The AFL Guide to Sushi

AFL writing is often about explaining football with metaphor. What if we used football metaphors to understand life? Is Steve Johnson a fatty bit of tuna? Is Tom Bugg the fermented beans of the AFL?

This week, Onballers’ Ken Sakata attempts to explain sushi.

Sushi rolls in Australia don’t roll. The rolls are square. They’re square because a little machine in the back crams rice into rectangular blocks. Pick your flavour, fresh from the can. Cooked tuna flakes, processed chicken. Pop in some sliced avocado. This is what passes for sushi in Australia. Have some respect for yourself. Don’t eat this.

Immediately, I’m uncomfortable telling you what to do. Food culture is always evolving. No one ‘owns’ sushi or how it’s made. You’re free to eat whatever you want, however it’s interpreted.

But mate, the fuck is this:

Let’s pretend, as far as life-decisions go, that certain behaviours are virtuous and right (e.g. eating real sushi) and some behaviours are detestable and wrong (e.g. drinking bin juice, sandwich tuna in a rice rectangle, murder, etc.).

Let’s make good life-decisions. Let’s talk about real sushi and football.

Akami (Lean Tuna)

Akami is the most common cut of raw tuna. It’s not huge on flavour, its characteristic dark red flesh coming from the hard-working back muscles of the fish. It’s probably no one’s favourite, but a high-performing staple.

The Akami is your humble full-back with a very high floor of ability. Daniel Talia is an akami. Harry Taylor is an akami. Everyone needs consistency to form the bones of your sushi experience.

Unagi (Eel)

Unagi is incredibly flavorful. Usually roasted, it has a smoky, crisp outer and delicious buttery flesh. It has become more of a prized commodity over the last ten years because of overfishing.

The unagi matches the modern iteration of the half-back flanker. Exciting and memorable. Also, you probably don’t need two. Sam Docherty is an unagi. Jayden Hunt is an unagi. 2016 Jason Johannisen is an unagi.

Natto (Fermented soybeans)

Your sushi meal is going to need some filler. This is where natto comes in. The wet, sticky texture of fermented beans can be a real turn-off. With a bit of soy-sauce, it can be a delightful surprise.

This is the highly divisive part of the meal. Loved by some, avoided by others. Inessential by definition. It’s the sushi Tomas Bugg.


This is the most recognisable cut of sushi. Salmon is way overrated. Difficult to match with other pieces due to its crude, overpowering taste. This is what you order when you don’t want to make a choice.

This is the sushi world’s low-impact midfield accumulator. Taylor Adams is 100% salmon. Stomach real-estate is at a premium. You do not need to order this.

Chu-toro (Fatty belly tuna) + O-toro (Extra-fatty belly tuna)

Yo, now we’re kicking goals. You’re going to face significant philosophical differences here. With a limited appetite, do you go for the tastier, fattier o-toro, or the milder chu-toro? That extra bit of fat can satisfy or provide a heavy knockout blow to the meal.

This is like choosing between occasional turnover-machine Steve Johnson or the less-exciting, more reliable Callan Ward to run your midfield. This is also a good barometer to find out how you feel about risk and reward. I flip-flop every day. There are no wrong answers. Love yourself.