There’s no doubt that a majority of the world’s population loves their sport. But there is one sport that reigns superior in every aspect. AFL. It’s Australia’s game and for good reason. From March to September every year Australians get treated. It’s AFL season, and, arguably the best seven months of the year.
AFL is engrained in Australia’s history with it being one of the only sporting games played in Australia that was made by Australians. Founded in 1857, the game’s initial purpose was to help keep cricketers fit during the off-season. Since then it took off to be something much greater. The AFL has expanded throughout the years to include more states and cities, becoming the established 18-team national competition that it is today. So why has the AFL been such a big Australian obsession for more than 150 years?
I’d comfortably say AFL is hands down one of the most entertaining sports out there. Teams and players are constantly fighting to win games. It’s very common for games to go right down to the wire, the winner being determined sometimes in the final minutes (or even seconds). This fever surrounding the game is demonstrated by the high crowd numbers that are recorded year after year. According to last year’s AFL Annual Report, 34,003 was the average game attendance for the 2017 AFL premiership season.
Not only does the AFL have the highest attendance of all sporting events in Australia but it’s also ranked the fourth highest attending league sport in the world. Further, the AFL Grand Final has proven to have greater attendance than other major sporting events around the globe, such as the Superbowl in America. Ultimately, the AFL is inclusive and accessible across the country which explains why 35 per cent of the nation’s population supports an AFL club.
Further, the AFL is very successful at bringing people together to celebrate a common passion. Transcending cultural, gender and generational barriers, the AFL not only encourages but also cares for and caters for a number of communities. The AFL has created an enriched social dynamic whereby people are able to distinguish themselves through their team, offering a sense of shared identity between those who support the same team.
Sociologist Emile Durkheim’s work explores concepts of shared purpose, in which collective identities are considered to be a crucial element within societies. The AFL allows for people to share common beliefs and behaviours, overall influencing positive outcomes and practices within society. Being able to identify with a club’s players, fans and culture allows supporters to feel a sense of belonging outside the normal facets of their lives such as their families, friends and their places of work or school.
Ultimately, AFL allows for the fostering of relationships whereby connection can be sourced through this common ground of entertainment and dedication. From a young age I remember being immersed by footy and since I can remember I’ve had an emotional connection to my club. I’ve celebrated the highs and suffered the lows. Although you could argue a similar case for most sports, I feel as though it’s the most evident theme in the AFL.
Regarding the sport itself, AFL players constantly show utter elite athleticism. The game really demonstrates human strength and competitiveness at it’s peak. AFL players have some of the finest skillsets that could be found amongst any sporting code. Endurance, strength, power, balance, speed, agility and flexibility – there isn’t many qualities that an AFL player doesn’t demonstrate.
But besides AFL players being arguably some of the most talented all-round athletes in the world, they are also great role-models for good sportsmanship. Players rarely scold other players on their team, with encouragement and recognition for every attempt regularly being offered. AFL is a great example of where teammates stick up for each other on and off the field. Recently, Melbourne player Bernie Vince was criticised by the media for smiling during a conversation with a former teammate after his team’s 2-point loss. But many of Vince’s teammates publicly stood up for him, debunking any claims that he doesn’t care for his club. AFL is a sport that teaches you many lessons such as how to support those around you, how to be fair and respect others.
There’s no reason why you wouldn’t rate AFL above any other sport. AFL demonstrates athleticism at its elite peak and is a truly exciting game that brings people of all walks of life together. To me, there is no other game that successfully incorporates these characteristics more. While there’s other sports that may claim to have some of the qualities I’ve mentioned, none have the full package that the AFL has. AFL is the greatest game of not only our nation, but in the world – and it’s about time everybody realised it.