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A Crash Course To Australian Rules Football

Anyone new to Australia will immediately notice the country’s obsession with sport. Some of these sports are played and loved the world over, but the most popular of them all is unique to the land down under. That sport, of course, is Australian Rules Football, and we’re going to give you a crash course on the basics.

So, how do you play?

Australian Rules, affectionately known as ‘footy’ by its supporters, is played on a huge oval roughly 160 meters long and 130 meters wide. Two teams consisting of 22 players each compete against one another, with 18 players on the field for each side at any one time.

The aim of the game is to score as much as possible. As with many ball sports, scores are attained by kicking the ball through posts at either end of the field, but in a unique twist there are four posts rather than just two. Six points are awarded for kicking the ball through the middle two, while one point is given if the ball goes between the outside posts.

With such a big oval, clearly the ball covers a lot of distance over the course of a game, and players get it from one end to the other in one of two ways. The first is by kicking — players do this by dropping the ball onto their foot — and the second is by handballing — this is essentially punching the ball out of the palm of your hand.

Footy is a contact sport and can get very physical. Players are allowed to tackle opponents only when they have the ball, and tackles must be lower than the shoulders and higher than the knees. One important thing to note, however, is that if a player catches — or ‘marks’ — a kick that travels more than 15 meters, they are given a few seconds to decide what to do in which they can’t be tackled. Unsurprisingly, taking marks is very valuable.

Is there a professional league?

Yes, and it’s known as the AFL (Australian Football League). The AFL takes place across the country, though ten of the 18 teams are based in Victoria. There are two others in New South Wales, two in Queensland, two in South Australia and two in Western Australia.

Teams compete across a 22-round season, and the top eight teams at its conclusion play in a four-week final series. Unlike many other leagues, the AFL implements a number of equalization measures intended to give all 18 teams an equal chance of contending — though in recent years that obstacle has been overcome by the Richmond Tigers, who have won three of the past four Premierships and according to the AFL Premiership odds are a good chance to do it again.

Is AFL only played in Australia?

Predominantly, yes. While there are organizations that support AFL for foreigners internationally, the vast majority of participants are in Australia. There are a number of reasons for this, but perhaps the most pertinent is simply the fact that the game’s idiosyncratic nature makes it a little difficult to follow for newcomers.

The sport is, however, hugely entertaining to both watch and play. It involves a unique combination of skills, and the players at the top level can do some pretty impressive things. The AFL is one of the most-watched leagues in the world, something which is a testament to the popularity of the sport in Australia and demonstrates that if you get to know the game, you’ll invariably grow to love it.