Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sport: Rugby vs. Lawn Bowling

We just finished our second week here in Brisbane and this past weekend Andy and I had the chance to get out and experience two of Australia's best-known sports (well, okay, one is better-known than the other), Rugby League and lawn bowling!

As a follow-up to our lecture on sport (they use the singular here) as part of Australia's culture, Nat got the group tickets to the Rugby League season opener last Friday night. It was the Brisbane Broncos vs. the North Queensland Cowboys, and before the game Nat gave us a quick rundown of the rules so we'd know what we were watching. The game is composed of two 40-minute halves and played by two teams of 13 on a field a little larger than an American football field. Here's how wikipedia describes it:

"Frequently cited as the toughest, most physically demanding of team sports, the objective in rugby league is to carry or kick the ball towards the opposing team's goal line where points are scored by grounding the ball; this is called a try. After scoring a try, the team is allowed the chance to try at goal with a conversion - a kick for further points. The opposing team will attempt to stop the attacking side gaining points by preventing their progress up the field by tackling the player carrying the ball."

The main rules are that you cannot pass the ball forward and all members of a team must stay behind the player with the ball, or "on-side." Each team gets six tackles (or chances to stop the progress of the ball towards the goal). A tackle is completed when that player's progress is halted, or he is put to ground. As soon as it is obvious he has been halted, the tackled player puts the ball immediately back into play by rolling it backwards with his foot to the teammate behind him. An attacking team gets a maximum of six tackles to progress up the field before possession is changed over. Ball control is also important in rugby league, as a fumble of the ball on the ground forces a handover, unless the ball is fumbled backwards. The ball can also be turned over by going over the sideline. One of the things that makes the game so exciting to watch is that play rarely stops. As soon as the sixth tackle happens, the other team grabs the ball and starts working its way down the field towards the goal. It moves much quicker than American football, as the clock rarely stops.

There are two other codes that are played in Australia: Rugby Union and Aussie Rules Football, and in each region of the country, one of them tends to be favored over the other. There was a huge turnout for our game . . . a little over 45,000 people packed the stadium, which has a capacity of 50,000. Of course during the games there are many beers consumed (this is Australia after all), but surprisingly very little violence breaks out, and it seems like the Aussies have a lot of fun with the rivalry between fans. I'm already making plans to find out how I can watch the games online from the states.

On Saturday Andy and I met up with Nat and her partner, Ken, to participate in a sport of a gentler nature: lawn bowling! This sport has a long history in Australia, but used to be enjoyed only by the old-timers who dressed in their neatly pressed whites. Beginning about 10 years ago, lawn bowling started to become trendy with the hip crowd, and there are now greens in all of the cool neighborhoods. In fact there's one just down the street from our apartment in New Farm.

Before we arrived at the green, Nat and Ken took us for a drive to the top of the tallest mountain (hill, really) in Brisbane, Mt. Coot-tha, for a view of the city. Brisbane is a hard city to orient yourself to because of the way the river zigzags through it . . . it's hard to figure out exactly which side of the river you're on at any given moment. Seeing the city from above helped to get a feel for how it was laid out. After a few pictures and a little souvenir shopping it was off to bowl.

The green Nat picked for us is called Booroodabin, but is affectionately known as The Boo. It's located in the Newstead suburb and has been in operation since 1888; it's Queensland's oldest bowling club. After a few pointers from the staff we got started . . . barefoot and beers in hand, Ken and Nat vs. Andy and Philip. I'm proud to say that Andy and I lost by only a few points . . . not bad for our first time! The object of the game is to get as many of your balls as close to the "jack" (a small white ball placed at the other end of the lane) as possible by rolling them down your lane. The lanes have no markers or barriers between them, so it gets pretty entertaining when your balls start crossing into your neighbor's lane and vice versa. Andy and I have decided we need to bring lawn bowling to Portland . . . a plan is in the works.

It's Sunday night now, and after a lazy day in which we walked to James Street, yet another cool neighborhood close to us, we are gearing up for another week of lectures. Hope everyone is safe and well at home.


Rugby League game at Suncorp Stadium

The students cheering on the Broncos

Ken, Nat and I at Mt. Coot-tha

Andy and I with Brisbane in the background

Brisbane from Mt. Coot-tha with the coastline
in the far background

Here's a look at how the river winds its
way through Brisbane.

The Boo!

Nice form, Andy!

Trying to visualize my ball rolling to the
left, where it's supposed to be rolling!

Nat multitasking

He didn't spill a drop of his wine.

Nat confirming that yes, all three of the closest
balls are theirs.

Ken planning his next move . . .


  1. Philip no way eh? Just great Love Tiffy

  2. Is that you Tiff?! If so I need your email!

  3. Unbelievable