Our final game with the National Team took place at 1pm on Sunday. The promised 110 degree heat was fortunately postponed to the next day. We came out strong early on and kept it tied until late in the first half before the Aussies pulled ahead. Alex Douglas ’12 lobbed a great pass to an open Myles Monaghan ’11 on a fast break for our first goal. Unfortunately, after the first half our opportunities dried up and the game got away from us. We closed up the series by exchanging gear and returned to the hotel for a free afternoon.
Most of the team headed over to the St. Kilda beach to take advantage of the sun. All told, around 30 of us set up a small camp on the sand and explored the boardwalk. Several of us took advantage of the opportunity to dive off the pier, while many more played American football in the shallows. Another contingent went to the Melbourne Aquarium, which houses all kinds of incredible Australian and East Asian sea life. They even got to see a shark feeding. Once the sun got low enough, everyone spread out across the city to explore.
The next day marked our final day in Melbourne. We took in an early breakfast and hustled over to Melbourne University for a final lift and practice. Afterwards, we went over to the North Melbourne Athletics Center to see a practice of the North Melbourne Kangaroos, an Australian Rules Football team. AFL is easily the most popular sport in Australia. It is played on a field the size of a cricket pitch, an oval roughly one and a half football fields in length. At each end are 4 poles; if you punt the ball through the middle 2, your team gets 6 points, while either end nets you only 1 point. You can move the ball around by running and dribbling it every 10 meters, punting it, or punching the ball to each other. Earlier, Coach Bathory had met one of the captains of the Kangaroos and arranged for a visit to their practice and a clinic.
The practice was fast-paced and looked exhausting. Temperatures had climbed to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, but the team still flew around and tackled each other as if it made no difference. One player doing conditioning ran over 4 miles by our count and then spent 20 minutes carrying a 45 pound weight up and down a hill by holding it out in front of him. We were impressed by how fast and deft at passing the team was. Envision teams of 18 small forwards who can all punt the ball into a 5 yard area from 60 yards away.
Afterwards, we had a clinic over at the Melbourne University fields. We were taught all the basics, including punting, bouncing the ball at a full run, and hand passing. We had a few competitions at the end, with Kiley Norton ’11 and Scott Chanelli ’13 sharing the prize for longest kick. After the clinic, we were free for our last night in Melbourne. At this point, most of the team filled in any of the experiences they had missed such as the Aquarium or Foundation Square, and then a large portion met for dinner over in Chinatown. It was excellent.