This is it: the finale. As a quick recap, we’re trying to figure out if AFL or NRL is the best football code in Australia, and how they both compare to other countries’ codes. So far, we’ve covered foot skills, hand skills, and tackling. Here are the current standings:
As you can see, it’s closer than an Austrian and his daughter at the moment. Let’s delve into the next category!
Speed is exciting, whether it’s motorsport or the organic kind. Not just player speed, but speed of the game. NRL does have bursts of speed, when the opposing line is broken, and the guy with the ball has to outrun his opponents like he’s trying out for Apocalypto 2. But the disadvantage of NRL players being so big and strong is that they’re not particularly fast.It’s just not their thing. The average NRL player runs between 5-8 kms per game, whereas AFL players are basically doing twice that distance. AFL seems to be one of the fastest team sports in the world, maybe second only to hurling. NFL has the fastest specialised runners, but the slowest gameplay outside of nursing home bingo. Soccer players have brief flashes of speed, and probably the greatest endurance. Too often, though, the gameplay is just about setting up an opportunity. I want action, dammit! Like 4 goals in 3 minutes, for example:
What does that mean? Well, in every sport, there are rare occasions when you just go “WOW!”, like a crazy touchdown in NFL, a scissor-kick goal in soccer, or maybe a Jordan-esque dunk in NBA. In NRL, I think those moments are when someone gets tackled heavily or maybe a field-long try. However, this might just seem more impressive because the rest of game is as boring as NFL. In AFL, it might be a near-impossible goal to win a grand final, a heavy bump, a spectacular mark, or even this. What I’m trying to say is: AFL for the win.
NRL is a structured game, with heavy emphasis on forwards holding the line, and backs doing the running. For some reason, NRL supporters think this is a good thing. I know another game that has plenty of structure and involves lining up against each other…
On the other hand, AFL is free from things like the offside rules and such, so they can invent things like flooding, pressing and other creative moves. Games can be scrappy, defensive, attacking, free-flowing, high-pressure, zoned, etc. I think that means a more interesting game, but NRL supporters can’t seem to grasp anything other than two brick shithouses crashing into each other, gaining “yardage”. Soccer also has a lot of structure and can be very difficult to score, or even attempt to score, which means a lot of frustration. NFL is all about creating and executing complicated and innovative plays, but they work so rarely and there is too much time in between them. Boooring.
Important elements for atmosphere include number of supporters, crowd-noise, stadium size, and general behaviour. Some of these are difficult to quantify, but not attendance figures! (Click on image to enlarge)
I’m not saying that popularity equates to game quality, just atmosphere quality. Popularity is actually in NRL’s favour, as it involves Australia’s three most populous states (and heavily dominant in two of them), one territory, and a little country called “New Zullund, broo”. But if popularity means good tv, then apparently MasterChef and The Voice are the pinnacle of entertainment (spoiler alert: they’re not).
“I will never understand why they cook on TV. I can’t smell it. Can’t eat it. Can’t taste it. The end of the show they hold it up to the camera, ‘Well, here it is. You can’t have any. Thanks for watching. Goodbye.'”—Jerry Seinfeld,
I digress. Back to the atmosphere. NFL, in addition to its massive crowds, also features other cool things like Tailgating (where you bbq dead animals and drink beer out the back of your truck before the game), and reasonably thought-out post-match events. Despite all this, soccer wins as I believe it’s the only sport in which supporters have to be segregated, or everyone dies. Win to the AFL
NRL features the biggest, angriest men in Australia. When you put these guys together in competition, with all their ego and (human growth) hormones, emotions are bound to erupt. So, what do the fights look like?
Whereas NRL fights feature super-heavyweights, the average AFL combatants are more of your light-heavyweights, but they are much more feral. AFL players also seem to love the melee, and there seems to be a greater collection of AFL fights on YouTube. NFL has some ok fights, but they could really learn from NHL. Soccer fights are a joke, except for occasionally when 74 people die in a riot. Win to the NRL.
NHL: 10* (disqualified: we don’t have one half of the needed ingredients for “Ice” Hockey).
Soccer 3 (unless you count riots, then it’s a 10)
I think that’s a clear victory for AFL, unless you value tackling or…or…well, that’s pretty much it. Also, AFL is the only sport actually invented in Australia. See you in the comments!