Australian Football

A spectator’s view of a football match.
Football player running with the ball.
Football player kicking the oval football soccer goalkeeper-style.
A jump ball-like situation in Australian Football.
A rugby-style tackle.

Australian football is extremely popular in the land Down Under, yet most people outside of the country have never heard of it. Australians, therefore, are used to explaining the game rules to foreign visitors.

The rules

In explaining the game rules of Australian football to foreigners, it is often useful to make comparisons to other sports. The Australian football pitch, to begin with, is oval-shaped and significantly longer than a soccer pitch. A game of Australian football, or “Aussie rules”, furthermore, starts with a basketball-inspired jump ball, with the player gaining control of the oval ball being allowed to run with it if he or she bounces the ball with two hands.

Preferably, any player who runs with the ball should try to get as close to the opponents’ goal line as possible to be able to score. Once near the goal line, scoring can then be done either by kicking the ball between the opponents’ two American football-style goalposts or by kicking it past any of the two side posts, all of which are situated on the goal line. Should a player be cut off before getting near the goal line, which habitually happens, he or she can always kick the ball soccer goalkeeper-style to one of his or her seventeen teammates, who will then make a new attempt at coming near the goal.

Intense and exciting

Though it might seem relatively straightforward, scoring points in Aussie rules is often difficult, since the opposing team is allowed to stop ball carriers with rugby-style tackles. These tough tackles are even allowed when players are jumping to catch the ball in the air, making games really exciting but also risky in the sense that they could lead to injuries. To try to avoid injuries, players often develop good technique and a robust physic, but given that participants in Australian football matches don’t wear any protective padding except for a mouthguard, injuries cannot always be avoided.

With Australian football being very physically demanding, in line with historical gender roles, the sport has traditionally been considered an activity for men. Nevertheless, today, women also play Aussie rules, and AFL Women’s teams average thousands of spectators per game and are growing in popularity.