The big American past times are baseball, football, and basketball. Soccer dominates throughout much of Latin America and Europe. But in this part of the world, rugby is #1.
Last evening I was introduced to the great game of rugby. I joined up with some of the missionary families and several PNGians to watch the "State of Origin" rugby tournament. (We gathered at the Bennet's home, one of only two houses on station that actually get the one TV station we have here in PNG. "Em TV" --> "em" is he or she or it in Pidgin, and is pronounced "M-TV." Hee hee.) Australia holds an this annual all star tournament, which seems to be that continent's equivalent of our Super Bowl. State of Origin is a three game series. The Blues from New South Wales play against the Maroons from Queensland. The Maroons have won the tournament for the past three years, and also won the first game of the series. So it was win or out for the Blues! And the Blues were out.
My first impressions are that rugby is some sort of combination of football, soccer, and basketball. A match consists of two 40 minute halves. All of the players on the team, 13 to 15 of them depending on the league, play both offense and defense. The ball is moved forward by either running or kicking, and is also passed but only backwards. The goal of the defense is to stop the forward progression by tackling the guy with the ball. Each team has 5 chances to score before they must kick the ball to the other team. These are similar to downs and punts in football. There are no pauses between the "downs;" the players just get up, pass the ball, and keep going. A goal is called a "try" and is worth 4 points. After a team scores, the kicker goes for an extra two points by kicking the ball through the goal post from the point at which the ball crossed the line. This is a "conversion." There is also some sort of something called a "scrum" where all the players from both teams huddle together in a big bear hug and try to get possession of the ball, but it is not entirely clear to me when or why this is done. I still have a bit to learn about the game.
Rugby is a very fast paced game. Reportedly the Australians find American football quite boring in comparison, and I can see why. It was a lot of fun experiencing this part of the PNG culture. And I would have to say I am hooked!