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The Footy I saw !

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NYC, NY
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The Footy I saw !

At the risk of boring those who responded to me before our trip, I will quickly point out that as a born-and-bred Yank who had never been to Oz, I have been in love with Aussie Rules for over 20 years back to when it started to be televised over here. Having bred Footy Fever into my son since he was three, this was finally the year we saw it in person! Back in March, I started to hunt for tickets to four games over two weekends during our trip to Oz. My plan was to contact two clubs-at the highest feasible level-and attempt to purchase a package that would include good seats and a game-day club function. My team-Footscray (Western)Bulldogs. My son's team since he was a toddler-the Saints. Naturally, it had to be while Liam was out of school.Fixture H&A to determine the weeks. I chose (back in March) Bulldogs vs Hawks and Magpies on consecutive weeks. Liam's Saints vs Geelong, and (just to see the MSG)on a walkup, game day purchase of general admission: Demons-Port.

Liam wrote to his 1st footy hero, Nathan Burke, who incredibly had the corporate function man email Liam within 24 hrs with a luncheon/speaker event with "the best seat in the house". Folks, that's how we came to be at level two Section 36 (right even with the ruck circle) for the Clash of the Undefeated 3 months later. What a game. It wasn't a GF, but the roof was blowing off in that titantic struggle and Gardiner's pack mark on a par with Leo Barry! WOW But the night before, we saw our FIRST live footy-My Doggies dismantling Hawks. Our 1st impressions were many that night. It's such a different world to US sports. First example, we happened upon a VERY pretty girl standing outside Etihad, playing the Hawks team song on the bagpipes(!). Now get the full picture. It's 4th of July, we're Yanks and the song is actually pinched from "Yankee Doodle Dandy". Liam and I momentarily wondered (blame jet lag) how in the hell she KNEW we were Yanks. LOL. While the coin I tossed to join the many others in her case hung mid-air, I figured it out. To salute the gratuity and seeing my Doggie gear, she switched to the Bulldog fight song. We were having great fun and we weren't even inside yet. And THAT proved a challenge. Since I enjoyed none of Liam's success at getting a package from my team (back to Dougie Hawkins years) I bought online. I forget whether Ticketron is in Oz and TicketMaster is here or visa versa, but they are identical-sell you the worst seats at the highest price. Anyway, my impression , first off, is despite the grass problems of past years, Etihad is a TREMENDOUS venue. Great sight lines, comfortable seating, ultra-clean, wide corridors and you can leave your seat after a goal and return with a Carlton draft and a meat pie (both quite nice) before the center bounce.

The game itself didn't surprise me after decades of watching it, but it's much more exciting in person and the immensity of the field must be seen first hand. Kicking into space was the biggest difference live..the lead often longer than TV makes you think. The skill level teriffic. handling balls that are bouncing or below the knees in general a real eye-opener. Pushing in the back seems to be less of a felony than in last year or so (thank God!)Soccering a goal or making one from a severe angle a precision skill that only live action captures. Obviously, the electric charge and hard hitting of next day's Saints/Cats was very special. We'll never forget it. Great endeavor, hard hitting. In gridiron, they say great defense beats great offense-it holds in footy too, it seems. The next week saw us watching the Dogs pipped by the Magpies 105-104. Footscray didn't lose, they merely ran out of time....great comeback from 41 down late in 3rd. Both Doggie games were on level two..but behind the posts. YES, many Collingwood fans were indeed feral; screaming "BALL" if a Pie is so much as breathed upon or a tackled opponent gets rid of the ball seconds ago,and quite willing to sledge other side's supprters (ok, sometimes return our sledging) at the drop of a hat HOWEVER a Magpie couple who journeyed from Hunter Valley sat next to us, and we struck up a friendship that has resulted in exchanging e-mails and invitations to stay with them next visit or they with us if they get to NYC. Like so many people we met in OZ-so warm and genuine. Lastly, we loved the "G" as well...the game was not the greatest (though I cashed at TAB on the underdog Demons)but being two rows back at the 50 meter arc-practically touching the players while sea gulls took the turf away from pigeons was great and both tickets combined cost us $22 AUD-where else that fun for that price??. Quick observations-love the betting update on the Big Screen between quarters at both venues and NOT knowing the time left before the siren was not a negative-quite the opposite.

Lastly a quick finale to this "novel", you note unlike my son's Saints shepherding us-they even posted the tix to our hotel waiting there on arrival- my luck wasn't as good with the Bulldogs (getting sledged on this by a 13 yr old a bit rough) Now, this wasn't all Footscray's fault by any means. Ok, their CEO didn't come through like Burkie. Subsequent email to their fan contact on the team site DID get a response of willingness to sell us tickets (no function involved)and I'm damn sure they were better than Ticketron seats but I never spotted the post amidst the spam in my email box-MY fault. Incredibly, what DID come closest to a memorable package? Long after buying online at League site, I sent (unrelated) a letter to Jason Akermanis saluting his reaching 300 games. I didn't really expect a reply. Imagine my shock when we arrived in Melbourne, fired up the laptop and saw "email from Jason Akermanis". He said he rarely goes into his mail pigeonhole at Whitten, appreciated my letter from outside the usual fan base and said "this may be reaching you too late but here's the mobile phone # of our corporate function man-I told him to expect your call-just ask him for what you think would make your visit more enjoyable and he'll oblige." I didn't really bother to try reaching the guy-we were all set by that time-but that a Brownlow winner would make that effort during the peak of the season impressed the hell out of me. It's all true and hopefully any footy fan reading this notes there seems to be a gulf between "image and reality" regarding Akers.

Melbourne, Australia
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1. Re: The Footy I saw !

Wow! Just wow! Do you think if I pretend to be from New York... nah, probably wouldnt wash!

I loved your footy stories, it's true, seeing it live is so different from watching on TV. I've only very recently (since last year) gone to some games. The atmosphere is electric (somehow I pick the games we win which is a plus) and I love that moment when you can turn to the other supporters who were in full sledge mode mere minutes before and be smug at our win.

I can see you had a fabulous time (defeat to the pies not withstanding) and I hope you'll be back soon for more footy action! :)

Geelong...
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for Victoria
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2. Re: The Footy I saw !

Gerry, love the footy stories. As I mentioned in your other trip report, it is a pity more people don't get to see the thrill of it live. Only pity is that you didn't get to see the G full or near full. It is such an impressive stadium and quite different to the Dome....ok Etihad...do we have to call it that??

I am interested in the function at the Saints vs Geelong game, how was that and did you get to speak to Nathan Burke?

Australia
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3. Re: The Footy I saw !

What a terrific report! Great to hear you and your son had a great time and I too was suprised how successful you were to receive such helpful and direct correspondence from high-level admin and even players!

Very pleasing to hear that AFL clubs were doing their part to make a positive impression on the overseas market (you). Great promotion for our great game.

Personally speaking I am very passionate on seeing AFL take-off and develop in North America.

I have been following the USfooty scene for a good 7+ years now and have attended all 3 of the 'International Cup' football tournaments held here in Melbourne since 2002.

Your tickets prices seemed quite reasonable, you did well. Even better with level 2 seating at Etihad.

'Ticketmaster' have the contract for AFL tickets in Melbourne and I agree with your comments about them.

Unfortnately thesedays, I'd rather stay home and watch the game on TV rather then pay to sit up in the 'nosebleeds'.

Is it fair to say it is easier to score yourself AFL tickets compared to your NFL tickets?

As a distant observer I have noticed that the NFL seems to be very ‘commercial’ and business oriented.

I have looked into purchasing general admission tickets for a few NFL games and have found it to be quite limited, unless you are willing to pay a large amount of money, or own a season pass (perhaps I am looking in the wrong places).

This is a direction I hope the AFL would never take, however at the end of the day it is a business and the AFL seems to now be more concerned about money then it does for the ‘true fans’.

When its empty (demons V port match) isn't the MCG such a big place!

Cairns, Australia
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4. Re: The Footy I saw !

I dont like that game, actually prefer American football, but your post does makes me think, hmm maybe one day!

NYC, NY
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5. Re: The Footy I saw !

Nah, Will, unfortunately not. The day became soo BiG that everything was tossed into a cocked hat. Meeting Burkie was predicated mainly on after he spoke but a scheduling switch had Steven King, the suspended ruck talk. A couple of team function reps promised to tell us if he was about but he must have been at a private thing elsewhere on the premises. It was super hectic with quadruple the function attendees as originally expected. A class organization, all the way. As to our meal? The bread was good, the beer great, the lamb like my dear old mother used to make-overcooked and under-seasoned <g>

Melbourne
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6. Re: The Footy I saw !

Thanks for the report! AFL footy is a religion down here in Melbourne, but also in Adelaide, Perth and even Hobart down in Tassie.

It's great to see that you had a great time and were willing to share it with us all.

I hope you will be back to do it all over again!

Melbourne, Australia
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7. Re: The Footy I saw !

I LOVED your post. Having grown up with AFL it made me realise what a great game it is!

I'm so glad you enjoyed Aus. I hope that your country-men are as nice to us when we have our Honeymoon in the US - partic NYC - over xmas.

The highlight? Seeing a 49ers game! You've now got me thinking of writing to them and see if they'll cough up! Cross your fingers for me

Cairns, Australia
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8. Re: The Footy I saw !

Goodluck Aussiefaith, We saw SF vs Dallas in Dallas and cost us a small foruune for backrow seat way up where from a travel tourism agency. Could not get tickets at face value at all. Was an awesome experience though and after the game they had concerts and all sorts happening. There was carpark parties even, like a mix of the Melbourne Cup and a Grand Final here..but regular season game. Love it.

Melbourne, Australia
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9. Re: The Footy I saw !

THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Shane Crawford reference for those that don't know)

Great trip report: well written, a bit of humour and by someone who's decided to embrace some of what Melbourne has to offer. Let this be a lesson to all others that follow ;)

NYC, NY
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10. Re: The Footy I saw !

Congrats, Aussiefaith on your impending marriage. West of the Mississippi, people are generally friendlier but even hardened New Yorkers are fine beneath brash exterior. You MAY be in luck with 49er tickets. They don't usually sell out but verdant is correct in general and he's also correct about those before/after game parking lot parties..known as "tailgating" remember, as classy as the Saints were, that was a purchase not a freebie but who knows..if you're willing to exchange vows on the 50 yd line at halftime in S.F. you may cop a pair of choice seats gratis <g>