Kids ask the darndest things

A crowd of kids are sitting cross legged on the floor of the local gymnasium. There are many boys, but also girls. There are guernseys of all different colours. Some are brown and gold, some are a black and white, a couple are even purple and white, and there is also a tinge of orange.
The location could be anywhere. It could be Wellington, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Dublin, Vancouver, or even Parramatta. They could be the sons and daughters of Aussie expats, but they could also be kids who have been captivated by highlights packages on pay TV or youtube. They’ve seen this game called ‘Australian Rules’ and they want to be a part of it.
A series of guest speakers deliver passionate messages. All of them are spruiking the virtues of the Aussie code.
Kevin Sheedy is the first to speak. The master salesman himself. He tells the kids about the game that has enthralled him since he was kid selling newspapers on the corner of city streets. He tells them that it doesn’t matter how big/short/quick/slow you are, you can find your place.
Tadhg Kennelly is next. He talks about his own story, as well as that of the late Jim Stynes. He shows them the weird shaped ball that he initially feared but grew to love. He speaks about the tribalism of the fans that rivaled anything he had seen in his homeland.
In the lunch break, Mike Pyke takes the tall kids aside and tells them about the curious position of the ‘ruck’. His funny accent makes him initially hard to the follow but eventually these lanky prospects are excited by the craft of this position and how one can learn it from no knowledge-base. They really believe that someday they can ‘Be Like Mike’
After lunch, it’s Q&A time.
The first kid pipes up. His hair is full of product and seems confident.
“How do I kick those dribbly goals? They look awesome!”
Thankfully, Peter Daicos has just flown in. He takes the kids through some demonstrations and shows them where to connect to make the ball sing. To conclude, he unleashes a few torps. The kids go bananas.
The next question comes from the girl in the Hawks jumper.
“How do I take those big marks? I want to be like Buddy!”
Prepared as always, the International Development Officer presses play on a highlights package that has every eye in the room bulging. The heroes of yesteryear and modern-day provide an array of aerial acrobatics. Jezza, Roach, Van Der Haar, Knights, Capper, Lockett, Carey, Smith. They are all there.
As the highlights finish, a quiet and studious boy from the back of room slowly raises his hand.
“Mr Officer?”
“Yes?”
“That was really good. But weren’t some of those free kicks?”
The room falls slient.
“Well, some of them weren’t. But some of them may be free kicks now.”
“What do you mean ‘free kicks now’?” Another kid asks
“Well, the rules have been changed a couple of times…”
“Why were they changed a couple of times?” Asks another
“Well, they didn’t work the first time so they changed them again”
A split second’s silence has Mr Officer relieved, but soon enough another query emerges.
“So what are the rules? I don’t want to break the rules”, asks a concerned young lad in the front row.
Thankfully, Jeff Gieschen has just flown in and he picks up the discussion.
“The rule is pretty simple” Jeff says.
“You can’t push, bump, block or hold”
A kid up the back is all over it, “But I saw Travis Cloke push on the highlights last night!”
“Yes, but he didn’t extend his arms. You see, if you push, but only half way, then that’s OK. We just don’t want a full push”
Mr Officer likes the fact that The Giesch has taken over. “And you can’t bump either, right Jeff?”
“That’s right” Jeff answers. “Unless you use your ‘bumper bar'”
“Bumper bar?” The kids call out in unison.
“Yes. Your ‘bumper bar’ allows you to bump with your forearm to hold your ground”
“But I thought you couldn’t bump?” asks the studious kid who is getting sorry he asked in the first place.
“You can with your forearm, as long you don’t extend it. Your ‘bumper bar’ essentially blocks your opponent from where the ball is going”
“But you said you couldn’t block either” says Mr Officer. The question was a relfex and he immediately regrets it.
“Well…”
The Geisch continues his explanation but no more questions are forthcoming. The Daicos torpedo sessions seem like a lifetime ago to the crowd.
After his explanation concludes, the kids start to stand up as the day has reached the end.
But from the back of the crowd a hand is slowly raised, and the softest voice emerges from an admittedly plump kid in the corner.
“Mr Geischen?”
“Yes?”
“I can’t really jump and catch, but I really like to tackle and I think that’s my best chance of getting the ball. My parents like rugby but I like your footy. Are there any tackling rules?”
“Son, I’m glad you asked. We have this thing called ‘prior opportunity’………”
The hefty lad is then regaled with the accompanying law. Unfortunately each interpretation just brings another set of daggers from within his group.
As the session concludes, Mr Officer hears one kid whisper to the other, “Did you see that Lionel Messi goal last night? Let’s go and kick the soccer ball!”
“Yeah”, the other one says. “So much easier”
For a full explanation, head to the Fox Footy website or check out a replay of Monday night’s ‘On The Couch’ for Jeff’s full interview.

About Andrew Else

Andrew has self-reported to this site as a lifetime Essendon supporter. He also played local footy for Lara and Melbourne Uni Blacks.

Comments

  1. This should be compulsory reading for the rules committee and many others at AFL headquarters.

  2. Like it, Rusty. I agree entirely. It sometimes the Rules Committee is chasing its own tail, making the interpretations more and more convoluted!

  3. Benny vigona says:

    Anyone see the footy flashback the other week Adelaide v doggies 1997 prelim final. So easy to follow. You had to knock a blokes head off to give away a free kick. Umpired beautifully . Pre-geesh poetry.

  4. Well done Andrew in illustrating how Geischen has jumped the shark (make that 10 sharks) to the detriment of kids wanting to take up the game. He and KB have turned the rules of the game into a farce, and their denials and total inability to communicate the latest twist in interpretation demonstrates this.

  5. Andrew Else says:

    Thanks Jeff. Usually I think the rules discussions are a bit overblown but that interview was something else. It was the ‘bumper bar’ comment that killed me.

    Good luck to your boys on Saturday Liam. I think I mean that.

  6. There’s now an obvious hesitation in the players when they go in for the ball as each contest awaits the dreaded sound of the whistle. Footy used to be an escape but now it just heightens my anxiety levels.

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