How To Bluff Your Way Through A Grand Final Conversation

This weekend sees the grand finals for both the AFL and NRL, so the topic of football is going to be hard to escape. Here are a few basic conversational gambits if you have no interest whatsoever but don't want to confess your ignorance.

Picture by William Brawley

Why bother?

Yes, honesty is the best policy and there shouldn't be any real issue with saying "I have absolutely no interest in AFL/NRL/sport". However, this isn't always practical. Maybe you're being friendly to a valuable work contact. Maybe you don't feel like discussing your loathing of PE at school with a marginally sane taxi driver. Maybe you don't want to get into the ludicrous argument that not being obsessed with sport is somehow "un-Australian". Whatever the reason, it's often easier to say "I'm not a massive fan but . . ." and contribute a little something to the conversation than to become the unwanted focus of taunts.

Act casual

I don't see much point in faking a level of knowledge you don't have, so I wouldn't claim to be an expert or just randomly spout facts from the sports page. A proper league or Aussie Rules fanatic will quickly spot that you don't know what you're talking about, and then you'll look insincere as well as ignorant. The reality is that far more people watch the grand finals in both codes than ever watch a match during the season, so the vast majority of them are amateur dabblers. Faking your way into that category ("I don't follow it, but I like to watch the final because it's such a big event") is much easier than pretending to be a genius.

The bare minimum

So the really basic facts: the AFL (Aussie Rules) grand final is this Saturday from 2:30pm between Collingwood (the Magpies) and Geelong (the Cats); both are Victorian teams. AFL is most popular in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, but is dominated by Victorian teams.

The NRL (rugby league) grand final happens on Sunday from 5pm, between Manly (the Sea Eagles, from Sydney) and New Zealand (the Warriors). NRL is most popular in NSW and Queensland.

I could load you up with statistics at this point about how often these teams have competed in grand finals before, but that would contradict what I've already suggested: you want a handful of data points and nothing more. Whether you need to know even this much depends on where you're located — Victorians can probably plead ignorance of NRL, and Sydneysiders can disclaim AFL since there's no Sydney team in the final.

Pick a winner

The one question that's generally hard to avoid: who are you backing? For practical purposes, you could pick a name at random, but here are a few suggestions to whittle down your choice:

  • Collingwood and Manly are both teams which have large and fanatical followings and are loathed by pretty much everyone else.
  • That said, supporting a New Zealand team is likely to lead to more of that "un-Australian" rubbish, so that might be best avoided.
  • Eddie McGuire is the president of Collingwood. Make of that what you will.

Ask questions of others

To avoid the conversation shifting into areas you can't follow, ask questions of other people. That shows your involvement without requiring you to have a high level of knowledge. Some possible starters:

  • Have you ever been to a grand final yourself?
  • What would be the worst possible outcome: a draw? A total slaughter of one team by the other? A streaker?
  • Have you ever noticed that the term "grand final" is generally only used in Australia?
  • Who's the most annoying commentator?

None of this will get you through half an hour in a bar with a bunch of sports tragics. But it will give you a few passing contributions, and that's hopefully all you need.

Got your own favourite sports-related conversation fillers? We'd love to hear them in the comments.

Lifehacker 101 is a weekly feature covering fundamental techniques that Lifehacker constantly refers to, explaining them step-by-step. Hey, we were all newbies once, right?


    "Did you see that ludicrous display last night?"

      Oh damn it, you've beat me to it!!!

        The problem with Geelong is that they always try to walk it in.

      "That's the problem with the Arsenal; always trying to walk it into the net."

    Why would anyone feel bad about avoiding expressing your loathing and contempt for a bunch of steroid-fueled, intellectually-challenged morons running around a field being shouted at by stands full of equally stupid individuals sans the steroids?

    Here's the answer to give: "I really don't care about that moronic game you seem to want to waste my time discussing, and I think less of you for being interested in it in the first place."

      Because some people understand social nuance unlike yourself.

      You see, if you had any understanding about how people interact you would be able to hide the fact that you are tool with the social skills of a leaking radiator.

      But then you opened your mouth.

      I honestly think both codes detract from society.

      Way to go, Ian! You're clearly adept at dealing with the give-and-take of social compromise.

      Or maybe you don't feel the need to compromise, because you're doing just fine in your idyllic little world? If that is indeed the case, please don't enter mine.

      "People like something that I don't like, so clearly they must be intellectually challenged morons."

      I'm not interested in sports either, but I don't think any less of people that are.

      Ian = Sheldon Cooper?

      I have a Bachelor Degree and two Masters degrees and I am a huge supporter of Rugby League and Union. I'll definitely be watching the game on Sunday, probably with a group of friends with whom I have social interactions with and rather intelligent conversations. Your stereotype of the footy fan as intellectually challenged is just that, a stereotype. I've found more people who are not socially and physically active to be less intelligent on average than those who are. But whatever, go the Warriors! (I'm a QLDer).

        Nobody can listen to you, your a QLD'er ha ha just kidding

        Well said, couldn't agree more...

      You are obviously an uneducated half wit, Ian. "Steroid fueled"??? Step away from your computer and do some research. Both codes (particularly the AFL) have some of the most advance drug testing in the world.

      Ian, that's just un-Australian.

    Awesome, you guys should do this for every grand final!

    I never have a clue whats going on in any sport, but always get stuck in these sorts of awkward conversations.

    For example: This weekend, being a long weekend I am going to the in-laws and I'm sure that the topic of "sport" will come up and I will look like a fool again...

    The key is to steer the conversation to topics that interest you. For example, you can redirect football talk onto a topic you prefer like streaking (mentioned in the article).

    A: 'How about the grand final?'

    B: 'Yeah, hopefully we get some streakers at the MCG - that reminds me did you see Miss Universe? wow!'

    A: 'Yeah can't believe Australia missed out'

    Topic has now been steered from Footy to Sexy Women.



    When someone asks you what team you are going for - unless you actually support the Cats or Pies - I suggest you say "Neither, they are both crap" - that is what a true fan would say.

      My brother used to play for Sydney Swans. I was bashed with football so much over my life that I cant stand it anymore.

      *** Thats it.. thats my response. ***

      ohh and I agree with Boris "did you see Miss Universe? wow! "

      Now thats something I will talk about. Built in knowledge. No one can challege any statement I make.

        She's pretty.

        I think she has nice hair

        I like the way she walks

        I think it would be "nice" to be in the same room as her

      That's a great point. In the AFL grand final there are two teams playing and 15 teams knocked out. Assuming fans are spread pretty evenly over the teams, that means a whopping 88% of fans don't have their preferred team playing.

      So the safest answer probably is 'x is the one true team and I refuse to acknowledge that a grand final is happening'.

        Sadly, not if it's Collingwood. You'd think 1 in 2 people have their favourite team playing

    Telling people you were brought up in the opposite part of the country works very well too, i.e. I live in SA but was brought up in NSW...people here are obsessed with AFL but I say something like "oh I didn't grow up here so don't have much of a feel for AFL" and they usually leave me alone. Of course I don't have any more of a feel for NRL but don't need to tell anyone.

    I can understand Ian's desire to say things like that ('ocs it is a moronic game) but my dad taught me that if you've nothing nice to say it is generally best to say nothing and, annoyingly, he was right. No need to get into a slanging match over something like this (and you can always inslut people quietly in your head if it makes you feel better).

    AFL? do they still play that?

    I just tell people, "I honestly don't give a sh.t, I'm just here for the beer." Haven't been called un-Australian yet.

    'it's my first day in australia, i don't know what sports you guys play'

    I play footy (Aussie Rules) in ai team that is made up of about 80% law and medicine students or graduates. They're no more intelligent than the 20% that aren't at Uni, but none of them are 'meatheads'.

    As far as the advice goes, I would suggest that following this advice will make you look like you know nothing about footy and/or are a bit socially retarded.

    Ironically, having said all that, I think the safest response is just to scream 'Go Cats' at regular intervals and avoid attempting anything deeper than that. Better to avoid pretending you know what you're talking about and messing it up than looking like an idiot IMO.

    It actually is (almost) my first day in Australia. This is the most useful stuff anyone has yet told me. I stand a chance of getting through the weekend now, thanks guys! :-)

    I often find myself pretending I actually know something about football (rarely I do) This will certainly be of assistance. Thank you.

    This is hilarious stuff. Love the IT Crowd references. As someone who doesn't give a sh*t, it's great to hear how others respond to this meaningless footy code drivel. Good on you blokes for telling 'em what you really think.

    Easy, don't bother with either: Watch the real man's game - the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Even Ian would enjoy it !!

      Stop trollin' We all know a real mans sport is ballet!

    I'm a massive NRL fan and I totally agree don't try to pretend you know more than you do because true fans will see through it straight away.
    I had to tell a guy at work that Manly were in the final this week, than he tells me he's a fan and celebrates that they made it, what a joker.

    '...yes,and I also like watching dogs chase balls..'

    Forget football, now pool - that's a thinking man's game :)

    I feel sorry for people that hate football. Witnessing a player do something sublime under extreme physical and mental pressure in front of 100,000 screaming people and millions on TV is an incredibly uplifting feeling, no less valid than watching any other great performer in any field of endeavor.

      I Don't hate it. It's quite a spectacle to do something that great. However, I'm not that interested in it.

    All you need to say is:
    'Carn the Catters!'

    Haha! I laughed so hard when I saw this post. Before seeing this, I thought I was the only oddball out there.

    Wot a riot this post was! both for its own content and the massive response it generated. How about this for a question : What detergent do you recommend for washing mudstains out of team members shorts??

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