Australian rules football is one of the most popular sports in Australia. It’s a blend of speed, precision, and physical contact, and is often a rough, tough high-scoring affair.
The game is played using an oblong ball, similar to the ball used in American or Canadian football but with rounder, less pointy ends. The ball is also nicknamed the “footy”. A typical game of “footy” consists of four 20-minute quarters.
The field, or “ground” as it is called, is oval-shaped, usually 150 meters long by 110 meters wide. There are few markings on the field. There is the center square,
in which the opening contests for possession take place.
The center square is flanked by two long arcs, known as the fifty-meter lines. They are there to indicate the distance from the goal, that is their only function.
Then there are the goal squares, which extend out from between the goal posts at each end.
At both ends of the field there is a set of four posts. The object of the game is to amass the highest score by kicking the ball through these posts.
The two inner posts are
called the goal posts. A goal,
kicked between these posts,
is worth six points. The outer
posts are called the behind
posts. Any ball kicked
between one of the behind
posts and one of the goal
posts is called a behind and
is worth one point.
There are some exceptions to this scoring. If a ball goes between the goal posts and is touched by an opposing player, any part other than the foot of an attacking player or the goal post itself, it will be ruled a behind, not a goal.
Scores in Australian Football are given in three parts, similar to a box score in baseball. But, instead of seeing Runs, Hits and Errors, you will see Goals, Behinds and Total Points. If you read an article on a footy match, you will see a score listed as three numbers, separated by two decimal points. For example, if you see a score posted as 12.7.79, it means a team scored 12 goals (worth 6 points each) and 7 behinds (worth 1 point each) for a total score of 79 points (12x6pts=72pts, 7x1pt=7pts, 72pts+7pts=79pts). At the end of the game (played over four 20-minute quarters) the team that scores the most points is the winner.
Each team consists of 22 players, 18 of which are on the field at any times. The remaining 4 players sit on the interchange bench, and change out back and forth with the players on the field.
The game starts with an opening ball-up, or ruck. It is a basic contest for possession of the ball, and it’s just like the opening tip-off at a basketball game. The umpire either throws the ball up or bounces it up off the ground, and both sides jump for control of it. A ball-up takes place at the start of each quarter, after a goal has been kicked, and if the ball is in a pile of tackled players on the ground. The ball is also thrown up for grabs from the boundary line any time the ball rolls, bounces, or is carried out of bounds.
Once a player has possession of the ball, he can do three things with it:
- the player can run with it. You are allowed to carry and run
with the ball, but the ball must be bounced off the ground
every 15 meters as this is going on.
- the player can hand-pass it to a teammate. In Footy, throwing
the ball to a teammate is not allowed. A hand-pass (or
handball) is executed by holding the ball in one hand and
punching it out with the closed fist of the other hand, in much
the same manner as an underhanded volleyball serve.
- the player can kick the ball to a teammate. If the ball
travels more than 15 meters and is caught on the fly, that is
called a mark. The umpire will blow the whistle to signal the
mark and award the player who caught the ball a free kick
from the spot where the was caught. The player can either
stop and use free kick, or play on to continue to advance the
ball up the field if his team is in an advantageous situation..
Penalties can be assessed for a high tackle or a low tackle (in Footy, you are only allowed to tackle a player between the shoulders and the waist), a late hit (a hit on a player who has been awarded a mark by the field umpire), pushing another player in the back, and interfering with a free kick.
This page was set up just to give our visitors a basic understanding of the game. For more in depth information, you are invited to visit the main site of the AFL (Australian Football League - www.afl.com.au) or the United States Australian Football League (www.usafl.com).