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A Different Kind of September

In Australia, September is the end of the football season for both AFL (Australian Rules Football) and the NRL (National Rugby League).  The season proper finishes in August and both codes conduct their finals series in September.

The AFL Grand Final is always played on the last Saturday in September and the NRL Grand Final traditionally was played on the last Sunday in September though this changed a few years ago and it is now played on the first Sunday in October but for all essences of this post, September is footy finals time.

This year is different.  For the first time in 19 years, one of my 2 teams is not featured in the September action.  I am one of the few Aussies that have a love of both codes.  For my American readers who don’t know the difference between the two, well I would need to write a book to tell you the differences, but in the interest of saving time either YouTube both games and see for yourself or trust me that both codes are worlds apart.  They have nothing in common.  Even the footballs used are different.

My team in the AFL is the Brisbane Lions.  I have been following them since 1987 when they first entered the competition.  They started off slowly; not winning a lot of games but by the mid to late 90’s started to see some early September action.  Then in 2001 they made the Grand Final and went on to win it and become the AFL Premiers – which is a very hard thing to achieve.  What makes the Brisbane Lions even more awesome is that they threepeated this achievement and also won the 2002 and 2003 premierships, plus they played in the 2004 Grand Final only to lose it to Port Adelaide.  So four Grand Finals in row and only the second team in history to do so. The Brisbane Lions were the greatest team in history and certainly of the new millennium.

Then we hit hard times.  With an ageing list, we missed the finals from 2005 to 2008 before welcoming September action again in 2009, making it into the second week of the 4 week finals campaign, which most Lions fans were satisfied with after the lean previous 4 years.  We started the 2010 season with four straight wins and high expectations only to win another 3 games for the year – in a 22 game season – and miss the finals again.

My team in the NRL is the Brisbane Broncos.  I have been following them since 1998 when they first entered the competition.  They started off with a bang winning many of their first games before faltering late in the year and just missing the finals in their maiden year.  In 1991 they made the finals and went on to the Grand Final and won by beating St George 28-8.  They came back to Brisbane to a hero’s welcome and went on to repeat this success the following year also against St George, this time in a close encounter, beating them 14-6.

Since their maiden premiership year in 1991, the Brisbane Broncos have featured in September finals every year, until this year.  During this 19 year run they won the premiership 6 times.  In addition to 1991 and 1992, they also w0n 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2006 making them the most successful club of the past 20 years.

The Broncos missed out on September action by only one game and all season I was confident of more September action.  The Lions missed out by about 5 games and I knew their September dream was over half way through the season.

The finals series this year have been interesting but I have been more of a casual observer with no real preference who wins.  I have only watched a couple of games live in both codes and haven’t been concerned about hearing scores before watching replays etc.  Without one of my two teams there, I just don’t really have the usual high amount of care factor.

This Saturday, is the 2010 AFL Grand Final and I will be watching this game in 3D at the cinema much like I watched the Rugby League State of Origin game 3 earlier this year.  You can read about that here.  The AFL Grand Final is a huge event and similar I guess to the Super Bowl in the NFL.  It doesn’t matter who plays in it each year, I always watch it.  This year, the team most Australian’s love to hate, Collingwood, who have won 14 premierships, the last of which in 1990, will be taking on St Kilda, who has won only one premiership, way back in 1966.  I would love to see St Kilda win it with a kick after full time.

Is that a little mean?  Probably.  Do I care?  Not at all.

Also this weekend is the penultimate round of NRL finals series with 4 teams left battling it out to earn a place in the following weeks Grand Final.  One of these 4 teams is the Gold Coast Titans who only joined the NRL in 2007 and are the only Queensland team left.  I will jump onto their bandwagon and hope that they can not only make the Grand Final but also win it.

But don’t worry.  As soon as the 2011 NRL and AFL seasons kick off again, I will be back on board the Broncos and the Lions.  After all, I’ve supported them for more than half my life.  I’ll stick with them through thick and thin, which I have also been through the years….currently at thick striving to get back to thin!

Enjoy the rest of the September action, especially if your team is still involved.

Who will win the AFL and NRL Grand Finals and how will you be watching the games this year?  BBQ?  Quietly at home?  Cinema like me?

State of Origin in 3D

On Wednesday night, 681,000 people tuned in from within Queensland to watch the mighty XXXX Maroons win an unprecedented 5th straight series win and the first 3-0 clean sweep since 1995.  In addition to these 681,000 people, there was another couple of thousand watching this sporting spectacle in 3D at a number of cinemas around the state.

I was one of them.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure that 3D TV’s would be anything but a gimmick.  I had recently seen a number of movies in 3D at the cinema including Toy Story 1 and 2 and Shrek 4.  Great movies but not really 3D worthy.  The old 3D movies of yesteryear when you would duck when something came at you from the screen are no more so what could 3D sport possibly add?

I went to State of Origin 2 at Suncorp Stadium and outside the stadium, I think it was Sony who had set up a 3D booth allowing people to watch some 3D action on the televisions wearing the special powered 3D goggles.  So I decided to sit down and watch a few minutes and what I saw delivered a massive WOW factor.  It was a game of American Football being shown and I was blown away.  Wow indeed.  What a difference.  I felt like I was there, in row B watching the touchdown in real time.  It was amazing.

So when I found out that my local Event Cinema at Chermside was showing State of Origin 3 live and in 3D in the VMax theatre I organised for a couple of mates and I to watch the game there.  The tickets were $20 each plus $1 for the glasses.  A little bit more than a movie showing in the same cinema but a lot more expensive than the $0 it would cost to watch the game at home on free to air television, albeit on a 2D screen.  But I have a 50” Panasonic HD Plasma with surround sound so I still get a great view and when watching it on HD the image quality is fantastic.

But for 20 bucks I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew it would be totally different to watching it from home, so for me, it was money well spent….at this stage.  I was curious as to whether or not the people in the crowd would sit quietly or would they cheer and holler and yell abuse at the referee’s just like they would if they were really there at the game or in the comfort of their own home.  Would they stand for and sing the national anthem? These answers would be forthcoming in a few short minutes.  For my American readers, this might seem a bit strange to you as from my understanding, when in the cinemas in America there is plenty of cheering and clapping etc just in normal movies and singing and dancing in musicals.  In Australia we are quiet relaxed and sit quietly throughout the movie with only laughter at the funny bits and the continual rustle of paper bags and munching on potato chips and popcorn and the slurping of drinks.

So I met my mates there and we had a feed before going in.  Hotdogs of course, what else do you eat at the footy!  Actually I lie.  I had a kebab but I imagined it was a hotdog!

The first thing which was different about this night was the 2 Bronco’s cheerleaders who greeted us in the theatre.  That’s a first for me.  Having two scantily dressed absolute stunners with pom poms standing in the near dark welcoming you is a plus for me.

We took our seats which were unfortunately about 6 rows from the front and to the left.  It was essentially booked out by the time I bought the tickets so bad luck there.  When at the cinema to watch movies I generally sit in the back row or as close to the back row as possible. So comfy seats but not in the best location.

We were there ready for the pre match intro’s from the Channel 9 commentary team and while not broadcast in 3D we had to wear the 3D glasses to watch it.  Then the teams came running out onto the field.  Queensland ran out first led by our legendary captain, Darren Lockyer.  The 3D camera was placed at the end of an honour guard of little kids with their little hands outstretched in eager anticipation of touching their hero’s hands as they ran onto the field.  Uh oh, someone forgot to tell Lockyer who quickly turned left out of the tunnel and not through the awaiting sets of hands.  Those poor little kids.  In Lockyer’s defence they were all wearing blue and Lockyer probably thought they were there for the New South Wales team.   The rest of the Queensland team quickly followed Lockyers direction and also missed the honour guard except for Jonathan Thurston who went through with arms outstretched and made the kids day.

Then the NSW side came out and did run through the honour guard and at this point, with the camera now back at ground level we were nearly knocked out by a few flying knees thanks to the 3D angle.  Sweet!

The ground announcer then asks for everyone to stand for the Australian National Anthem.  No one in front of me stood up and I had quick look backwards and only 1 guy in the whole cinema was standing.  I felt embarrassed for him but then felt embarrassed for myself for not also standing but by this stage the anthem had begun so I decided to keep my seat.  However, I did sing along as I always do.

At the conclusion of the anthem the ground announcer then asked for a minutes silence in honour of the 3 Aussie diggers killed in Afghanistan a couple of weeks earlier.  Again nobody stood in the cinema but the moments silence was honoured.

So with the festivities over it’s time for kick off!  Uh oh, we have a problem.  Something has happened to the vision and the cinema quickly tries to rectify the error obviously caused when someone has turned on the kettle to make the coffee!  Unbelievable!  30 minutes of prematch with no real dramas and then right on kick off the screen goes black!  The crowd lets out a sigh as the first tackle in State of Origin is generally a big one and is well anticipated.  We missed it.

Then when the screen did return we were in like a 5th dimension.  It was difficult to watch.  Not 2D and not 3D but something all together different. After a few minutes of uncomfortable watching someone called out from within the crowd ‘turn your glasses upside down’.  So we did and everything came back into focus.  So for the first half we all looked like idiots wearing our 3D glasses upside down!  But at least the images were correct again.  This problem was rectified at half time and we were able to look (semi) normal again.

One thing which was weird about this broadcast was that all of the camera angles I was use to when watching rugby league were different.  Sometimes a ball kicked from the 30 looked like it was kicked from half way and when the ball was kicked it looked like it went a lot further than normal.  The lines across the field indicating different 10 metre zones looked longer than 10 metres as well.  So it took some time getting use to the new angles and distances.

The second half was an epic game of rugby league with the lead changing a couple of times.  The atmosphere in the cinema was electric and high 5’s aplenty were being thrown around when Queensland finally killed off NSW in the dying minutes.

The images on the cinema screen were different to what I saw on the Sony 3D TV a few weeks earlier. They weren’t as crisp or as 3D as I expected so don’t make a decision to buy a 3D TV based on what you see at the cinema.

So was it worth it?  Absolutely.  Despite a couple of technical hiccups, it was a fun night but next time I will get my usual seat at the back and centred.

I wonder if the AFL grand final will be broadcast at the cinema.  I might just be back there on the last day Saturday in September.

This is the video I took of my mates and I singing the national anthem at State of Origin 2 at Suncorp Stadium.  I guess it is a bit different to singing it in a cinema.  The bloke is Lloyd and the chick is Amina!  Great people both.

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