Australian football is the most popular sport in Australia and is played all over the country.
It has been around for over 150 years and is a fast paced, highly competitive game that involves running, jumping and bone on bone hits (without protective pads!). Football has become a favourite sport that Australians love to play and watch. There’s no more typically Australian experience than eating a meat pie while watching a game of football!
Australian football evolved from a game played by the Indigenous Australians called ‘Marngrook.’ In 1857, Tom Wills helped devise Australian Football with his cousins H.C.A. Harrison, W.J. Hammersley and J.B. Thompson. The Melbourne Football Club was formed on August 7, 1858 – the year of the code’s first recorded match between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar School. The game quickly blossomed and in 1866 an updated set of rules was put in place and a competition started in the state of Victoria. The South Australian Football Association was established in 1877, and the SANFL is the oldest surviving football league of any code in the nation. The Victorian Football League (VFL) was established in 1896 and the following year the league’s first games were played.
The game also spread throughout Australia and in 1987 the competition expanded to include the West Coast Eagles from Western Australia and the Brisbane Bears from Queensland. The competition changed from the VFL to the AFL in 1990 due to the expansion of the competition outside of Victoria. By 1997, the competition comprised of 16 clubs after Adelaide (in 1991), Fremantle (in 1995), and Port Adelaide (in 1997) joined the AFL. In 2011 the Gold Coast Suns joined the competition, followed by the Greater Western Sydney Giants in 2012, creating the 18 team national competition we see today.
The AFL is the highest competitive level that a person can compete at. In the AFL, teams compete against each other over 23 weekly rounds between March and August on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This is known as the ‘football season.’ The season concludes with a knockout finals series in September where the top eight teams play against each other until there are two teams left. These teams play in the Grand Final which is at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). It is Australia’s biggest sporting event of the year as over 100,000 people go to the stadium to watch this game. The team that wins the Grand Final gets the premiership trophy and they become etched into football history forever.
THE GAME EXPLAINED
The aim of football is to move the ball forward, by kicking and handballing, and score more points than the other team by kicking goals.
Players are required to be fit (both physically and mentally), strong, fast, agile and must possess knowledge of tactics and strategy. Players come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Australian football is often described as one of the most skilful games in the world. The game is unique because you are allowed to use your hands as well as your feet to handle the ball. Spectacular high marks, precise kicking, quick handballs, running bounces and bone crunching tackles are all features of the game. The three main skills however, are kicking, handballing and marking. To kick, players drop the ball from their hands onto their feet to pass the ball to a teammate or score a goal. Handballing involves balancing the ball in the palm of one hand and using your other hand to punch the ball to a team mate in close. Catching the football in your hands is known as a ‘mark.’ A mark can only be from a kick and cannot be from a handball. You are not allowed to throw the ball in football.
To score points, players must kick the ball through the two large middle posts called the ‘goals’ and this is worth six points. If the ball travels in the spaces either side of the goals, they get one point which is called a ‘behind.’ If the ball hits the large posts, the team gets a behind, but if it hits the small posts, this is a foul and the other team gets the ball.
Six points are only awarded if you kick the ball, any other body part will result in only one point .All players are allowed to score goals. The goal and behind posts are exactly 6.4 metres apart. Both team’s scores are kept during the game and will look like this after a match is finished.
TEAM GOALS BEHINDS SCORE
PORT ADELAIDE - 20 12 132
ADELAIDE - 11 9 75
The above score line reads that Port Adelaide kicked nine more goals than Adelaide and won by 57 points.
The playing field is an oval shape and is between 135 and 185 metres long and between 110 and 155 metres wide. The goals and behinds are located at either end of the ground for teams to be able to score. Two 50 metres arcs are at either end of the ground along with two goal squares. There is also a white boundary line that surrounds the playing field.
GAME START, BREAKS AND FINISH
Football games consist of four quarters lasting approximately 20 minutes plus time added on for when the ball is not in play. A typical game will last about three hours (180 minutes).The game begins with the blow of a loud siren and the umpire either bounces the ball or throws it up in the centre circle in the centre of the field. This also happens at the beginning of each quarter. There are three intervals that break up the four quarters during a game: quarter time, half time, and three quarter time. Half time is the longest interval, going for 20 minutes while the other intervals go for six minutes. To end each quarter, the siren blows and play stops.
Two teams play against each other over the four quarters aiming to score as many goals as possible. Each team playing has 18 players on the field and four substitutes on the ‘bench.’ The bench players can be swapped with any player on the field at any time during the game. Unlike other sports, Australian football allows for substitutes to be continually swapped and they are not out for the rest of the game if they leave the playing field.