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Australian Rules Football also known as AFL, Aussie Rules or Footy is a fast and skilful game played by some of the fittest professional athletes in the world. It’s also now a sport that is played all around the world by males and females in different formats from Fiji, South Africa and India to right here in England!

As the name suggests there are some rules you might not be familiar with as they are unique to Aussie Rules. The AFL have recently put together this short video to help you understand our great game!

Sport is one of the main topics of conversation at almost every social occasion and a chance to bond over shared comradery or rivalry. Australians love a huge number of different sports, including cricket, soccer, rugby union, rugby league and basketball, but nothing quite matches their passion for Australian Rules Football.

Originating in Victoria, it has spread around the country over the last hundred years, with teams from Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, as well as Victoria, making up the premier competition — the Australian Football League (AFL). Referred to as Aussie rules, AFL or simply ‘the footy’, it is a fast paced, physically demanding sport that often resembles a mass brawl. With a ball.

The main concepts

The key to understanding what is happening on the field is to be aware of a few concepts. The in-depth details of the sport are apparent to only experienced watchers and players, however, knowing a few basics can help you successfully engage with the locals.

The playing sides

The field is enormous and roughly the size of two regular football fields. Due to the sheer amount of space, each team fields 18 players at a time, with four additional players available on the interchange bench. These extra players can be used tactically to influence certain periods of play, to replace injured players, or to keep the team fresh and rested throughout the match.

The match

Each AFL game consists of four 20-minute periods (depending on grade)  and the umpire starts each quarter by bouncing the ball in the centre circle. Once the ball is bounced, it is considered ‘in play’ and the players can contest possession.


A player can score either a goal or a behind, with six points and one point awarded respectively. To score a goal, a player must kick the ball between the two middle posts, without it being ‘touched’ by another player. A behind is scored if the ball is kicked between the inside and outside posts, hits the two taller posts, or is carried behind or handballed across the goal line by a player, between any of the posts. The score is then presented to reflect the number of goals (six pointers) and the number of behinds (one pointers), with the combined score in brackets.

For example: Essendon 15.12 (102) defeated Richmond 10.7 (67).

General play

The ball is moved around the field by a combination of kicking, handballing and running. When the ball is kicked, the players contest the ball in the air and if it is caught cleanly by a player on the same team as the kicker, it is called a mark. The player who marks the ball can then take a shot at goal or kick the ball to a teammate in a better position who, provided they also catch it cleanly for a mark, can then make the same decision.

When running with the ball, the player must bounce and catch it every 15 metres or so to avoid being penalised, or pass the ball either through kicking or handballing it to a teammate. A handball is performed by punching the ball in the desired direction.

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