The ‘G’. The ground that draws a crowd.
This is the time of the year when everyone’s attention turns to football – in Australia at least. In the US they broadcast the game we love and created at 3am when you are all in bed sound asleep but there are a few of you I know who are ardent followers of our great game.
Australian Rules Football (AFL) started as a sideshow, for cricketers to play in the off-season to keep themselves fit for the summer. The game sprouted from its fledgling beginnings in and around the suburbs of Melbourne, our second largest city, and home of ‘Aussie Rules’.
To begin with there were two sides, one from Melbourne itself and another from a nearby town called Geelong. In those early days there was one thing that surprised more than anything else – the game’s popularity.
That was 1859.
This weekend, over 91,000 people turned out to watch those two clubs (Melbourne and Geelong) fight out a tough elimination final. The night before, over 91,000 people attended the other elimination final. The first time in the history of the game that over 90,000 people had attended finals matches back to back.
You have to experience the game to understand it and even then it’s best to throw the rule book away and simply watch the game that is the definition of entertainment with the pleasure and excitement it engenders in us all.
In the US, the Superbowl is played at various stadiums around the country. In Australia we play the Grand Final, as we call it, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) – note the connection to cricket here, each and every year.
Superbowl XIV attracted 103,985 people to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the highest ever attended Superbowl. The 1970 AFL/VFL Grand Final between Collingwood and Carlton holds the record for any sporting event in terms of crowd attendance held anywhere in Australia. Today, the ground holds an official capacity of 100,024, so it’s unlikely this record will ever be broken.
The game was played between two of the ‘heavy-hitters in AFL history and at half-time it saw Collingwood ahead by 42 points. Game over.
Not so fast.
Carlton came back to win by 10 points. As explained by Wikipedia
Late in the last quarter, with Carlton leading by less than a goal, Alex Jesaulenko snatched the ball on the half forward line and sent a left foot kick bouncing towards goal. With no one guarding the goals, the ball bounced through for a goal, sealing the game for Carlton, [who] completed a recovery, to triumph by 10 points, 17.9 (111) to 14.17 (101).
That day, the MCG attracted 121,696 banner-waving, crowd-pleasing, cheering fans.
The ground has only ever seen one event surpass this in terms of crowd attendance and that was for a 1959 evangelical tour by the late Billy Graham when more than 130,000 people turned out to listen to the crowd-pleasing evangelist . One fellow, quoted by the ABC, in an article on ABC.net.au who was there that day, says;
I felt God speaking to me
So it took God himself to surpass a record that will never be broken. Go figure!
To experience the excitement of the last four minutes of that game, go to YouTube
And to finish, I must include my own experiences at AFL Grand Finals, having been twice, the most recent attendance being in 2010, on 25th September, when I was one of the 100,016 people that saw Collingwood and St.Kilda play out…
A week later I was in hospital when the two teams went round again for a replay of the Grand Final to finally try and split them apart. And split them apart they did, with Collingwood victorious on a day when I was only semi-conscious.
Ahh, what a great game it is. I hope you get to experience it some day and enjoy a spectacle that is beyond words.