THE SPREAD of the deadly coronavirus has shut down the AFL season until at least June and forced most of us to stay home, but we can still go some way towards getting our footy fix.
We've compiled a list of activities to scratch that footy itch, and there's something in it for fans of all age groups, backgrounds, interests and levels of fanaticism.
It's a virtual fans' guide to surviving the coming months without our great game but still actually having some fun – a welcome commodity in these troubled times.
At the least we hope our suggestions – which range from the serious to the silly – make your time in isolation that little bit more bearable.
Monitor social media to check out how players are passing the time and keeping fit. Engage with them and other fans.
Watch footy documentaries. Among the recommendations are the late Rob Dickon's Passion to Play (2001) and Essence of the Game (2009) and his younger brother Pete Dickson's The Final Story series, along with Year of the Dogs (1997) and Collingwood: From The Inside Out (2019), while legendary journalist Mike Sheahan's Open Mike interviews are always illuminating.
Watch footy movies. There haven't been as many as you'd expect for a sport that has captivated the nation for more than 160 years but you David Williamson's classic The Club (1980) is a must and there is also value in productions such as The Merger (2018), The Great Macarthy (1975) and Valentine's Day (2008). You can also binge on TV programs Playing For Keeps (2018-19) and The Warriors (2017).
Listen to footy podcasts. We suggest the likes of The Greatest Season That Was, Footyology, The Outer Sanctum, Rex Hunt's This Is Your Football Life, Kick To Kick, Titus O'Reily's Variety Hour and our very own podcasts: In The Game with Damian Barrett, AFL Exchange and Trends with Marc McGowan.
Read footy books. Among those deemed top shelf are John Powers' The Coach (1978), James Coventry's Time And Space (2015) and Konrad Marshall's masterpieces on Richmond's 2017 and 2019 flags.
Analyse statistics and historical records. On Twitter, follow stats genius 'Swamp' (@sirswampthing).
Select all manner of ‘best-ever’ team and player lists. Revise your club’s best-ever team; pick the best the best possible team of today's stars; the best 10 players among the current crop and the best 10 in history; the best-ever state teams; and novelties such as the best team of left-footers, players from the country/city, those born overseas, etc.
GREATEST TEAMS EVER Carlton v Essendon ... who wins the game?
Listen to footy-themed songs. In addition to club theme songs, there's plenty of diverse tunes to keep your toes tapping, including Mike Brady's iconic double Up There Cazaly and One Day In September, The Coodabeen Champions' catalogue featuring Greg Champion's That's The Thing About Football, along with the 1981 Footy Favourites album by League players, Paul Kelly's Leaps and Bounds, TISM's Shut Up – The Footy's On The Radio, The Footy Show's theme More Than A Game, Eric Bana's comedic effort Out Of Bounds, Picket Palace numbers Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Richo. It's also worth checking out the musical careers of former players such as Peter McKenna, Graham Cornes, Mark Jackson, Warwick Capper, Luke McPharlin and Russell Robertson, and of course the notorious impromptu performance by then Carlton skipper Stephen Kernahan while celebrating the 1987 premiership... Better still, have a crack at writing your own footy song.
Play footy video games. Our sentimental favourite is Nintendo's 1992 game Aussie Rules Footy, which included a Dennis Cometti-styled commentator and an umpire who regularly announced, "Out of bounds, on the full."
Play other novelty games including board games such as footy-themed Monopoly, along with footy trivia, or add a footy flavor to recognised games such Celebrity Head, Who Am I?, I Spy (using footy photos). Or design your own game, such as dice footy, of which there are many versions.
Have indoor goalkicking competitions with a soft footy, using doorways and doors as the goals. (Sorry, mums and dads!) Maybe dribble goals would be best so you don't break vases or knock paintings off the wall.
Make your own indoor footy from any material you can lay your hands on – cloth, newspaper, etc., but not toilet paper.
Transform your backyard into a field of dreams. Cut your back lawn in a pattern that resembles the MCG, and then practice your skills on it. Create some goals with any items at your disposal, or use a target such as a rubbish bin.
Experiment with trick shots into a basketball ring, a bin, a bucket, etc. Play lawn bowls with footies.
Quaynor making sure his accuracy is on point for when the season returns. ?? pic.twitter.com/gEDLbvTowE— Collingwood FC (@CollingwoodFC) March 29, 2020
If you have a swimming pool … throw the ball in the air and launch yourself for a speccy before making a splash landing in the water.
If you have a trampoline … toss the ball up and bounce as high as you can to mark it at its highest point, before landing cat-like on both feet.
Give a phantom commentary call. Commentate actual match footage, or your backyard kick-to-kick session, or just make it up to give your loved ones a laugh. An example of the latter, in Brian Taylor's excitable style, might be: "Mum gives a textbook don't-argue to escape Dad's romantic clutches – thank goodness that didn't eventuate. Mum blind-turns Fluffy the cat, fends off endless requests from her noisy kids and goes BANG for the match-winner. This woman is an unstoppable force. 'Mum' is the word!"
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Deliver a phantom three-quarter-time coaching address to your family/friends (on the phone or FaceTime for some). Each person gets a turn. Can be a mix of encouragement and gentle ribbing.
Pretend to be a coach around the house, adapting your style to different personalities. Choose someone to be the team runner to deliver some of your messages.
Pretend to be an umpire, complete with a whistle and preferably a bright uniform. Particularly important to enforce a 1.5 metre protected area.
Pretend you're a fan at the footy. Just mind your language and keep the noise down.
Create some footy art. Take some inspiration from the likes of Essendon and Port Adelaide great Gavin Wanganeen, former club administrator Cameron Schwab and Collingwood veteran Dayne Beams, each of whom who have pursued their artistic talents.
Write a footy poem. Here's our pitiful attempt: Footies are red / Ovals are green / Footy's postponed / What to do in between? … Hardly Banjo Paterson quality. We're tipping you're much better than that.
Decorate the front of your house as though your team has made the Grand Final. Paint the fence, paint your car, paint your face.
KICK-TO-KICK WITH A DISINFECTED FOOTY How players will stay sharp
Make a banner. If you haven't got crepe paper, just regular paper and sticky tape will do. The artwork could pay tribute to an upcoming milestone for a player or team, or you could choose to do it to celebrate a family birthday/anniversary, or perhaps even to mark each week/month you've survived isolation with your health and your sanity.
Create your own phantom team with unique colours, mascot, jumper, logo, theme song and marketing slogan. Each family member could present their concept to the family, with a vote to decide the winner.
Make a life-size cut-out of your favourite player and stick it on a wall or your bedroom door. And fill your bedroom walls with footy posters, if you haven't already.
Devise some new goal celebrations.
Divide your day into four quarters. Sound a siren to start and end each quarter. Might be best to let the neighbours know your plans beforehand.
Indulge the fragrances of footy. Old footballers often talk about missing the smells of leather, liniment, cut grass and even mud. So put on some liniment, smear yourself in mud and dive for a footy on your freshly cut back lawn.
Indulge the tastes of footy. At least one meal a day should be a footy feed such as a meat pie with sauce and hot chips – or whatever you choose to munch while supporting your team. For authenticity, the pie needs to be far too hot to eat at first and the tomato sauce, sourced from a sachet, must squirt on your clothes.
Bring some footy moves into the house. Sell some candy. Take a screamer over someone – just do it gently (don't use your knee) and make sure they're not carrying a hot cuppa at the time.
STAY SAFE AFL stars spread isolation message
Brighten the day of elderly fans. They're the most isolated and the most vulnerable during this pandemic, so given them a call and ask them to share their recollections of the great players, characters, games and incidents they've seen. You might be surprised by how much you learn.
Knit an old-style cotton footy jumper, a scarf or even something for your pet to wear in your team's colours.
Arrange and rearrange your footy cards. Make swap deals with friends via the phone.
Get your free download of the AFL Record, available each Friday on the AFL Live Official App, AFL.com.au, the SEN app, sen.com.au and aflnation.com.au.
Keep coming back to AFL.com.au for all your latest footy news and content, including the Toyota AFL Fixture Throwback.
Let your imagination run wild and share your own footy fix ideas with us (@AFLcomau) so we can all benefit.