Hello, non-Australian sports fans! I want to give a quick overview of Aussie Rules Football.
Every sport is shut down right now, except the Australian Football League (AFL). They play Aussie Rules Football. Aussie Rules Football is not Rugby.
Aussie Rules Football is played on a cricket field. Cricket fields are massive! They are in the shape of an oval, approximately 171 yards long and 146 yards wide. (Those are the dimensions of the Melbourne Cricket Ground [aka MCG aka The G], which is where the biggest AFL matches happen.)
Aussie Rules Football is about kicking the ball. Players can touch the ball with their hands and carry it. Points are scored by kicking the ball.
Here’s a diagram I made for a guy in a bar:
The dots at the top and bottom of the field are huge goalposts.
Goals (6 points) and Behinds (1 point) are scored by kicking the ball in between the goalposts. There is no crossbar. The ball can fly through the air or roll across the ground. Points are scored as long as A) the ball was kicked, B) no player touched the ball in-flight, and C) the ball passes through the goalposts.
Aussie Rules Football has a lot of punting, as it would be called in the NFL. When you hear “rugby style punter”, that is BULL. A guy punting the ball as he’s running is an Aussie style punter! Watch an AFL game, and you will see a ton of punting while running.
There are a bunch of guys on the field at the same time. Eighteen for each team, I think. I haven’t figured out the nitty gritty of Aussie Rules strategy yet.
What I have figured out is some basic Aussie Rules Football rules, such as:
-If a teammate catches a punted ball CLEANLY (cannot be tipped; I’m unclear on how much bobbling is allowed), it’s called a Mark. After a Mark, the player who caught the ball gets a Free Kick. No opposing player can go beyond the spot of the Mark (a “catch” in the NFL) to defend. Free Kicks after “taking a Mark” are a common way to score.
-A player can choose to eschew the post-Mark Free Kick and run with the ball. Which brings us to…
-RUNNING. Running with the ball is allowed in Aussie Rules Football. The limitation is, a player can’t run very far without bouncing the ball, like in basketball. In the NBA they call it dribbling, in the AFL they call it taking a bounce.
-How many steps before an AFL player has to “take a bounce”? I have no idea! It appears to be a referee judgment call. Personally, I have never seen a foul called for taking too many steps without a bounce.
-PASSING. NFL style passing is not allowed in Aussie Rules Football, but volleyball style fistbumps are. Fistbumps are called Hand Passes.
-KICKING. Kicking the ball is always allowed, unless someone else possesses it. Running punts, standing punts, walking punts, soccer style kicks off the ground; you’ll see them all in Aussie Rules Football.
-Safety is a big deal. They wear no pads, and they tackle! Tackling is allowed only between the waist and the shoulders.
-The refs do a lot of “jump balls”, as NBA fans might call them. If someone gets tackled to the ground and can’t cleanly handpass or kick the ball, then there’s a jump ball. If the ball goes out of bounds, the ref does a jump ball by tossing the ball backwards as high and far as he can, like a bride tossing a bouquet to her bridesmaids.
I am not an Aussie Rules expert! That said, here are some game strategies I’ve picked up:
- Marks are very important! Some teams use short kicks to move the ball up the field, trying to get in position to score.
- Possession is huge. Once a team has possession, they’ll often try to do a lot of short punts (often in an attempt to get Marks) and Hand Passes (which, remember, are actually volleyball style fistbumps) in order to move the ball between teammates as they go upfield.
- There is lots of jumping for possession of an airborne ball (like NBA rebounding!).
- There is no “blocking” or “line of scrimmage”. The player movement is more akin to soccer, although there is no offsides.
I hope you all check out Aussie Rules Football.
I am writing this on the evening of March 19, 2020. The next game on FS1 (Fox Sports 1) is on March 20 at 7:45 pm Pacific time.
If you really enjoy Aussie Rules Football, you can get an NFL Sunday Ticket style package via the Watch AFL app. Last year I paid $120 for the package. If allows you to watch every AFL game, right through the Grand Final (which is like the Super Bowl, at least in the Australian state of Victoria [where Melbourne is located]).