HURLING

Unlike Gaelic football which in Australasia is played by a majority of locally born men and women, hurling is viewed by locals as not being a game they are particularly interested in playing. After saying this, Australians and Kiwis are fascinated by the spectacle of the game and are great at supporting from the sideline. As a result hurling is played only in Sydney, Perth, Auckland and Melbourne mostly by Irish people who are either residents or ex-pats.

Following on from State leagues in these venues teams from New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria in recent years have played each other for the title of Australasian Champions.

Hurling is a game similar to hockey, in that it is played with a small ball and a curved wooden stick. It is Europe's oldest field game. When the Celts came to Ireland as the last ice age was receding, they brought with them a unique culture, their own language, music, script and unique pastimes. One of these pastimes was a game now called hurling. It features in Irish folklore to illustrate the deeds of heroic mystical figures and it is chronicled as a distinct Irish pastime for at least 2,000 years.

The stick, or "hurley" (called camán in Irish) is curved outwards at the end, to provide the striking surface. The ball or "sliothar" is similar in size to a hockey ball but has raised ridges.

Hurling is played on a pitch approximately 137m long and 82m wide. The goalposts are the same shape as on a rugby pitch, with the crossbar lower than a rugby one and slightly higher than a soccer one.

You may strike the ball on the ground, or in the air. Unlike hockey, you may pick up the ball with your hurley and carry it for not more than four steps in the hand. After those steps you may bounce the ball on the hurley and back to the hand, but you are not allowed to catch the ball more than twice. To get around this, one of the skills is running with the ball balanced on the hurley To score, you put the ball over the crossbar with the hurley or under the crossbar and into the net by the hurley for a goal, the latter being the equivalent of three points.

Each team consists of fifteen players, lining out as follows: 1 goalkeeper, three full-backs, three half-backs, two midfielders, three half-forwards and three full-forwards. The actual line out on the playing field is as follows:

Goalkeeper

Right corner-back

Full-back

Left corner-back

Right half-back

Centre half-back

Left half-back

Midfielder

Midfielder

Right half-forward

Centre half-forward

Left half-forward

Right corner-forward

Full-forward

Left corner-forward

Players wear a jersey with their team colours and number on the back. Both teams must have different colour jerseys. The goalkeepers' jerseys must not be similar to the jersey of any other player. Referees normally tog out in black jerseys, socks and togs.

Goalkeepers may not be physically challenged whilst inside their own small parallelogram, but players may harass them into playing a bad pass, or block an attempted pass.

In some states teams are allowed substitutes however many states now use an interchange system. Players may switch positions on the field of play as much as they wish but this is usually on the instructions of team officials.

Officials for a game comprise of a referee, two linespersons (to indicate when the ball leaves the field of play at the side and to mark '65'' free kicks and 4 umpires (to signal scores, assist the referee in controlling the games, and to assist linesmen in positioning ''65' frees).

A goal is signalled by raising a green flag, placed to the left of the goal. A point is signalled by raising a white flag, placed to the right of goal. A ''65" is signalled by the umpire raising his/her outside arm. A 'square ball', when a player scores having arrived in the 'square' prior to receiving the ball, is signalled by pointing at the small parallelogram.