Footy is a way of life in most of Australia. However, any Aussie who has tried to explain the rules to a newcomer knows the sport is anything but simple. Test your knowledge here!
AFL is the abbreviation for the Australian Football League. It was originally called the Victorian Football League, which splintered off from the Victorian Football Association.
Each game of footy consists of four official quarters, all of even length. There is also extra time at the end of each game, the length of which depends on how the quarters went.
Each quarter in a football game is 20 minutes long. The game can be stopped for extreme injuries, balls going out of bounds or scores. The players have 6 minutes between each quarter to recover.
While it would not be called the AFL for nearly a century, the sport began in Australia in approximately 1858. It was originally called the Victorian Football League, and what was called "Victorian rules" became the oldest written code of rules in football history.
Unlike UK and American football, which are both played on rectangles, Aussie footy is played on an oval field. Regulations state that the oval must be "between 135–185 metres in length and 110–155 metres in width".
There are four posts at each end of the field which are used for scoring. The distance between each post is exactly 6.4 meters
It is expressly against the rules to tackle players below the knees or above the shoulders. As a rule, aim for the abdomen and the tackle will be allowed.
Players are allowed to run while carrying the ball, but the ball must bounce or touch the ground every 15 meters. Options for getting rid of the ball include kicking, bouncing or hitting it with your hand.
The drop punt is the most common kick used in Aussie Rules Football because it is considered to be the most accurate. The ball turns end over end, which makes it easier for teammates to follow the ball and catch it.
Grubbers are a type of kick that makes the ball roll and skid along the ground. It makes it harder for the opposition to pick up the ball, but it also is less accurate and harder to control.
A torpedo punt causes the ball to spin on its long axis, making it travel farther but harder to catch. It's also called a spiral, barrel or screw punt.
The banana, also called the snap, is a kick that goes across the body to go sideways in a helicopter spin. They are usually used to score shots on goal from a player on the run.
The checkside punt is considered to be a "cousin of the banana," and is far more difficult to pull off. The ball is kicked away from the body by the outside of the player's foot.
A mark occurs when a player catches a ball and is awarded possession. The mark is when the ball travels 15 meters without being touched before it is caught. Each year, an award is given for The Mark of The Year.
If a kick lands in between the two big posts, it is worth 6 points. If it hits one of the large posts, that's one point. If it goes between one big post and one small post, it's also worth one point. If it hits a small post, that's no points. If a player touches it before it goes over the line, that is also one point.
Aussie Rules dictate that teams switch sides of the field at the end of each quarter. This is similar to American football, but different from British football, where the teams switch at halftime.
Each team has 22 players who are chosen to play. 18 players go onto the field, and the remaining four are on the bench waiting to interchange.
Each game has three umpires, with each concentrating on one-third of the field. The primary responsibility of the umpires is start play, enforce penalties and award marks.
The shorter posts are set farther back than the taller goal posts and are often referred to as behind posts. "Behind" has come to mean any score worth one point, such as the ball hitting the post or being touched by an opposing player.
If a team wins a game, they are awarded four points on the premiership table. If the game ends in a draw or tie, each team gets two points.
Forwards stay close to their team's scoring posts and score goals. Midfielders get the ball from the defenders to the forwards. Defenders stay close to the opposing team's scoring posts and try to block their scoring attempts.
Regular season games are referred to as "home and aways" and each season has 23 of these games. This doesn't count the games that make up the four rounds of finals.
Teams are eliminated when they lose. This goes on until there are only 2 teams left, which face off in the AFL Grand Final.
Similar to the rules of British football, players are not allowed to throw the ball. However, they are allowed to punch it off their palm, similar to a volleyball serve.
The central bounce has been compared to a tip-off in basketball, where the ref/ump throws the ball and members of the opposing team jump up and try to hit it toward their teammates. In footy, the ball is thrown down so it bounces up. There is a coin toss, but it is to determine starting goals.
Because different types of goals are worth different point values, it's entirely possible for the team with fewer goals to win the game. This is when strategy comes into play while scoring.
In a move aimed to lower serious injury, especially in kid leagues, the AFL decided that pushing a player in the back would result in a free kick for the team of the player who was pushed. It is important that if a player is tackled from the behind, they are not sent downward or forward at all because that will counted as a push.
Shepherding is when players clear a path for their teammate by getting the opposing team out of the way, usually by way of hip and shoulder bumping. It is similar to screening in basketball or blocking in American football.
When a player runs from the goal front toward the center of the ground, this is called a lead. Its purpose is to provide a target to kick to for the midfielders bringing the ball up.
Melbourne is the home of Aussie Football, and it is tradition to host the Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the last Sunday in September. This is contractually guaranteed until 2037.
Tradition states that when a team wins, they return to the clubrooms, link arms and sing their club song. There's no official tradition for the losing team.
Until 2016, the rule was that if the Grand Final ended in a draw, the entire match would be replayed the following week until someone one. However, in 2016, the AFL ruled that draws would now be settled with the use of extra time until a winner was established.
As previously stated, the umpires do flip a coin at the beginning of the game. It determines which team is aiming for which goal for the first quarter of the game.
Footy is so popular that the Friday before the Grand Final has become a public holiday. This is due to the parade that takes place the Friday before the game and the incredible attendance it draws.
Sirens are used to signal the beginning and end of each quarter. The AFL siren sounds similar to a train whistle.