MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - Boston, Massachusetts boasts a great many sister cities around the world, but perhaps none are as similar to Beantown as Melbourne, Australia is. Located in Victoria, Melbourne has been a sister city of Boston's since 1989. Recently, I returned from a visit down under where I got to experience time in Melbourne while visiting some dear friends of mine. I didn't spend too much time in the downtown regions of the city, but the time I did spend, I can definitely say that it makes sense for the two to be sister cities. The general layout and features of the city, including a top of the line aquarium, are very similar to Boston and the two have a great deal in common.

During my time in Boston, I've been able to take in many different games at Fenway Park and at the TD Garden. While in Melbourne, thanks to one of my friends and her family, I had the opportunity to attend a very special game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (affectionately known as "The 'G"). However, I was not taking in a cricket match. I was witnessing an Australian rules football game, which is more commonly referred to as "footy."

The game I experienced was the Dreamtime at the 'G game that annually pits the Essendon Bombers against the Richmond Tigers. The Dreamtime match has taken place every year since 2005 and it is meant to honor the contributions that Indigenous athletes have made to the sport. Before the match, Australian Aboriginal ceremonies took place and Michael Long, a retired, Indigenous AFL player, led the "Long Walk" to the stadium that similarly honored these contributions.

It was a wonderful ceremony with a noble impetus behind it and I thought the match was excellent fun! It was a bit rainy, so the quality of play was down and the scoring was greatly reduced, according to the AFL experts around me, but as someone who had never really experienced the sport aside from a few games on television a week prior the Dreamtime match, I thought it was a thrill!

There are plenty of YouTube clips of footy out there if you are interested in following the sport and I would definitely recommend it! The play is nonstop and the officiating is much less of an interruption than it is in American sports. Every play has the potential for a highlight reel moment and there is plenty of scoring to keep even casual fans interested. The rules are easy to follow and I picked up on them almost instantly.

My friends are fans of the Western (Footscray) Bulldogs and the Hawthorn Hawks so those are the two teams I have decided to go for, but if you're interested, check out all the teams. The season is getting down to the wire, so there's no better time to jump in! The only problem is that, because of the time zone differences, the games can often only be seen in the wee hours of the morning. But believe me when I say that the sport is so fun that it makes it worth it!

Image via Flickr / Simon Yeo