Australian Rules Football, colloquially called “footy”, is a fast-paced, physical sport that is completely unique from American football, soccer, or rugby. Here’s the basics:
- Field: Footy is played on cricket fields, which are oval-shaped and up to 500 feet long and 450 feet wide.
- Players: Each team fields 18 players at once, with 4 players on the bench. All players play both offense and defense, and possession can be quick to change.
- Ball: An Australian football is slightly larger than an American football, and ovular with rounded ends.
- Scoring: The aim of the game is to score goals by kicking the ball through a set of 4 vertical goalposts at either end of the field. Kicking through the middle two goalposts is a goal and is worth 6 points. Kicking through a middle (taller) and outer (shorter) goalpost is called a behind and is only worth 1 point.
- Defense: Defending players can tackle a player on the opposing team who has possession of the ball below the shoulders and above the knees. Tripping a player, making high contact, pushing from behind, or tackling a player without the ball is a foul. A player being tackled must immediately dispose of the ball or give away a free kick.
- Advancing the ball: Players can either run with the ball, or pass to teammates. Passing takes place by kicking the ball to a teammate, or hitting it with a closed fist. You cannot throw the ball! You can advance the ball in any direction; there is no offsides rule.
- Marks: If a player catches a ball on the fly that has been kicked more than 15 meters, that player is awarded a “mark” (a free kick).
- Timing: A full length game consists of four 20-minute quarters. Play is almost always live, there is very little stoppage time except after a goal or when the ball goes out of bounds.
When we play against clubs from other cities we follow the normal rules. For our local Portland league we play with 9 players instead of 18 and on a smaller field, which gives players more chances to touch the ball. At other times we play touch instead of tackle, for our “Ausball” and indoor games.
Australian Rules Football is one of the oldest organized sports in the world; its rules were codified in 1859 in Melbourne. The highest level of play is the professional Australian Football League, which had its first season in 1897. Today 18 teams compete in the AFL every year to win the Grand Final, which is the most attended domestic club sporting championship in the world.
Want to start learning how to play the game? These videos show the proper technique for how to hand pass and kick the ball.