Enough of this cute animals and endearing stoires of cuteness, its time for some serious business. Lets get in the sport. First of all, the Australian version of English has a curious approach to pluraliztion. Words we clearly think of as singular are plural here, for instance, "sport." If you were talking about football and baseball, it would be sports. Not so in Australia, its always just sport. For instance, "of all of the sport in Australia, AFL is clearly the most popular." This rule doesn't always apply, because the word math doesn't exist here. Its "maths." As in, "get out your calculator so we can do some maths."
Anyway, sport. Australia is a sport mad country, they really put the US to shame. During the summer its cricket and soccer (apparently the only other country in the world that calls it soccer), but when autumn starts, its time for the serious stuff- the various footie sport, of which there are three- Rugby Union, the National Rugby League (NRL), and the Australian Football League (AFL). Confusingly, all three of these can be referred to as the shorthand of "footie," which refers to the rugby ball they use.
Now, I plan on hitting AFL in a later post, hopefully after we have been to a game, which is slightly harder since Canberra doesn't have a team. Canberra does however have an NRL team, the Canberra Raiders, and a Union team, the Brumbies. Union is the old school version of Rugby, the one that is beloved in England, and is played at the international level. The Rugby World Cup (who knew there was one?) will be played in New Zealand in September and goes by Union rules. The main differences between Union and League is that the rules are designed for League to be a faster paced game. Thus there are less men on the field, the point system is organized to emphasize the scoring of trys (touchdowns) over kicks (field goals), and there is a down system similar to the NFL. Union tends to be more of a field position and posession game, which is not to say its any less exciting. Personally, I prefer it of the two styles.
Anyway, the below pictures are from the NRL game we went to see with our British friends, Karen and Ant (of Thanksgiving and Hobart New Year's fame). I give you- the Canberra Raiders! They're team color is bright, neon green, and while they are historically an awful team, they finished strong last year, just sneaking into the play-offs, so there are high hopes for this year. To give you an idea of how ill thought of the Raiders are, every year analysts make two picks at the start of the season- who will win the Premiership (championship), and who will win the Wooden Spoon, the worst team in the league. The Raiders are always a safe pick to make.
Here's the Raider doing a dance to get the fans excited before the game. Love it.
Cheerleaders! Now we know its a real sport. For how would we know when to be cheer for the home team if we did not have overly tanned girls shake their pom-poms at us? Ant thinks that Rugby League having cheerleaders is the hieght of apostasy, "They don't have them in Union, nor should they." I think that was British for serious smack talk. I believe Rugby League was just proper-served. It is, indeed, on, governor.
The mighty Raiders take the field. This is the first game of the season, everyone is pretty stoked. They were playing the Cronulla Sharks. Cronulla is a suburb of Sydney. NRL and AFL continues the Melbourne-Sydney rivalry, as NRL grew out of Sydney, and AFL started in Melbourne. Over half the teams in the AFL play in or around Melbourne, and its the same for the NRL and Sydney.