AFL Beginner's Guide: Australian Rules Football Explained

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 People want to know the AFL rules, what AFL stands for, the teams, and how to play it in Australia.


Whether you like sports or not, you should experience the Australian Rules Football match. It allows you to spend time with friends and experience Australia's local sporting culture.


The Australian Football League (AFL), or football or footy, is a famous Aussie tradition. Thousands of fans gather to watch AFL yearly, making it the most loved sport in Australia.


AFL has been a male-dominated sport for a long time. Still, it is becoming increasingly popular after including females in the game.


If you are new to Australia and are intrigued by the sport, keep reading this post to learn more about Australia Rules Football.


This blog will teach you about the Australian Football League, the AFL rules, how to play the game, the different teams, and more.



1. A Brief History of The Australian Football


Formerly known as the VFA (Victorian Football Association), AFL was created by Tom Wills in 1958 to keep cricketers fit in the winter months. 


The VFA was established in May 1877 and played between several clubs, including Melbourne, Carlton, Essendon, Geelong, Collingwood, South Melbourne, Fitzroy, and St. Kilda. In 1990, the VFA renamed the Australian Football League, giving it national recognition. 


Compared to other sports in Australia, the AFL attracts the highest number of spectators — an average of around 33,460 fans per game. In Victoria, the game is so popular that the day before the Grand Finale is celebrated with a public holiday. 



2. Participating Countries


Apart from Australia, the sport is played in other countries as well. The AFL has an official agreement with the governing bodies of 13 different countries, including the following:


USA FL, AFL Japan, AFL Britain, Danish Australian Football League, ARFL Ireland, New Zealand AFL, AFL Middle East, AFL Canada, AFL Germany, AFL South Africa, Tonga Australian Football Association, Nauru Australian Football Association, AFL Samoa, and AFL PNG (Papua New Guinea). 



3. The Objective of The Australian Rules Football


The two teams with 18 players each compete against each other. Their main objective is to kick an oval-shaped ball between four goalposts. The team's total points depend on which goalpost the ball goes between. 


Players can pass the ball between teammates by punching it off their palm or kicking it, but they are not allowed to throw it. The team with the highest points wins the match unless a tie-break or a draw is declared. 



4. The Basic AFL Rules Explained


You can find below a summary of the basic AFL rules:


  • The game is played on an oval-shaped field with goalposts at each end.


  • Each team has 22 players, but only 18 out of them play on the field.


  • The Australian Football League (AFL) consists of four quarters of 20 minutes each. Also, extra time is awarded when the referee announces a time-out.


  • Points are scored by kicking the football between the behind goalposts (worth one point) or between the opposing posts (worth six points).


  • The umpire signals for all the decisions, and his call is final.


  • When the game starts, the ruckman throws the ball into the air. And then, one of the players from each team tries to tap the ball on their team's side. After a goal, the match restarts the same way at the beginning of the game.


  • A player can 'mark' the ball, but this only happens when the player catches the ball in the air, the ball has travelled over 15 metres and is caught successfully.


  • Once the ball is marked, the player who caught the ball cannot be tackled. He gets the space to make the next play without any pressure. If an opponent steps over the mark or a tackle occurs, it's a foul, and the team with the ball gets to move 15 metres down the field.


  • Players can tackle the opponent team to take back the ball, but a tackle can only occur from shoulder height and downwards.


  • If the player refuses to let go of the ball while being tackled, the umpire will call out, and the ball will be turned over.


  • Players cannot push their opponents from the back, especially when in a tackle or running.


  • Shepherding the players (bumping, pushing, or blocking) is permitted to keep the opponent away from the ball. This is only allowed within five metres of the ball. 



5. Australian Rules Football Teams


So now that you have an idea of the game's basic rules, it's time to know about the teams and choose your favourite one. 


You can pick a team either based on the colours you like the most or the one that is your closest local team. You can also support your friend's team or their rival team.


However, choosing a team with a great chance of winning the game is always better. And also, remember being passionate about a football team and talking about their performance is a great way to build connections with new friends and start a conversation with locals.



6. Teams In Different States of Australia



Victoria (VIC)


The AFL is very popular in Victoria, and the Victorians are obsessed with the game. Let us have a look at the professional teams that represent different cities of Victoria:


  • Melbourne - The Demons 

  • Collingwood - The Magpies or the Pies

  • Geelong - The Cats

  • Hawthorn - The Hawks

  • St. Kilda - The Saints 

  • Essendon - The Bombers 

  • North Melbourne - The Kangaroos or the Shinboners

  • Western Bulldogs - The Bulldogs

  • Richmond - The Tigers

  • Carlton - The Blues



Queensland (QLD)


The two teams from Queensland are: 


  • Gold Coast - The Suns

  • Brisbane - The Lions



New South Wales (NSW)


Both teams from NSW brand themselves by their nicknames. Here are the two teams from NSW:


  • Sydney - Sydney Swans

  • Greater Western Sydney - Greater Western Sydney Giants (often use "Giants" as part of their team's brand)



Western Australia (WA)


The two West Australian Football League teams are as follows:


  • West Coast - West Coast Eagles

  • Fremantle - The Dockers



South Australia (SA)


The South Australian National Football League teams are: 


  • Port Adelaide - The Power 

  • Adelaide - The Crows



7. Going To The AFL Match


Once you have decided on the team you will support, you are ready to watch the game. You can find out on the AFL website which team plays when and where during the AFL season. 


Footy season lasts from March to September, so keep yourself warm and support the match wearing your team's jumper, beanie, and scarf while watching the game in the stadium. 


The AFL match brings people of all generations together like no other sport in Australia. It enables you to engage with new people and blend in with the Australian sports culture. You will find everyone shouting and cheering for their favourite teams at the game. 


The overall atmosphere is inspiring and contagious!



8. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



What Makes AFL Australian?


The origin of AFL can be traced to football competitions played in Melbourne, Victoria. To develop a game more suitable for Australian conditions and adults, the Melbourne Football Club laid down the first laws of Australian football in May 1859.


After its invention in Melbourne, Australian football became an identity sport and spread quickly to other states. It has become a favourite pastime among Australian families who then pass it from one generation to another.


Compared to other sports, Australian football has the highest television viewership and spectator attendance in Australia. The annual AFL Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground is the highest-attended tournament worldwide.


Thousands of Australian families visited the venue to watch the spectacle, cheering their favourite team to win the silverware.



What Kind of Football Is AFL?


Australian football is among the world's most exciting, fast-paced, and skilful games. 


It features distinctive marking, frequent physical contests, rapid movement of players and the ball, and high scoring. 


In this contact sport, two teams of 18 fittest athletes/players each play against each other on an oval field, a modified cricket ground. 


The game is divided into four quarters of twenty minutes. The clock stops only when the ball reaches outside the playing field or an injured player gets substituted by another player on the ground. Due to the game's pause, the quarters' duration can run over thirty minutes.


The game starts when the referee bounces the oval ball in the middle of the ground. The ruckman then jumps and passes the ball to a teammate.


Players may position them anywhere on the field and use any body part to move the ball. They can receive the ball only through a kick, hand pass (handballing), or picking up off the ground.


When the player is in charge of the ball, he must touch it on the ground every fifteen metres by bouncing it while running.


A player can pass the ball to another player in only two ways - kicking or hand-passing. Throwing the ball is not allowed and will result in a free kick to the opponent team. 


A mark is when a player kicks the ball and gets caught without touching the ground. It allows the player catching the ball to have a free kick from the position where he caught it.


A player scores six points when he kicks the ball between the central goal posts or one point between a central and outer post.


When the ball reaches beyond the boundary line, the umpire throws it back in the ground, and the game resumes.



How Does The AFL Season Work?


The AFL season comprises home-and-away and finals matches played between mid-March and late August or the start of September each year.


The winning team is officially announced during the Premiership season, typically on the final weekend of September.


Each AFL season has twenty-three home-and-away rounds followed by four finals rounds.


Home and Away Round 23 Rounds March-August
Finals Round Four rounds, including the Grand Final September



Home and Away Round 


In this round, all participating teams compete with each other, and the top eight teams make their place in the finals. 


One club hosts the game at its home stadium, while the other visits it as the away team. Thus, each match has a home team and an away team. There could be more than one home stadium for the footy team.


Each club usually plays 11 home and 11 away matches in the home and away round. As the season fixture publishes before the start of the AFL season, each team knows who they will be playing against, at what stadium, and at what time and date.



Finals Round


In this round, the top 8 qualifying teams play with each other for the AFL Premiership. The two losing teams from the top four teams get another chance to compete against one another. 



Bye Round


Teams participating in the Premiership season are granted a mid-session break.



What Are Fouls in AFL?


There are rules in AFL on how a player should handle the ball.


Per the rule, players must occasionally bounce or touch it on the ground while running with the ball.


They can't throw the ball to another player and must not get caught holding it. 


If the player is deemed "holding the ball" or "in possession of the ball," he is penalised with a free kick provided to the opposition. The only exception to this rule is when a mark or free kick is played.


Other fouls include:


  • Push an opponent in the back

  • Intentionally trip an opposition player

  • Purposely delay the general run of play

  • Run over/Interfere with the mark that is set for a free kick

  • Argue with an umpire

  • High Tackles

  • Improper disposal of the ball

  • Illegal holds

  • Kicked balls that reach out of the boundaries on the full



The above unlawful moves can result in a 50-meter penalty, free kicks, or suspension for a few matches based on the extent of violation of the game rules.


A free kick to the opposing team or free points against the penalised team allows the opposite team to reset and kick at any goalposts (without any hindrance) they choose.



How Do Points Work in AFL?


In Australian Football League, players on one side of the pitch pass the ball to the other by kicking it or punching it off their palm. Each time they kick the ball through the four goalposts, their team earns a point/s.


So, how do you score points in AFL:


  • Your team gets six points when the player kicks the ball between the centre of the two points. The ball must cross the goalpost without touching the player or a post. 

  • If the ball touches a player or a post before it moves through the centre of goalposts, your team gets one point. 

  • If the player kicks the ball between any of the outside/behind posts, then the team earns one point. 

  • If the player runs the ball run the ball over the opponent's end line, their team gets one point. 



You don't get any points if the ball hits the behind posts. In this case, the umpire rules out the ball. The team with the maximum points wins unless the referee declares a draw or a tie-break.



How Many Steps Can You Take in AFL?


Per the AFL rules, a player running with the ball on the field must take a running bounce once every fifteen metres or more.


Suppose they cross the distance limit and run far to the opposition without taking a running bounce. In that case, the umpire will declare a free kick (for the opposition team) at the position where the player exceeds his limit.



How Long Can You Hold The Ball in AFL?


No "time limit" defines how long a player can possess the ball. It implies that you can hold the ball for as long as you like. 


However, you need to avoid getting tackled and run with the ball bouncing it every 15 meters or less.


Suppose you get tackled after having a 'prior opportunity' to release the ball. In that case, you must give the ball to the opposition.



Can I Watch AFL live Online for Free?


The AFL 2023 season is the biggest season ever, with over 24 rounds. It started on 16 March and will run through to the grand final on 30 September. The good news is that fans can watch each game live.


You can stream AFL for free with a Foxtel Now or Kayo account. If you still need to sign up, you can use Foxtel Now's 10-day free trial and Kayo's 7-day free trial meant only for new users.


So, if you want to know how to can watch AFL live on the internet, you need to get a subscription to Foxtel Now or Kayo Sports to watch AFL matches live.



Can I Watch AFL live on 7 Plus?


The 7 Network has the rights to show AFL games live on TV on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons throughout the season.


However, the 7 Network doesn't show them on its streaming service 7plus. So, you can't watch AFL live on the internet via 7plus.


Only Foxtel and Kayo Sports are the only places to stream AFL live and ad-break-free until the grand final.



Which App Allows me to Stream AFL Matches Live?


You can download Foxtel App for Android or Kayo App for Android from Google Play Store to view live AFL matches.


Kayo Sports offers a 7-day free trial for new customers on their three plans - One, Basic, and Premium.


You must sign up for live HD streaming from three simultaneous streams on a wide range of devices for seven days. Once the free trial ends, you can buy a monthly subscription.


Else, you can go for Foxtel Now or Foxtel iQ4 to enjoy live streaming of AFL matches. New users get a 10-day free trial on Foxtel Now but not on Foxtel iQ4.


Foxtel 4K Ultra HD will surely immerse you in the ultimate sport-watching experience. After the trial period, you can buy a Foxtel Now subscription to continue watching your favourite sports.


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