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Aussie Rules
by Gwen Boswell

You may know it as ‘Aussie Rules’ but to me, an expatriate, a person who has packed her swag and left England’s green and pleasant land, the sport here in Oz is known as football. I know, I know most of the world cannot be wrong either, but in sunny Australia, proper football with a round ball, is known as soccer. When a migrant here is reminded as such, the word ‘soccer’ somehow sounds inferior.

But I won’t stand for it, and when the opportunity presents itself will say, ”if you don’t mind – football!” Now this stand I take, this battle to strongly protect my heritage, often causes guffaws from Australians in the local. “Bloody stupid game” they say, “spectating in the pouring rain for 90 minutes and not a bloody goal in sight!” “Load of bloody girlies, running around more concerned about their bloody hair, then they are about getting stuck into the opposition.”

I retort, “now hold on one minute” (the Australian’s put their beer glasses down and look at me and I develop a twitch in that silly little muscle under my right eye). I need courage; the pride of England rests with me. I need inspiration; think of things English quick. I am getting flustered, bizarre pictures form in my mind’s eye, pork pies, Benny Hill, threepenny bits, Yorkshire puddings. But wait, things begin to take shape, corgis, St Paul’s, Winston Churchill’s face (or is it that corgi again..?) and then, in all her glory the Queen Mum appears (RIP). She shows her support by giving me one of her famous smiles. She looks lovely, wearing one of her flowery frocks with matching hat. She becomes clearer still, and has a generous glass of Bowmore in one hand, and a trout fishing rod in the other. Out of respect, I quickly replace the wellies she is wearing with sensible granny shoes, shiny posh ones.

I restart “well, at least our game has proper structure and rules! Anything goes in Aussie Rules. You can kick the ball on the ground, you can punch the ball, you can bounce the ball, and you can throw the ball. You can role about on the PITCH with flaying limbs frantically trying to get the ball. You can even pull shirts. Obstruction is fine too,” (they call it shepherding – great affinity with sheep, the Aussies), “and you can jump all over someone’s back to grab the ball and is that a foul, absolutely not, in fact you are more likely to go down in the hall of fame for a great ‘mark.’(You’d think that it was the bloke whose back that had been climbed all over with studs who has the best mark(s)!)

I stop and await the onslaught. This argument could go on all night, which is worrying incase cricket gets drawn into the conversation. Then the Aussies pick up their beer glasses, turn their backs on me and I hear, “stupid bloody Sheila, what would she know…”