"But there's only one ball."
"A really weirdly shaped ball."
"A really weirdly shaped ball that people actually have to kick and chase around a field shaped like an oval while running around on foot."
"You know what, I think you might be finally getting it."
"But in the name of Merlin, there's only one ball! And it's yellow!"
Mr. Granger groaned and put his head in his hands, leaning his elbows against the arms of his chair. Honestly, he knew that life for witches and wizards was different to those of ordinary people, but if he'd known that their differences stretched this far…
After all, the two boys had said they liked watching sport. How on Earth could anyone manage to make a simple game of footy seem this confusing?
Ron, the one with red hair, was the worst. Hermione had said that the other boy, Harry, would understand at least a little because he'd lived with 'Muggles' for the better part of his life and so he at least knew more conventional games like basketball, cricket and football. Well, the version of the game that most of the world called football at any rate. Both Harry and even Hermione were still understandably confused though – after all, this game was not what most people would think of when they heard the word 'football' – this was AFL.
You see, about a week ago a young girl with bushy hair, a boy with a scar on his forehead and another boy with red hair, freckles and – lets be honest – a rather long nose had shown up on a seemingly random doorstep in the suburb of Duncraig, Perth, Western Australia. Wendell and Monica Wilkins were rather shocked, as these children had come from no-where, had never been seen before, and had asked to be let in.
Well, everything was sorted rather quickly, thank goodness, for if Hermione hadn't done a quick bit of spell work and restored her parent's memories who knows what might have happened?
Of course, the three friends, having never been to Australia before, wanted to stay for a while to 'see what it's like down under'. Hermione was adamant that while they were here they may as well see something that they hadn't before, and eventually, after a few days, Ron had been bored with the beaches and the trees and asked if Australia had any 'Quidditch' matches on.
Being a Muggle, Mr Granger hardly knew if Australia even had a Quidditch team, let alone when the next match was, so he did the best he could. This had been what had lead to Mr Granger's current situation.
Here he was, sitting in a seat at Subiaco Oval – he still refused to call it Patterson's Stadium no matter what the TV said – watching the Western Derby whilst trying to explain the basics of Australian Rules Football to three magicians.
Hermione and Harry seemed to have grasped the basic idea, and were content to sit and watch the Eagles and the Dockers battle it out. Ron, on the other hand…
"…and they only have four sticks sticking up into the air, and no Keeper! That makes it way too easy to score a goal… and besides, that guy just kicked the ball through one of those sticks, and they said he missed! How does that work?"
"Okay, Ron, let me explain this to you again," said Mr Granger, groaning. He could see why his wife wanted to stay at home… "The four 'sticks' are the goal posts. If a player kicks the ball through the two middle posts, his team gets six points, and that is called a goal. However, if it goes between either of the two outside, shorter posts, his team gets only one point – this is called a behind. So, he will have missed the goal, but he still gets a point."
"That's ridiculous," said Ron, crossing his arms. "I mean, in Quidditch, there are three hoops, and if a Chaser gets it through any of them they receive the same points."
"But you have more chance of getting a behind than a goal. This means that the players with better kicks get more points than those who are not quite as good."
"Okay," conceded Ron, "I get that, but why do they have to kick it? Why can't they just throw it?"
"You can't throw the ball, Ron, that's against the rules," said Hermione.
"That guy just did," said Ron, pointing at the field."And I mean, why call the game football if they're allowed to use their hands anyway?"
"That's called a handball," said Mr Granger, ignoring the last part of what Ron said. "It's not a throw. And besides, you can't get the six point goal if you handball it in – you have to kick it."
Then there was silence. Well, as silent as you can get at a footy match, but there you go. That was good – the group was beginning to get a few odd looks from those around them. Not many, though, thankfully – it would seem these Aussies were rather enthusiastic when it came to their game…
"Why do they stop?"
Spoke too soon.
"When they catch the ball they just stop running," said Ron. "Why? Why doesn't anyone just take the ball off them?"
"If they catch the ball cleanly then it's called a mark, and no one is allowed to tackle them. You'll know it's a mark because the umpire will blow his whistle."
"Well, doesn't that just take the fun out of the game," muttered Ron.
"Oh, I'm sure you'll see some violent tackles soon enough," said Hermione, rolling her eyes. "The crowd seems rather tense. I think these teams must be rivals or something."
"Of course they are!" said Ron, huffing. Mr Granger looked at him in surprise. "They're from the same ground and the same state. Of course they're rivals – they have to fight for supporters because they are from the same area. It's the same in every sport."
"True," said Harry.
"But what I don't understand," said Ron, causing Mr Granger to groan again, "is why they have more than one referee."
"If you have more than one umpire, it is less likely that they will make a mistake," said Mr Granger. "Also, then they can have eyes all over the field – a person can't run as fast as a ball can be kicked, you know, and those guys down there can kick a ball awfully far."
"And that pointy thing they do, it's so the players know how many points they got when they score, right?"
"Why does the ref throw the ball in when it goes out? Wouldn't the person from the other team do that?"
"They do in some sports, like netball," said Mr Granger, "But not this one."
"Right…" said Ron, still looking confused. "And why does the ball get taken off them when they get into a huddle?"
"If a person holds the ball, and the others can't get it off him, and he can't get rid of it because the others are surrounding him, then the whole game would come to stale mate. So, the umpire takes it to keep the game moving."
A few more minutes and then…
"When they run, why do they bounce the ball? Does it make them go faster or…"
"That's just the rules," said Mr Granger. "They have to bounce the ball once for about every ten steps they take."
Once again, he was silent.
It seemed like Ron might finally understand the rules, and eventually – about half way through the third quarter – he began cheering.
"Yeah! Come on, score! Come on! You can – oh, wow, Harry, did you see that, he jumped up on that guy's back to get the ball!"
"Yeah, I saw it Ron."
"Come on! So close…"
"Which team are you supporting, Ron?"
"I don't know, Hermione. Either one."
"WHAT? How dumb are you, how could you just SCORE A GOAL FOR THE OTHER TEAM?"
"No WAY! That would never happen in Quidditch – what sort of a Chaser gives the other team a point?"
They were getting a few stares now. Mr Granger turned to the people behind them – who were looking at them oddly - and gestured to Ron, mouthing 'English.'
The people's faces morphed into understanding before they turned back to the game.
"Ron-" said Hermione, still trying to calm him down.
"But… but… Mr Granger, what did he do?" Ron wailed. The other three were a little taken aback. Ron had been criticizing the game like his life depended on it not twenty minutes earlier.
"It's called a 'Rushed Behind'," said Mr Granger. "You see, that guy there, the Eagles guy, he knew that Dockers player could very easily have scored a goal. So he pushed the ball between the posts, giving the Dockers only one point, rather than letting the other player score a goal and gaining six points."
Ron's mouth formed an 'o' shape as he understood.
"You know," he said, "that's actually quite smart."
Mr Granger grinned. Maybe he had managed to get through to him a little after all.
"You know, for a Muggle game, that wasn't too bad," said Ron, as they forced their way through the crowds towards Mr Granger's car.
"Really?" asked Harry, amusement in his eyes.
"Oh, I prefer Quidditch," said Ron quickly. "I definitely, definitely prefer Quidditch, but I mean… that wasn't too awful, you know?"
"How many players on a team, Ron?" asked Mr Granger.
"Eighteen on the ground, four on the bench and forty-two on the team in it's entirety," said Ron without thinking.
"What, not seven?" asked Hermione, smirking.
"No, I mean-" said Ron, trying to cover himself. "Ah, hell. That was not fair, we just came out of a Football match!"
His attempts were hopeless though. The others – including Mr Granger – were laughing too much to notice.
"I still think the ball is a weird shape," muttered Ron. "Though come to think of it, a ball like that would be easier to throw through a hoop… and it would be easier to hold on a broom… and easier for the keeper to catch…"