David Rabbitborough's A to Z of Australian Species

SPORTS SPECIES

1. THE FOOTBALLER

Amongst the urban sprawl of Australian cities, there are located a number of wildlife parks set aside for a particular species. They include reserves such as Victoria Park, Princes Park and VFL Park. The inhabitant of these parks is a creature called The Footballer, one of the most athletic and powerful creatures in the world. Yet to the shame of the Australian nation, every weekend hundreds of thousands of people flock to the parks to watch these creatures being pitted against each other in an inhumane spectacle which exploits their primitive instinct to chase and gather up round or oval objects.

Footballers move in packs called "teams" and the "match" as it is called begins with two teams of footballers being let out of their cages onto the field. A keeper then throws a ball in amongst them. Immediately, responding to their instincts, the biggest of the pack try to seize it. There then ensues a bitter and bloody fight in which the ball is alternately seized first by one team and then the other. When a team manages to get the ball into their own territory, another keeper kicks it back in again. Thus the fight continues for several hours.

During the course of it many of the creatures are injured, but this only seems to please the crowd more. Animal welfare groups continue to campaign for this brutal sport to be stopped and for footballers to be returned to the wild or put out to stud... something which many of them have already begun doing privately in any case.

2. THE TENNIS PLAYER

Another species which is used for human entertainment is the Tennis Player, a large white and brown animal that is renowned for its territorial instincts. In Australia these instincts are exploited in a sport that is something like cock-fighting only with balls.

Two tennis players of the same sex are placed into a sort of pit separated by only a tiny net. The spectators look down into the arena from a stand. As soon as they are placed in the ring, the players begin to prowl around aggressively. When one sees the other, it starts to bounce a ball against the ground in a menacing gesture. The other will then go into a whole series of actions designed to frighten the invader away. These include racquet twirling, brow wiping and string adjusting.

Suddenly the aggressor will hit the ball directly at the defender with a loud grunt. The defender dodges the ball and hits it back again. The idea seems to be to try and drive the other player out of their territory. Although it seems savage, in fact it is mainly a game of bluff, for their aim is so bad that they hardly ever hit their target (though some American species have on occasions tried to savage the onlookers.)

After many hours of grunting, wiping, bouncing and twirling, the contest finishes when one of the players gathers enough courage to leap over the net into the other's territory. The loser immediately surrenders by offering his or her hand in a gesture of submission whereupon both animals are then taken away to be hosed down. Although not a blood sport, many regard the game as degrading to these creatures and other uses for them are being explored. Many of there has already been some success in using them for deodorant commercials.

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