What is footy?
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: In the men's game, each team fields 18 players at once, with 4 players on the bench. Women's teams field 16 players at once. 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 metro league, we play with fewer players 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 includes both men's and women's teams. The AFL had its first season in 1897 and the AFLW was created in 2017. In Australia, as of 2022, 18 teams compete in the AFL and 14 teams compete in the AFLW. Their seasons culminate in the Grand Final, the Super Bowl equivalent of footy, which is the most attended domestic club sporting championship in the world. In the United States, almost all major cities field both men's and women's teams. The USAFL season is capped off with a Nationals tournament, which is the largest gathering of footy players in the world.
The hand pass is the basic way to pass or dispose of the ball over short distances. In Australian football you cannot throw the ball with an open palm, you most hit the ball with a closed fist or else it is a penalty and the other team is given possession. Handballs are often made under pressure in a game, so it’s important to practice the proper form until it comes naturally. This video shows you the best form for a handball.
Hand Passing Basics
Kicking serves two purposes in footy: to score points by kicking the ball through the goalposts at either end of the field, or to advance the ball over longer distances by kicking it through the air to teammates. If a player catches the ball on the fly, before it is touched by another player or the ground, then that player has taken a “mark” and is awarded a free kick at the spot where they caught the ball. So in either situation kicking accuracy is very important. The best way to kick the ball for passing or goalkicking is called a “drop punt”, and the following video shows you how to do it
Video credit to AFL Women's.
More videos can be found here.