If you’re as ignorant as I am, you’re probably scratching your head and asking yourself “what the heck is a goanna?” It’s a lizard species, but don’t worry, no animals are hurt in the unusual sport known as goanna pulling.
Goanna Pulling is basically tug of war with a bizarre twist – instead of their hands, competitors must use their heads to pull each other over the line and win the game. The rules are pretty simple: two people go (literally) head to head on the goanna pulling pad. They get down on all four, with their bellies touching the board and their heads held high. This position makes participants look a lot like goanna lizards, hence the name of the game, in case you were wondering. The two opponents each place their palms behind a white line traced on the board, and a referee puts a large leather belt around their heads. As soon as he give the signal, the two contestants must use their upper body strength -their neck muscles especially – to pull the other guy past the line and win the game.
Matches can be over in a matter of seconds, or last several minutes. Apparently, proper technique is very important, and while a strong neck is essential, it’s not always the biggest and strongest contestant who wins, which makes it even more exciting to watch.
The origins of this offbeat competition can be traced back to the 19th century, but the world’s first Australian National Goanna Pulling Championships were held in 1984, in the town of Wooli, New South Wales, Australia. Wooli has been hosting the event every year since, drawing in visitors from all over Australia. There are several divisions for men, women and children, as well as a bunch of other fun contests to compete in. Winners get cash prizes as well as bragging rights for a whole year.