Things You Need To Know About AFL

Despite what you may be thinking, what is regarded as football is in fact called soccer in Australia. For Australians, football is one of the most exciting sports in the country that has its very own league– Australian Football League (AFL). Known as footy and Aussie Rules, here is everything you need to know about this popular sport.

AFL was influenced by a variety of well-known sports

Developed by three cricketers in the mid-19th century as a way to keep fit during the winter, AFL is influenced by early forms of soccer and rugby. However, it has also been suggested that footy was influenced by Marngrook, a traditional Aboriginal game that sees players kick a ball– made of animal skin that is stuffed with charcoal or feathers– high into the air. Having developed in Australia and becoming a nationally recognised sport played by two teams consisting of 22 players each (only 18 players are on the field at once), footy is now played by over 100,000 people across 80 countries including South Africa, the USA, Canada, Denmark and Sweden.

The objective of the game is to kick the ball between the goals on the opposite end of the field. Should you kick the ball between the two middle posts, that’s a goal earning six points; however, if your ball passes through one inner and one outer post (there are four in total), the team will only receive one point.
The Wooden Spoon is awarded to the losing team

Although everyone wants to win the premiership, there is an ‘imaginary’ award that goes to the team that finishes at the bottom of the ladder. This is determined by receiving the least amount of premiership points and holding the lowest percentage; however, no physical ‘Wooden Spoon’ award exists. In the history of the game, St Kilda has won 27 wooden spoons, which is the most of any existing AFL team, followed by North Melbourne, Melbourne and Hawthorn, whilst Port Adelaide and Adelaide have not received a Wooden Spoon … yet.

AFL games have commonly been stopped for different reasons

Whilst streaking has been a continuous occurrence since it was first seen in 1982– when Helen D’Amico streaked wearing only a Carlton scarf during a Grand Final between Carlton and Richmond– there have been other reasons that games have been momentarily stopped. A favourite tale is the tale of a pig who was smuggled into the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in 1993 and was released on the field. Pausing the game, the pig was caught by a Sydney Swans player after three minutes of running loose, after which the game continued.

One of the most eagerly anticipated matches is the annual Anzac Day game.

Previously, games that fell on Anzac Day were banned, requiring an Act of Parliament for the game to go ahead. However, since the blockbuster match between two of the game’s most successful clubs– Essendon and Collingwood– occurred in 1995, drawing in one of the biggest crowds in the game’s history, the two clubs have played on the 25 April at the MCG every year. Becoming one of the most eagerly anticipated home and away games of the season, the match sees an average crowd of over 80,000 people in attendance, with millions watching live on TV.
AFL supports players with culturally diverse backgrounds

Every year, the AFL committee dedicate one round– usually in the middle of the season– to celebrate the multicultural population within Australia, with 14 percent of all players in the game coming from culturally diverse backgrounds. Further supporting the Indigenous community, nine percent of AFL players are Indigenous Australians. Many of these players– including Andrew McLeod, Gavin Wanganeen, Graham Farmer, Michael Long and Nicky Winmar– have had a huge impact on the game and their communities, winning numerous medals, including Brownlow Medals, Norm Smith Medals and AFL Rising Star awards.

Only one game has ever been played across two different days.

When the sport began, players would continue playing until one team scored two goals. In having no set playing time, one game in 1858 was reported to have occurred over three days; however, no further goals were scored, resulting in the game being drawn. Since the introduction of the set playing time– 80 minutes divided into four quarters– there has only ever been one game that lasted more than one day. In 1996, the lights in the stadium of a match between St Kilda and Essendon went out half way through the game, resulting in the rest of the match being played the following week.

There was one year without TV coverage.

Television coverage of this popular game began in 1957 when it was known as Victorian Football League (VFL). During this time, only the final quarter of the game was permitted to be televised. Despite only one quarter shown, several channels competed for the rights to broadcast different games; however, once the committee realised the televised broadcast was reducing the crowds, no coverage was allowed in 1960. For one whole year, you had to attend a game to watch it. Since then, the popularity has grown to be a part of the nation’s culture, and full games can be watched on TV.

Grand Final scores are more common than you think.

There have been three winning grand final scores that have each been registered seven times in the game’s history– 68, 85, 89. Although these are most common, the highest score ever recorded was Carlton’s win against Richmond in the 1972 grand final, seeing the score stand at 177, whilst the lowest recorded winning score was by Richmond with 13, against Collingwood in 1927.

The longest ever suspension was 99 weeks.

In 1910, two Carlton players– Doug Fraser and Alex Lang– were both found guilty of bribery, resulting in a suspension lasting 99 weeks each. This record suspension has not been witnessed since; however, North Melbourne player Fred Rutley was reported six times in one match against Geelong in 1925– two kicking, three striking and one melee– resulting in an 89-week suspension.

Pausing the game, the pig was caught by a Sydney Swans player after three minutes of running loose, after which the game continued.

Previously, games that fell on Anzac Day were banned, requiring an Act of Parliament for the game to go ahead. Since the blockbuster match between two of the game’s most successful clubs– Essendon and Collingwood– occurred in 1995, drawing in one of the biggest crowds in the game’s history, the two clubs have played on the 25 April at the MCG every year. In having no set playing time, one game in 1858 was reported to have occurred over three days; however, no further goals were scored, resulting in the game being drawn. Since the introduction of the set playing time– 80 minutes divided into four quarters– there has only ever been one game that lasted more than one day.

Australia’s most popular sport

If you felt dazed and confused while watching Saturday’s AFL Grand Final, then you’re not alone. Although Australian Football may be Australia’s most popular sport, many people fail to understand the game. Fear not, as we at The Culture Trip are here to help with easy-to-comprehend explanations of everything from scoring to season structure, rules and clubs. With this guide, you’ll be well prepared for the next football season.

A Brief History

Conceptualised by Tom Wills in 1858 as a way to keep cricketers fit during winter, the Australian Football League (AFL), originally known as the Victorian Football Association (VFA), is a unique game that combines aspects from other types of football. The AFL attracts the highest amount of spectators of any sport in Australia and the fourth-highest attendance of any professional sport in the world with an average of 33,461 people per game.

The Game

Played on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, each AFL game is divided into four 20-minute quarters with a 20-minute break at halftime, plus time on, also known as stoppage time, for goals, injuries or when the ball goes out of bounds. In 2015 the average AFL game lasted 122 minutes.

The Oval

AFL is played on a grass oval which does not need to be a specific size as long as it measures 135– 185 metres long and 110– 155 metres wide. The field is marked with a boundary line indicating the area of play, a curved fifty-metre line, a centre square, a goal square and centre circles.

There are currently 16 venues across every state in Australia capable of hosting AFL games, with the largest being the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which has a capacity of 100,024 and hosts the Grand Final each year.

The Season

The AFL season kicks off with the pre-season NAB Challenge followed by 23 home and away rounds, which run through the winter from March to September. The top eight teams then proceed to compete in a four-week finals series in September, resulting in the top two teams then battling it out at the MCG to decide the champion. The winning team receives a silver premiership cup and a navy-blue premiership flag, and their win is recorded on the permanent E. L. Wilson Shield. Each player is also awarded a premiership medallion.

Clubs

There are 18 clubs in the AFL from five different states: Adelaide and Port Adelaide from South Australia; Brisbane and Gold Coast from Queensland; Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Geelong, Hawthorn, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda and Western Bulldogs from Victoria; Fremantle and West Coast from Western Australia; and Greater Western Sydney and Sydney Swans from New South Wales. The majority of clubs are Victorian, including the game’s oldest club, Melbourne, which dates back to 1858. In contrast, the youngest team in the AFL, Greater Western Sydney, played their first round in 2012.

Each club has both a senior and a rookie list of players, with a total of approximately 45 players per team. Each week 22 players are selected for the game, with 18 allowed on the field while the remaining four sit on the bench.

Rules

In order to move the football up the field players are permitted to kick, handball or run with it, permitting they bounce it every 15 metres.

Free kicks are awarded when the umpire deems that a player has either incorrectly disposed of the ball, pushed a player in the back, tackled above the shoulders, pulled another player or held, kicked the ball over the boundary line, or been overly aggressive.

Tackling in AFL, similar to rugby and American football, sees players attempting to stop the other team from progressing by making contact with them below the shoulders and above the knees. When a player is tackled they must release the ball by kicking or handballing it. If the umpire deems the player had the opportunity to release the ball but didn’t, a free kick is awarded to the tackling team, if a ball up isn’t called.

A ball up is similar to a tip-off in basketball, where two ruckmen attempt to hit the ball after the umpire throws it up to restart play.

A mark is when a player kicks the ball over 15 meters to another player and it is successfully caught. The player who caught the ball is then awarded space and time to make the next play without pressure.

A handball, different to a throw, is when the ball is punched using the alternative fist to catapult the ball from the opposite hand (think of an underhand serve in volleyball). A handball is used to move the ball between teammates without having to kick it.

Stoppage in an AFL game

Any player on the field can attempt to score by kicking the ball through the goal posts. There are four posts positioned at either end of the field; the taller posts are goal posts, which are flanked by two shorter posts called behind posts. A goal, equivalent to six points, is awarded when the ball is kicked through the two middle posts, while a single point, or behind, is awarded when the ball goes between an outside and middle post.

Tackling in AFL, similar to american and rugby football, sees players attempting to stop the other team from progressing by making contact with them below the shoulders and above the knees. When a player is tackled they must release the ball by kicking or handballing it. If the umpire deems the player had the opportunity to release the ball but didn’t, a free kick is awarded to the tackling team, if a ball up isn’t called.

Any player on the field can attempt to score by kicking the ball through the goal posts. A goal, equivalent to six points, is awarded when the ball is kicked through the two middle posts, while a single point, or behind, is awarded when the ball goes between an outside and middle post.