 12 years ago. Since then, Essendon has had me holding my head in my hands and yelling abuse at the top of my voice. This year is no exception. Although the season has just begun, Essendon still has a long way to go before they make another premiership. Regardless, I will watch them splutter their way through a game, while my frustration levels rise and I await abuse from other loved ones such as the hubster who supports the yellow and brown team, Hawthorn.

AFL has taught me a few things over the years though and I would love to share some of these with you:

1) Keep your eye on the ball. 

The majority of goals or points are scored in AFL from a set mark. This means that in order to mark the ball, you need to catch if from another player who has kicked it to you. Every time a player takes his eyes of the ball, they increase their chances of dropping it. So despite the opposition trying to distract you, keeping your eye on the ball ensures a greater success in marking it. If the player isn’t focused on the ball when it hits them in the hands, catching it becomes pure luck.

As such you need to give your compete attention to what you are doing or want to achieve in order to succeed.

2) Defend your team and mates

In order to kick goals, a player will sometimes need to run forward with the ball towards their own goals. During this, an opponent will often try to tackle the player in order to turn the ball over to their team. As such, team mates can defend the player with the ball by placing themselves between the opponent and the player, allowing the player to move closer to the goals.

Additionally, team mates are often seen giving encouragement whether it be a pat on the back or words of support in order for their team-mate to keep positive.

I have used this lesson particularly with my team members at work, but it can also be used for friends and family.

3) There is an advantage of competing on your own turf

A ‘home ground advantage’ can offer familiarity and decreased fatigue or stress in getting to the ground. As a result, I now like to encourage those I am having a disagreement with into my own home in order to sort things out. I am familiar in my own surroundings and have less stress than the person locating my home.

4) Learn to see the bright side, even if you fail

In AFL, a club who has hit rock bottom in the season has the opportunity to have first picks at selecting new team members for the side. These team members are often quite good players and as a result can turn a team around in the next few seasons.

5) Have an awesome nickname

Each of the clubs that play in AFL have a club name and a nickname. Essendon for example are known at the Bombers, one of the greatest nicknames in the league. In addition, most of the players have nicknames also, some of them are very clever:

Stephen Silvagni was nicknamed SOS which stood for Son of Serge. Serge Silvangi was also an AFL legend.

Peter Everitt was nicknamed Spider because of his long limbs

Jeff Farmer was nicknamed The Wizard due to his ability to produce magic on the footy field

Gary Ablett was nicknamed God as he was one of the most spectacular ALF players

Due to my double-barrelled surname, my nickname is Hyphen.

6) There is no need to punch your opponent (when a wedgie will do)

Throwing a punch in AFL can lead to suspension for a few games, being out for a season and potentially a fine. As such players are seen giving their opponent’s head locks, shoulder punches, jersey grabs, pushes, shoves, a wrestle at maybe even a wedgie!