During the AFL football season footy takes over Melbourne.
When I came to Melbourne, completely green and unaware, I had been in the city and seen some of the AFL Parade in passing.
When my friends asked if I had seen the parade, I told them yes, and that I had seen a couple of chickens (people dressed up as chickens) on the road.
This earned me roaring laughter. It was the final between the Sydney Swans and the West Coast Eagles and what I had in fact witnessed was the dance of the Eagle and Swan mascot in front of their supporters.
As of 2011, there are 17 AFL teams. Each team of the Australian Football League has a mascot that represents their team spirit. Besides the eagle and swan, there is a tiger, hawk, lion, bulldog, cat, magpie, kangaroo, mosquitoe (??), a demon and a few super heros, and this year also a sun.
Living in Melbourne you learn, and we have been tagging along with our son to various footy games.
Or you can go to a game with a live local 'footy' guide with a Australian Aussie Rules Football Tour. He will walk you through experience and explain the rules, bumps and brawls of this unique game.
Choosing your AFL football team in Melbourne is a serious affair and implies lifetime committment. It either happens by being born into a family that is supporting a team, or by choosing ateam as you grow up. Our son liked the colours of the Bulldogs when he saw them on TV when he was 5 that was it.
Team support can also be a bit generational. People tend to choose the winning team of an era and then stick with them so you get a many supporters belonging to a particular age group for each team.
Once you have a team, you expect to stay with it through rain and shine. Switching teams is almost sacrilege. Nevertheless, there are teams who have fallen out of favour, played unfairly or for decades not been near the top that loose their supporters. And team switching does happen.
Here are the various AFL football teams and their mascots. Each team also has a tribal song. The winners song is played at the end of a game.
The Crows are a young club, established in 1990. However, they have the largest membership of any AFL football club.
They were named AFL football team of the decade in the nineties, winning 2 Premierships in the late nineties. However, they have been disappointing their supporters over the last few years.
The Lions are a new club, a merger of the Brisbane Bears and the Fitzroy Football Club. They are now based in Brisbane. They are so far the most successful club the 21st century, having won three successive Grand Finals.
The Blues have had a hard time and have been famous for winning the golden spoon awards that is coming last in the competition. There were some financial irregularities, contributing to a trail of disappointed supporters left in that wake.
However, traditionally they are an old and powerful club. They have won (together with Essendon) the most Premierships in history. Lately, they have recruited some key players and are working on cleaning up their recent reputation.
Their mascot is Captain Carlton, a superhero dressed in blue.
The black and white Magpies are another old, traditionally a working class club. They have won the second-most premierships after Essendon and Carlton.
They are famous for their passionate supporter base, and also known as the team that people either love or hate
The Bombers are another old, 1870s, club. They have, together with Carlton, won most football Grand Finals. Their mascot is a bomber or a mosquito.
Their club is one of the most supported in AFL football. They play the traditional Anzac Day match against Collingwood in the MCG, - the match with the highest attendance after the Grand Final.
The Dockers are a young Western Australian club, bearing the Italian colours: green, red and white.
They won the golden spoon award once, and made it into one Grand Final without final success.
The Cats are the second oldest and a powerful founding club. They have been very successful, with their 2009 Premiership win being their eighth.
They managed to end a dry spell and bring back their most successful time, which was in the fifties.
They won four grand finals in the 1980s and played in seven. However, their win in the 1991 Grand Final was their last, until they managed to secure the cup again in 2008.
They have strong support throughout Australia and are one of the old established clubs.
The Roos are another old club. They are unofficially known as the Shinboners, a term originating in the 19th century abattoirs of North Melbourne.
They have won Premierships, and have battled at the bottom. There have been speculations of moving to the Gold Coast throughout 2007, but in the end decided to stay in Melbourne.
The Melbourne Football Club was founded in 1859 and is the oldest in Australia. Some claim that it is the oldest sporting club in the world. They were foundations members of the AFL and the football codes.
They had their heydays in the 1950s and 60s, but have of late been disappointing collecting wooden spoons and financial troubles, and are struggling to win a game.
Port is an old club from Adelaide. They managed to beat Brisbane in 2004 in the Grand Final.
They also made the Grand Final in 2007, but were beaten badly by Geelong. Their mascot is a super hero.
The Tigers are one of the four old AFL football clubs. They won five premierships between the 1960s and 80s, but hit the bottom in the 19902 due to financial difficulties. They have recovered as a club, but have failed to reach their former glory.
Their supporter base is large but has been dormant. They have been seen as arrogant (or the tigers that eat their own young), but the royalty of their supporters has kept their club together despite winning the wooden spoon in 2007.
The Saints were formed in the late 1880s in St Kilda, but have moved around since and are now based in Frankston.
They have won one Premiership in the 1960s, and, although in the finals, have had to put up with being second best in 2009 and 2010.
The Swans used to be the South Melbourne Football Club but moved to Sydney in the 1980s. It has won four Grand Finals, and played again for the Premiership in 2006, but was defeated by the West Coast Eagles.
They are now the only AFL club in NSW and draw on this large supporter base, and they still have a support base in Melbourne as well.
The Eagles are a young club, formed in the 1980s in Perth. They have been one of the most successful clubs with three premiership wins and two runners up positions since 1992.
They lost their captain to Carlton in 2008, which was a big blow to their club.
The Suns are a newly formed club in 2011. They have managed to buy a famous cat, Gary Ablett, to get off to a good start.
It is to bring AFL to the growing Gold Coast... The rest is to be seen.
Here is the official AFL website.
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