The AFL Community Series (pre-season warmup games) in Wagga Wagga on Sunday included the 2019 grand finalists (Richmond and Greater Western Sydney) face off for the first time since last year. And while not as intense as regular AFL footy, the game depicted a willing contest with the full range of Australian rules skills on display.
The small (by AFL standards) crowd was engaged, though not particularly vocal (more like a theatre crowd appreciative of both sides). With only a small grandstand and limited standing room, people who got there early managed to plant their camping chairs in optimal positions on grassy mounds, and panama hats and sunscreen contrasted with the traditional winter attire of hats, scarves and coats. Latecomers resorted to catching glimpses of play between the heads and shoulders of other spectators.
Despite the hot autumn day and biting sunshine, some of the code’s biggest names and most-observed characters – Dusty Martin, Josh Kelly and Toby Greene – demonstrated their sublime skills. And based on Canberra’s Tom Green’s performance at this (his second game in the big time), fans will have high expectations of him this season.
Though some of the players would no doubt have started their football playing days in country competitions, Sunday’s Wagga Wagga setting would have been a contrast for them in comparison to the vastness, huge stands and roaring crowds of big stadiums in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide. Brisbane and Perth. Nonetheless, players performed brilliantly for the very happy crowd of locals and other fans from other places (including Canberra).