Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Footy FAQ

With references in my last blog post to J's participation in Footy, I thought it might be time to explain what Footy is and what it isn't, so here is a quick FAQ (that's Frequently Asked Questions, mum!)

1.  Footy, or since it is customary in Australia to shorten every word in the Websters Standard Dictionary, is short for Australian Rules Football or Aussie Rules.

2.  Footy is not rugby, nor soccer nor American-style gladiator football.  It doesn't resemble any of the aforementioned.

3. Footy is played only in Australia, though there are teams that play for fun in New Zealand, France and probably a handful of other countries.

4.  Footy is followed in  Australia with a passion akin to extreme madness, and one "barracks" for the same team that one's great-great-grandfather/mother, great-grandfather/mother, grandfather/mother, father/mother, great-great Uncle/Aunt 3 x removed,  barracked for.  Get it?  There is serious family loyalty to a team.

5.  There are 18 teams in the Australian Football League (AFL) and 9 of them are based in Melbourne where the sport originated.  Think having 9 professional hockey or baseball teams from the same city!

6.  There are two Footy stadiums in Melbourne: Etihad Docklands Stadium which accommodates 53,000, and the mecca to all things Footy in Australia, the iconic MCG or Melbourne Cricket Ground or well just the "G", which accommodates....wait for it....100,000!  Both stadiums sell out regularly.

7.  Footy Rules.  Well as far as I have been able to make out, there aren't really any or if there are, they are only loosely complied with.  Players handball, kick, or run and bounce the ball down the oval-sized field.  The ball resembles a rugby ball but is smaller with rounded ends.

8.  Footy Scoring.  Kick the ball between any of the FOUR goal posts at the other end of the field.  6 points through the two middle posts, a single point through either of the smaller side posts.  Team with the highest score at the end of an hour or so, wins.

9.  Footy Cool Stuff.  Marking a ball which is when a player cleanly catches a ball kicked more than 15 meters without anyone else touching it or the ball touching the ground.  A specky (short for spectacular mark) is when a player marks a ball by climbing onto the back of another player, very very cool.  The players wear short shorts, I like that part.

10. Footy Singing.  Every team has a song that is played at the beginning of each match.  Supporters sing loudly, proudly, with hand on heart, and I swear with more emotion than the national anthem.  They sing again if the match is won.  Many of the songs are based on operatic melodies or other familiar tunes.  For example: the Geelong Cats club song is based on "Carmen's Toreador", Brisbane Lions "La Marseillaise", and Collingwood Magpies "Goodbye Dolly Gray"

11.  Being newcomers down under, it took a while to choose a team to barrack for.  As we couldn't agree and with limited influence, J chose the Geelong Cats, I chose the St. Kilda Saints, and C2 the Collingwood Magpies, a somewhat controversial choice.  One either LOVES or HATES Collingwood.  It should be noted that, unhappily, after taking my mum to a match this year, she now barracks for Collingwood too...though I think only because she loves their club song and now sings it with gusto at the slightest encouragement.

12.  Footy is a Fall/Winter sport played from April through August.  The entire country comes to a complete stop on Grand Final Day.  It's a one-game winner takes all between the two teams.  Cricket fills the footy void as the summer sport of choice in Australia, yawn!

13.  Footy is an equal opportunity spectator sport.  Women make up at least 50% of the fan base and are equally if not more rabid than their male counterparts.  Unfortunately, this has not translated to the grassroots level where it is rare to see girls participating in Footy.

14.  At the grassroots level, Footy is begun around age 4 in the local Auskicks program before moving into an actual club.  We are with the Caulfield Bears Club - go Bears!

Coach Matt debriefs the U10  Grizzlies

Got it?  Good.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Poutine? Down Under eh?

Yes really!  It was something of a surreal day today.  J played an early morning Footy match where things finally seem to be coming together; he was awarded "Bear of the Week", yay J!  Ok, so they lost but we can't lose sight of the fact that most of his Footy team are made up of fellow French-speaking kids.  They play with a lot of heart but it's not exactly in their blood.

What is, or should be, in J's blood on the other hand, is hockey.  Ice hockey in case you weren't completely sure.  This 18c sunny Melbourne winter afternoon, we joined a group of friends at the Ice House in Melbourne's Docklands.  The kids donned ice skates and stumbled, slid, or gripped the boards in abject terror.   But from somewhere deep in his genes, J remembered how to skate and flew madly, if not entirely gracefully around the rink for hours.

In between all of this skating, we gathered in the stands of another rink to watch our fellow Canadian and Quebecois Eric play an actual real-life hockey game.  He was in awesome form and scored a hat trick as I held a running commentary on the rules of our national game to my French, American, Dutch, Australian, English, and Kiwi mates.

Whilst queuing for J's hotdog with Eric's Australian wife, Kathy, I commented how bizarre it felt to be standing in a hockey arena watching a zambone sweep the ice on one rink and listening to the thud of a body check from the game being played on the other whilst staring out the windows at palm trees knowing I was in Australia.  All that was missing was the Tim Horton's kiosk.  She laughed and remarked if I really wanted to feel bizarre I should consult the overhead menu and consider the $8.00 poutine.  POUTINE....DOWN UNDER!!!!  Being something of a purist, I didn't order it but felt mightily at home ; it was, dare I say, the Don Cherry on top!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Now he is 10

I cannot fathom that it has been 10 years, 10 YEARS, since I walked the corridors of the Rockyview Hospital in Calgary, breathing through contractions and trying vainly to summon C2 and my sister-in-law who were inspecting the espresso machine.  10 YEARS!  10 years since J blessed our lives with more love than I thought possible.

J is in that shadowy world between little kid and big kid.  A world where he still wants cuddles and kisses (just not in public) and one where he says things like 'random', and BRB (be right back), and...horrors...where body odour has begun to develop, yikes!

J's Minecraft 'non-party' - 3 best mates only

I live in that shadowy world where I still want us to be his entire world but with a wary eye on the future, knowing we have to equip him to fly with confidence and joy away.  I always want to see him at the kitchen table or under a blanket watching Phineus and Ferb.  I want to pick him up from school everyday and see that smile of expectation at my presence when he comes out the door.  I want to rub his tummy and sing "A - You're Adorable" to him every night.  But if the next 10 years fly by as fast as the last, that time is running out.

He is 10.  It's an age where I question every single thing we do.  Will being tough on academic expectations at this age build good study habits or turn him off University?  Will watching Harry Potter together on a school night discourage sleep or encourage tender memories?  Will banning Minecraft for naughty behaviour build resentment or an understanding of consequences?  Will my conduct when I'm PMSing scar him forever?  I don't know, I guess all we can do is what comes naturally, and for the most part rationally.

We two goats did not produce a lamb, that's for sure, and he is a Gemini through and through.  He is a most amazing kid, has lit up our lives with unequivocal brilliance, is loved by friends and adored by family.  Now if I could just slow down time.