Australian rules football is an acquired taste. Only someone who has grown up with it can get used to a game that is played in an oval field, one which appears to have few, if any, rules, and one which allows players from one side to obstruct their opponents and not incur any penalty.
But even an outsider can appreciate the degree of physical effort required to last 80 minutes of actual playing time; this means that a game takes about two hours to be completed.
What spoils the game to a large extent is the hyper-ventilating commentators who tend to exaggerate everything when there is often no need to do so; the action on the field speaks for itself.
This was illustrated well in the finale of the 2016 season as the Western Bulldogs recorded just their second cup win in the AFL championship in a frenetic game against the much more fancied Sydney Swans.
So tight was the contest that no points were scored in the first 7½ minutes of the first quarter – but then Bruce Macavaney, a commentator who is prone to verbal diarrhoea, had to stretch that out and claim that there had been no score for half of that quarter.
Australian commentators are always trying to improve on things that are best left alone.
The one decent commentator in the game, Dennis Commetti, is leaving after this final. The rest of the pack is made up mostly of ex-players who have poor vocabularies; while they have knowledge about the game, they lack the verbal verve and panache needed to excel in commentating.
A game like this final could well have done with a few better commentators to aid Commetti. The lead changed hands often: Sydney got the first points and led 8-0 but then by the end of the first 20 minutes were trailing 8-12. The Bulldogs stretched this lead out to 31-15 before Sydney came back to lead 33-31 and hold on to lead 45-43 at the main break.
In the third quarter, the Dogs were ahead again after three minutes, 49-46; Sydney went ahead 53-51 after 11 minutes, before the Bulldogs moved ahead at 57-53 at the 13½-minute mark and held on to lead 61-53 at the last break.
The Dogs never surrendered the lead thereafter, even though Sydney closed to 60-61 after 6½ minutes of the final quarter and again to 66-67 nine minutes into the term. When the score leapt to 88-67 with 2½ minutes left, even the Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge came down from his coaching box to the perimeter of the field as he knew it was all over bar the shouting.
Rarely was there any let-up as the Bulldogs, a group of mostly young, inexperienced players were not overawed by their more hardened opponents who have figured in three finals in the last five years. Sydney also boasts the highest-paid player in the AFL, forward Lance Franklin, who joined them three years ago on a $9 million nine-year deal.
Franklin was treated roughly by the Dogs and an ankle injury in the first five minutes did not help him in any way; he kicked just one goal and had limited impact on the game. The Bulldogs played well to a man; they have no big names in their ranks but some who excelled in this game are sure to become household names in seasons to come.
The Bulldogs last won a cup in 1954. They have played in only three finals, including this year’s game. And they are the first team to win after finishing seventh in the regular home-and-away season; the top eight of the 18 teams in the league play finals and the bottom four have to win four games over consecutive games to finish on top.
If only there had been a few more commentators to make the game that much more memorable – or simply stay silent.