AFL Beginners Guide: Australian Rules Football Explained



Whether you like sports or not, you should experience the Australian Rules Football match as it allows you to spend time with friends and also experience the local sporting culture of Australia.


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


AFL has been a male-dominated sport for a long time, but after the inclusion of females in the game, it is becoming more and more popular.


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



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 the year 1990, the VFA was renamed as 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 the state of 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:


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 a set of four goalposts. The total points that the team scores entirely depends on which goalpost the ball goes between.


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



4. The Basic AFL Rules Explained


  • 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, there is an extra time awarded when the umpire announces a time out.


  • Points are scored by kicking the football either 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. However, this only happens when the player catches the ball in the air and when it has travelled over 15 metres and 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, then it's a foul, and the team with the ball gets to move 15 metres forward down the field.


  • Players are allowed to 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 he’s being tackled, then the umpire will call out, and the possession will be turned over.


  • Players cannot push their opponents from the back, especially when in a tackle or when they are 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 basic rules of the game, 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, it is always better to choose a team that has a great chance of winning the game. And also do not forget, being passionate about a footy team and talking about their performance is a great way to build connections with new friends and start a conversation with locals.



6. Here Is A List of Australian Teams In Different States of Australia:





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





The two teams from Queensland are: 


  • Gold Coast - The Suns

  • Brisbane - The Lions



New South Wales


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


The two West Australian Football League teams are as follows:


  • West Coast - West Coast Eagles

  • Fremantle - The Dockers



South Australia 


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 the team you will support, you are ready to watch the game. You can find out on the AFL website which team is playing 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 allows you to blend in with the Australian sports culture. At the game, you will find everyone shouting and cheering for their favourite teams.


The overall atmosphere is really exciting and contagious!


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