Darwin Buffaloes v Palmerston, Saturday 10th October 2015, 4.30pm

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After spending the last couple of years in Africa, it looks as if the next two will be spent in Australia as I’ve taken a job at Darwin in the Northern Territories. Climate wise, it’s hot and humid, which is no big deal when I’m in an air-conditioned office or apartment, but it’s not the sort of place where you’d want to spend much time outside at mid-day.

Evenings are fine though and when taking a stroll down towards the harbour area Jen and I have spotted a whole new selection of birds. I presume none of them ever fly anywhere for the summer or winter as I’ve not seen them anywhere else in the world. In a way, it makes me think that I should be ticking them off a list, or underlining their names in a book, but there’s only so much of that stuff you can do and I suspect I’ve probably got more record keeping spreadsheets than is healthy.

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There are bats as well. As it turns to dusk they will appear from wherever they spend the daytime and land in whatever tree is best for the bugs or berries that they eat. Sometimes we’ll sit in a seat nearby and watch them climb from branch to branch, using paws that I’d never realised they had on the ends of their wings.

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When I was a kid we’d see bats in St Mary’s church in Norton. They seemed much scarier in a graveyard after dark, particularly one where the vicar had a tendency to walk around wearing a cloak. Occasionally we’d take younger kids there, ostensibly on a bat hunt, and then scare the shit out of them by one of us emerging from behind a gravestone wearing a monk costume from an old school play.

One time we thought we’d make it a little scarier by emptying out the contents of a firework onto a gravestone and creating a flash of light known, at those times, as a ‘genie’. Whilst a couple of mates led the unsuspecting victims towards us, I lit the match whilst Nico stood by complete with hooded costume and an impressive, from a distance, four-foot long wooden sword.

It worked like a dream. The firework powder created an explosion of light that perfectly illuminated the monk and his sword, causing the younger kids to scream and run. Unfortunately we hadn’t closed our eyes and so were temporarily blinded by the flash. The consequence of which was that when making our hurried escape we couldn’t see any of the tombstones that stood between us and the far wall.

We must have fallen half a dozen times as we collided with shin level grave markers and ended up exiting the churchyard with far more cuts and bruises than we’d have got in a kicking from the vicar.

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I’ve not seen any fireworks in Darwin, or any graveyards come to think of it, so I doubt I’ll get up to much like that over here.

What I have seen though was some Aussie Rules football, or as it’s more simply known over here ‘footy’. The opening weekend of the new season had four games in a row at the TIO Stadium which is situated a little way outside of town. I’m not sure how far but it was thirty dollars in a taxi.

The travel costs were offset by the ten dollar admission charge. Not bad for four games of football, although at the time we arrived for the third game, there were only a couple of hundred people inside the ground.

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Aussie Rules is an odd game. You have eighteen players on each side, at least I think it was eighteen. It was hard to tell as they don’t seem to have any restrictions as to who goes onto the pitch. Physios will run on to treat injured players. Waterboys will jog around the centre of the field offering the players a drink and the coaches will sprint to the far side to give a player advice or a bollocking directly to his face.

At times it looked just like kids being let into the playground for a break with people running in different directions, colliding with each other, or stood chatting a hundred yards from the ball. If you’d let a couple of dogs loose onto the field I doubt anyone would have noticed.

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The food and drink wasn’t up to much. I suspect that the chicken and chips I had were left over from the previous season, whilst the beer was limited to 3.5% alcohol content. My first can of Carlton Mid wasn’t too bad, although perhaps that first beer on a hot day feeling clouded my judgement.

I tried a Carlton Cold next. There’s a television show in there somewhere with a tag line of “You’ve been Carlton Coled” and featuring the former West Ham striker pranking people. Or maybe pranking football clubs by somehow getting them to give him a contract and then smirking and opening a beer.

Anyway, the beer was terrible. Cold, I’ll concede, but terrible nevertheless. I felt as if I’d been Carlton Coled.

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One other oddity was the insistence of the linesmen taking the throw-ins themselves. In an attempt to appear impartial they faced away from the pitch and lobbed the ball backwards over their heads. If they didn’t want to see where they were throwing it I’d have been happy to light a genie in front of their faces and temporarily ruin their vision that way. It would have seemed no less bizarre than everything else that was going on.

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And the result? Well, Darwin got around a hundred points and local rivals Palmerston seventy-odd, I think. The reason they get so many points is that you get six for kicking the ball between the two middle posts and one point if you fail but still get it inside one of the outer posts.

I’d recommend they simplify matters by getting rid of the outer posts and making it a one point score (or a goal) for getting the ball between the inner posts. All you’d need then are crossbars and goalies and you’d have a decent game.

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