Aug. 8, 2013
The general consensus among Americans, and American fans as that of all the major sports, by and far the fittest and best athletes are basketball players. If you don't believe that there are 11 players in Australia wearing cherry and silver that would tell you so. However, after this morning's excursion, they might all be singing a different tune.
Today we had the chance to learn about Australian Rules Football, or Aussie Rules, or better yet...Footy. The game looks very discombobulated, but the basic gist of it is one team of 18 players tries to kick a ball through two central goal points, and that's worth six points. If a ball misses the middle goal but goes through the "behind" posts, that's called a behind and that's worth one point.
A basketball court in 94 feet...that's 31 yards, or something like 28 meters. Most AFL fields are around 160 to 165 meters long, which is 170-180 yards long, or about 510-540 feet. At 540 feet, you can pretty much fit six basketball courts end to end. It's a big field. A really, really, big field.
AFL players on average over the course of four 30-minute quarters run about a half marathon or more, and there are only three substitutes. It's a crazy, brutal, fast sport and today, the Lobos got to see some of the training for it.
Our hosts for the morning were the Essendon Bombers, who are sitting in fifth place at 13-5 (you play 22 games over 22 weeks, and the top eight out of 16 make the playoffs). The team got a tour of the facility (it's the oldest one in AFL ... they open a new $22 million facility in a few months), and a chance to watch training from the touchline. There were 46 players in several areas of the field...some working on punting, some contested marking (catching a punt while being guarded), and some on fitness. Then the players came over and gave all of us a lesson in kicking of which there are three-types, a banana kick, a torpedo (think a punt in football) and a drop, which is the easiest of the three.
Hugh was easily the best since he used to play a little, but Alex Kirk certainly got some height on his kicks, and Merv Lindsay used the benefit of the roll to pop in a goal from 50 meters. Coach Neal got himself a pretty good rip as well. After the kicking lesson, the team came into the film room for a question-and-answer session on the game, and to watch some highlights. It all served as a good precursor to the Hawthorn/St. Kilda match that we will get to see on Friday night.
Usually on game days there is a shoot-around, but on this tour we are sort of at the mercy of where we can get a gym and some baskets, so instead it was time for folks to rest in the hotel, eat a pregame meal and depart for the game at 5 p.m. The game is actually at 7 and it took about an hour in Melbourne traffic to get there. The arena (they call them stadiums) was slightly bigger than Bankstown, but it still is fine for the tour and the game. By Division I standards it's really small though, although they have a definite AAU feel to them.
The other interesting thing is you sort of have no clue who you are playing. Tonight's game was against what the tour folks call the SEABL All-Stars, but it was five or six players from the Kilsyth Cobras and then other players from around the league.
Generally speaking, we have detailed scouting reports, video review, notes, everything on our opponent. We know if they are left-handed. We know if they like a drop-step or a pivot. We know their favorite color (that might be an exaggeration, but not by much). Normally we have the opponent down. In these types of games, the roster you see on the internet is probably not what will be on the court. It's really a crapshoot, but it's fine because as Coach Neal has said, these games are about the Lobos and learning together what they can do.
The Kilsyth Sports Stadium is pretty small, probably holds 1,000 or so, and there was once again a ton of Lobo fans. It helped that half of Tasmania seemed to come out to support Hugh.
Kilsyth wore black and shot the ball well from outside, hitting 12 three-pointers, but in the end, the Lobos put on a strong fourth quarter for a comeback 78-66 win, the second come-from behind fourth quarter comeback win on the trip. UNM wore it's white Australian uniforms and again shot the ball very well, hitting 46% from the field and 43% from three. Cleveland Thomas twice hit buzzer-beaters, at the end of the first and the third.
Alex did a great job with 26 points and nine rebounds, and Hugh had 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals in front of his family.
The team now gets a well deserved day-off on Friday, with a chance to walk around the city and see some of the sights, including St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rod Lever Arena the home of the Australian Open, and several other places in the city. At night it's the AFL game, which is on national television in Australia for "Friday Night Football", which rivals the U.S. version, Monday Night Football, for interest (And for gambling. Not only are the point spreads listed in the previews, but the money lines are as well). Saturday is a travel day and Sunday is the final game, against the Queensland All-Star team. Remember you can follow that one live at 1 a.m. Albuquerque time with live tweets on twitter at @UNMHoops.
Cheers Mates! UNMHoops