Well, we're working our way gradually through the football codes in this feature and this week we alight on the favoured antipodean variation. The Swans are newly arrived in the capital having been based for the last 17 years in Brighton and are very much on the lookout for new talent to join them, beginning with their first pre-season training session tomorrow afternoon which will be followed by a "Meet the Coach" night in a nearby pub.
The sport, which began as a way of keeping Melbourne cricketers fit 150 winters ago, owes its appeal to its fast moving and rumbustious pattern of play. The ball used is more like an American football than a rugby ball and can be passed by kicking or hitting the ball out of your hand, but NOT by throwing. You can run with the ball, but only fifteen metres before you have to let it touch the ground and tackling is similar to what you might find in rugby. One bonus over our local games is that there is absolutely no offside rule. The 18 players on each of the two teams simply charge around a cricket ground type field with the aim of scoring points by kicking the ball between any pair of a collection of four posts stationed at each "end". You get six points for kicking it through the centre pair (a "goal") but only one if it goes between either outside pair (a "behind").
The main Swans team plays in the elite British Premiership (they've all got one now, haven't they?), while the seconds, known as the City Swans, play in a lower league called the Conference. The club also fields a touch rugby side and a netball team (the Swanettes), as well as indulging in a little extra-curricular five a side (non-Aussie) football, basketball and, honestly, running with the bulls in Pamplona.
If this boisterously athletic catalog of pastimes appeals to you go along to the pavilion at Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill, on Saturday for 1:30 pm, or join Coach Cato and the gang from 4pm in The Crown, 142 Cricklewood Broadway (at the junction with the A407). If you do decide to give it a go, be sure to ask them to explain how to score a "rushed behind"...
Picture of the CHFL Grandfinal 2004 at the North Ballarat Oval in Victoria, Australia via gervo1865's Flickr stream.