Footy, Australia’s national game, the only indigenous game created in this country. The first recorded game of Australian Football took place in 1858. It was a hybrid of soccer, rugby and Gaelic football and borrowed elements from Marngrook, a game played by Australia’s indigenous forebears.
It was born in Victoria but soon spread its wings and is now played across the length and breadth of the country. And it is a game for all Australians. You can play footy whether you’re short or tall, from the age of four until perhaps into your forties. And what was almost exclusively a game for men is now played by thousands of women as well.
AFL games are among the most attended in the world. The average match attendance last year was 33,598, ranking it fourth in the world. The Grand Final usually attracts a capacity attendanceof 100,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as the two best sides of the season battle for the right to be crowned the premiership team.
Nine per cent of the AFL’s players are indigenous and a growing number hail from multicultural backgrounds. The AFL’s Racial and Religious Vilification Policy, among the first in world sport, was created in 1995 and is now a cornerstone of the game.
Among the multicultural stars in the AFL are West Coast’s NicNaitanui (Fiji), Richmond’s Bachar Houli (Lebanon), Essendon’s David Zaharakis (Greece) and Hawthorn’s Paul Puopolo (Italy).
Puopolo plays for Hawthorn and the Hawks are a key part of the 2015 season which is unfolding. The Hawks have won the past two premierships and are tracking well to become just the sixth team in League history to win three premierships in a row.