About this time last year I visited one of the most incredible, scary and bizarre places on earth. You may have heard of it, it’s a wonderful land called India. Yes, that’s right, India. Snake charmers, Hinduism, busy, dirty, cow worshipping India. Well that’s a bit stereotypical of me isn’t it? But in all honesty a lot of it is true. The curries were hot. Kids played cricket on every surface available. And every taxi driver I met was Indian.
The thing about India, is that the place is so huge – not geographically – but culturally. Citizens from the south act and speak completely differently than their northern brothers. In a lot of ways, this has seen the country develop at different speeds. Much like a small car with big wheels. Except however, the locals made it seem that this situation was incredibly normal.
Take Mumbai for example. When we flew into the city late at night, the place was a ghost-town. We hitched a ride with our large suitcases in the probably smallest oldest taxi we could’ve possible gotten. We sped through the dirty 5 lane motorpass to our hotel. A giant tower with every mod-con we could’ve asked for. Then we stepped outside, we saw the poverty, and we saw the crowds. Boy, there was a lot of people. Complete contrast to the night previous. We saw ancient temples and modern day technology in the same minute. We saw modern day office workers dodge cows on their way to work. It was truly a mixture of the old and the new.
The AFL’s round 5 was also a mixture of old and new. We saw the traditional ANZAC Clash of Collingwood and Essendon. (See my ANZAC Clash infographic!) We also saw the tradition of ‘Richmond getting beaten by less than a goal’. We saw the two newest AFL clubs, Gold Coast and GWS battle it out. And we also witnessed the new technology of video review fail.
But probably most importantly, we saw the first ever game of AFL being played for premiership points outside of Australia. A festive crowd of 22,546 rocked up to the Wellington ground, Westpac Stadium, to see Sydney defeat St Kilda by 16 points. They shouldn’t be too disheartened though, the Saint’s played valiantly and their score of 9.9.63 was actually the 2nd-highest final score ever in an AFL game played for premiership points on international soil.
The ground itself was a disappointingly slippery though. Nicknamed ‘The Cake Tin‘ the ground’s poor drainage meant the eager fans were not able to see the clean, high-flying aerobatics adorning the promotional posters for this game. The media had reported that the ground would suit Sydney’s game, that being similar to the SCG in length and width. Which got me thinking, what exactly were the sizes of the AFL’s grounds, and how do they differ?
Interestingly, there have been 43 grounds which have seen a VFL or AFL game being played for points. The most – of course – is the MCG. Having seen 2556 games in 113 years, it is the widest of all the grounds to host an AFL in 2013. However, I found it interesting to note that Waverly Park (formally VFL Park, which hosted Hawthorn and St Kilda games during the 1990’s) is wider by a solitary 1 metre, and also the longest ground by an extra 5 metres (compared to Subiaco at 175m long)
In my opinion, the argument for ground uniformity is a silly one. Whilst others will whine and complain that an extra few meters can give one team or another an unfair advantage, we need to value the uniqueness of each of the grounds and the teams that play there. That is what makes our game special. The fear of travelling to an away team’s fortress is still rich in the competition. And if we lost the originality of each ground, the character behind the stadiums would disappear, and our game would be a singular mundane experience irrelevant of where the game is being played.
There are many different sites reporting different ground dimensions, but I’ve taken the sizes you see in the graph from FreeBookieBets.com.au.
Whilst windy Wellington is possibly the furthest place you can get from busy Mumbai, the representation is not lost. The game is growing. Indeed, with the game becoming more popular with the youth in Mumbai, before too long the AFL might see itself having to dodge many more cows than they would’ve expected.