AFL — What is AFL?

In this section you can learn about the game; its history, its rules, its gameplan & its strategies and its benefits over other forms of football.

Stay tuned for audio presentations of our Game History & Game Basics narrated by John Northey and ideal for new coaches and new AFL fans to listen to.


AFL player tackles the oppositionAussie rules football has been played for over 100 years at various levels throughout Australia. It has been well documented that the game, which is a mixture of Soccer, Gaelic Football and Rugby, was created to keep cricketers fit during winter.

The first official game of football was played in the parklands of Melbourne in the late1850’s and has blossomed into a multi million dollar business which appeals to many people throughout the world. Obviously the game has changed considerably over the last hundred years and there would be wide spread debate as to whether all the changes have been for the better.

Today the game is controlled by the corporate dollar with the league and many of the clubs fighting to maximise opportunities with major business, in an attempt to increase profits. This in turn gives the clubs and the league the best opportunity to be successful, which will ensure a strong supporter base for years to come.

The game of Aussie Rules is unique in that it allows participation at all levels and is able to be played by people of all shapes and sizes. Children (male and female) as young as six, right through to the veterans playing Super Rules (modified footy for over age players) competitions make up the thousands of players competing on a weekly basis throughout the world. Each of these players and the teams they represent have loyal supporters who attend each game and barrack for their team and abuse the umpires (in a light hearted manner).

Aussie rules is not an easy game to understand and the best way to simplify what it is all about is in point form as follows.


AFL player makes the balls with hands in-front of the bodyMade up of 22 players (this number does vary depending on the ages and competition your team plays in). There are only eighteen players on the playing field (oval) at one time. The other players are on the interchange bench and available for the coach to use when he wishes to change the team around or if a player gets injured. Each player must be able to play in a number of positions throughout the course of a game.

The eighteen players are placed into positions on the oval and they are split into 3 different groups. Six players play in the forward line and their job is to kick goals. Six players play in the centres or on the ball and their job is to win the ball and get it to the forward players. The other six players are in defence and their job is to stop the other team kicking goals. The team that has the highest score at the end of the match (game) is declared the winner.


Is the person who the players listen to throughout the season. He will be appointed by your club to train and teach the players, the best way to play the game. Not all his ideas will be successful and he will rely on each of his players to play with passion and enthusiasm throughout the season. The best way for the coach to remain at a club is to ensure that his team is fit and skilful.

When he has his team playing good football, they have a better chance of playing finals. When the team plays in the finals he has a better chance of coaching for another season. The ultimate aim for all coaches is to win the premiership at the end of a finals series.


is played overfour quarters, which generally last approx 20 minutes each. The game stops at the end of each of these quarters and the teams will kick to the opposite end when play resumes. The players will go to their coach at each break to receive further instruction and encouragement on how they are progressing in the game.


The competition in which the team participates. Normally the competition is made up of an even number of teams who play each other twice during the season.


The season is made up of approx eighteen weeks depending on how many teams there are competing. At the end of the season, the teams that have won the most games will compete in a final series. The number of teams that participate in finals will depend on which league your team is involved in. (eg. AFL Football has 16 teams participating in a season, of which the top 8 teams at the end of the season will participate in finals football.)


The teams participating in finals football are competing for the title of premiership team. Finals are a knockout series where teams are eliminated when they lose, with the last two teams playing off in the grand final.


The ultimate in Aussie Rules football. When the team you barrack for is playing in a grand final, you know they have had a good season. The grand final is the last game of the year and the winning team will be crowned premiers for the next 12 months and the losers will depart, planning revenge for the following season.


The opposition and out to beat your team at every opportunity. Most supporters hate the opposition team and it’s players with a passion. The opponents have a player each to stand in the match (game) and their aim is to attempt to get the ball first and kick it to their goals.


Men in white (yellow, green, red, pink) who are always right- ( the umpires now use coloured uniforms) This is the best and most accurate description for the umpires of the game.

They are neutral in support of both teams and are trained on the rules of the game. Their job is to ensure that the players from both teams follow the rules during the course of a game. In a game of football there will be a minimum of one/two central umpire who controls the rules, two boundary umpires who will signal when the ball is out of play (across the boundary line), and two goal umpires who will signal the scores.


The game is controlled by the rules of the game. The umpire polices these rules and will blow the whistle when he feels a player has broken them. Some of the common rules to assist you to understand the game include:

  • Tackling – A player must always be tackled below the shoulders and above the knees.
  • Shepherding – A player can only shepherd (protect) a teammate within 5 metres of the ball.
  • Bouncing – A player must bounce the ball approx every 15 metres when running with the ball
  • Disposal – A player must either handball or kick when disposing of the ball.


At each end of the ground there are 4 posts. The two middle (taller) posts are normally painted white and the two outside posts (smaller) are also white. Each team has a chosen end to kick the ball for each quarter (This is determined prior to the game when a captain from each team will toss a coin with the winner choosing an end to kick toward). At the end of a quarter the teams will kick to the opposite end to which they started. By the games end, both sides will have kicked each way twice during the game. To score, players are to attempt to kick the ball between the two taller posts at their end.

If the ball travels or rolls between the two white posts without being touched it is 6 points (goal) to that team and the ball is taken back to the centre where the game restarts. (Remember that the ball must have been kicked) If the ball hits the white post it is a point to the team on score and the opposition has a free kick back into play.

Should the ball be handballed or knocked through by either team through any of the scoring areas it is a point to the team kicking towards that end. Should the ball travel between a goal post but inside the red post, it is a point scored. If the ball hits the red post it is out of bounds. A goal is worth 6 points and is scored when the ball is kicked between the white posts. A point is scored when the ball hits the goal post, travels between a goal and behind post or is handball or knocked through any scoring area.

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