'New-found love': America's extraordinary reaction to AFL suspension

Falling in love with something so deeply and then having it ripped away from you is one of life's cruellest scenarios.

While Aussie footy fans have understandably been left devastated by the suspensions of their seasons, Americans are also feeling the hurt.

‘VERY TOUGH DAY’: AFL players' bold gesture as staff stood down

'IT'S BEEN DECIDED': IOC member reveals fate of 2020 Olympics

Many sports-loving viewers from the States had desperately clung to glimmer of joy amid the coronavirus crisis, when sport was on hold all around the world.

Australia had curiously positioned itself as that beacon of hope for sport-starved viewers.

With the majority of sporting competitions suspended around the world, Australia momentarily found itself in an advantageous global position, with its biggest competitions in full swing - albeit behind closed doors.

Fans have been left devastated after Aussie footy codes were forced to suspend their seasons. Pic: Getty

With fans desperate to get their fix of live sport, many had turned to Australia as their source of content, before the AFL and now the NRL, aligned with most competitions around the world by suspending their seasons.

With no other live sport to watch, Americans were glued to their TV sets watching AFL and NRL in particular, regardless of the fact that few of them had any idea what was going on.

It didn't matter one little bit, they simply couldn't get enough.

Former NFL punter and now well-known podcaster Pat McAfee was particularly captivated by AFL, calling it "my favourite sport I’ve ever seen”.

When McAfee found out that his new favourite sport had been suspended and his new outlet of unbridled joy was gone, the ex-NFL man was crushed.

“The thing that I’m very bummed about getting postponed, was my new-found love — the AFL,” he said.

McAfee wasn't alone, with a raft of similarly disappointed overseas viewers finding out their new sport of choice had been called off amid the coronavirus crisis.

McAfee confessed that he wasn't sure how he'd gone 32 years without ever watching a game, despite seeing countless Aussie punters come to the States to ply their trade in gridiron.

“I did a radio show in Australia … and they asked me how I’d never seen Aussie rules football before. I was like, ‘Great question, actually’. Because there are a lot of Australian punters that have come over to America to punt footballs.

“I don’t want to offend my new-found friends in Australia but whenever the Australian punters were coming over here, the original statement was they were punting rugby-style.

‘It’s actually Aussie rules football, mate’

“I actually punted rugby style in college, that’s what we called it, when ultimately it wasn’t rugby-style, it was Aussie rules football-style. But we called it rugby-style. The marketing from the beginning was wrong.

“Everybody said, ‘He’s going in for the rugby kick’, and then I started talking to some of these Australian punters who were like, ‘It’s actually Aussie rules football, mate’.

“I always blew them off and was like, ‘Yeah I get it, but it’s rugby, it’s the same as rugby’.”

The former NFL star says while he used to confuse AFL with rugby, his knew-found respect for the sport means he'll never make the same mistake again.

“Rugby, very tough sport, I respect it but it’s a little too slow for me,” he said.

Pat McAfee was a self-described convert to AFL. Pic: Getty

“For me the mosh pits and the whole thing, it’s not what I would enjoy watching. But then when I watched an Aussie rules football game the other night for the first time in my life I was like, ‘Wait a minute, this sport is awesome’. A lot of wide, open running, a lot of juking, there’s like six or seven punts a minute.

“The punting is the only way you score. There’s these Moss-like catches from people, there’s an American in the league called Mason Cox – they call him Cox-zilla – he’s six foot 10, he Randy Mosses people.

“The sport is potentially the best sport I’ve ever seen and I had never in a million years taken the time to watch it, ever.

“It was always (broadcast) late night-early morning and in my mind it was rugby. And then I watched it Friday night ... it IS NOT rugby.

“It is a very different game. The punters, the volleyball-punching of the ball, the soccer-like attack style, it was the sport I was supposed to play as a child.

“If I had known that sport was around as a child, I would have been playing Aussie rules football.

“Now is a time a lot of Americans were getting introduced to this great sport ... now was a time for it to make a run. Obviously for the betterment of everyone’s health, it’s postponed until June. So now we have nothing.”