By Fraser Walker-Pearce
THE AFL season starts tomorrow, and I have mixed emotions about it.
On the one hand, it’s another six months of a sport I’m still struggling to grapple with, and its brutal rules.
And on the other it’s a chance for me to once again throw myself wholeheartedly into a sport Victorians love, and are known to be so mad for.
To be perfectly honest, I am buzzing and can’t wait for the challenges ahead that the season will throw my way.
And it all kicks off tomorrow night as reigning premiers Richmond take on Carlton at the MCG.
From there, it’s only eight days until Good Friday when the Murray Football League gets underway with a blockbuster clash between local rivals Echuca United and Moama.
Both sides are amped for the game — as you would be to have the opening round against your close rivals.
While on the same night, the Goulburn Valley League kicks off with Shepparton United versus Shepparton Bears in its own local derby.
Seemingly everyone is up for it. And I am too.
Coming from New Zealand it was desperately difficult for me to get my head around the Victorian game, and why it means so much to its fans.
It took me much longer than I’m willing to admit, understanding the laws and rules of the game, and its 18-a-side teams.
Coming from a soccer background it was totally foreign for a team to have more than 11 on the field, and for said field to be so vast and open.
But after weeks of watching games — at first at home on the couch — before building up the courage to go and watch games live in Melbourne to soak up the atmosphere, I gained a deep respect and admiration for the game and its players.
Greats like the Buddy Franklins and Dusty Martins of the world. These are the guys that bleed for their guernsey and for their fans.
I’m looking forward to the bone-crunching hits, the jumper punches, the aerial duels, the spectacular marks, and the camaraderie that only AFL can offer a viewer and a fan.
But I’m most looking forward to the songs. After the two-hour slog the sides are put through, the victors celebrate by coming together as one with their fans to sing their club song.
A game like no other — that is for sure.