The AFL Grand Final
The AFL Grand Final is for some the most coveted game of the year of any sporting code. Find someone who thinks this way and you generally are talking to someone from AFL-Central; Melbourne. Marked by ‘speckies’, watching with a meat pie and tomato sauce in handy, or some ‘footy franks’ at home. To some this game is as Aussie as the Australian Anthem.
This year, due to Covid restrictions the Match will be played in Perth, Western Australia, Saturday 7:15pm local-time with two competing Melbourne Teams.
The history of modern-AFL, the game we know and love now, dates back to 1858 and 1859 with the formation of Melbourne FC & Geelong FC. Making them two of the oldest continuous sporting clubs in the world. The game was initially formed as a way to keep cricketers fit in the off-season.
The game was ‘formalised’ with the first 10 rules being decided upon by a founding committee in a Hotel bar in East Melbourne. It wasn’t until 1877 that a more formalized League was built and developed into what we now know as the AFL.
The influence of indigenous game: marngrook cannot be overlooked. Marngrook was played with a ball made from possum skin, filled with charcoal and tied with kangaroo-tail sinew. Played in regional Victoria and New South Wales by the indigenous men. There were no set goal posts of field sizes that govern AFL, but one of the major elements of the game was kicking the ball high into the air and leaping to catch it.
An observation of Marngrook in play in Victoria in 1841 says “The players of this game do not throw the ball as a white man might do, but drop it and at the same time kicks it with his foot. The tallest men have the best chances in this game. Some of them will leap as high as five feet from the ground to catch the ball. The person who secures the ball kicks it.”
Fast-forward to today and there are 18 clubs: 9 Melbourne-based, 1 regional Victoria, 2 New South Wales, 2 Queensland, 2 South Australia and 2 Western Australia. Whilst over 1.25million people across Australia play in a competitive league.
The Road to the Grand Final
Of these 18 Clubs a normal 23 round season has been staggered and sent sprawling across the country this year due to Covid restrictions. Melbourne FC finished this season on top of the ladder with 17 wins, 4 losses and 1 draw, whilst Western Bulldogs finished 5th place with 15 wins and 7 losses. The final top 8 teams get through to the finals series where a month long venture of qualifying and preliminary finals games sort out the two top teams.
Rules of the Game
For those new to the game, a brief run down. There are a few more rules than the initial 10 penned out back in 1858. To be welcomed into Australia from Overseas generally involves an initiation into the game that is played in the air, off the ground, 360deg and has an extra set of posts, allowing a point just in case you miss the main target. It can be quite perplexing.
Whilst the scope of this article won’t allow for a rundown of all the rules, read here further for an explanation of the game’s rules. AFL Rules.
Rewinding back to the start of AFL as a formalized game, Melbourne was the first formed club, forming in 1858. In their time Melbourne have won 12 VFL/AFL coveted Grand Final Cups, with their most recent in 1964.
Melbourne Players and fans alike are teeming with the prospect of breaking a 57 year drought on bringing home premiership cup. The team are poised well, finishing top of the ladder and having star midfielder Clayton Oliver finish 3rd in the Leagues Best & Fairest Brownlow medal count.
Western Bulldogs FC
Although hailing from ‘the west’, the Western Bulldogs are from the Western suburbs of Melbourne, not Western Australia. One of the first teams to develop in the VFL, also known as Footscray, the suburb where they reside. In 1928 a Bulldog happened to jump onto the field as the team was led out for the match, much to the delight of onlookers. This mascot stuck as supporters felt this mascot typified the Footscray ‘fighting spirit’.
Western Bulldogs had a fairytale ending in 2016. After finishing 7th overall on the ladder, they fought to make it to the Grand Final and then, for the first time in 62 years, claimed victory over Sydney Swans. This premiership side, although having taken a shaky journey since then are back fighting to claim the club’s third cup in its history. This year’s team set to come out fighting with Captain Marcus Bontempelli leading the charge as he polled 2nd in the Leagues Best & Fairest Brownlow medal count.
The final outcome
Tune in for a match regularly attended by over 100,000 people, and watched by millions across the country as two age-old teams battle it out to win the coveted prize. From a 56 year premiership drought, to a team who have the bulldog fighting spirit, this will be anyone’s game come Saturday.
Kelly Thompson is the newest member of the Sports journalist team. Kelly currently plays AFL for Casey Demons in the VFLW, and practices what she preaches as a HOPE (Health, Outdoor, and Physical Education) Teacher in Melbourne’s southeast.