Checked content

Australian rules football

Related subjects: Sports

Background Information

SOS Children offer a complete download of this selection for schools for use on schools intranets. All children available for child sponsorship from SOS Children are looked after in a family home by the charity. Read more...

Australian football
Stoppage in an AFL game.jpg
A ball-up in a game between Essendon and Hawthorn during the 2007 AFL season.
Highest governing body AFL Commission
Nickname(s) Football, footy, Aussie rules
First played 1859 in Melbourne, Australia
Registered players 693,052 (total) (2008)
130,000 (adult) (2007)
Clubs 2,659
Contact Full contact
Team members 22 (18 onfield)
Mixed gender Single (at senior level)
Categorization Outdoor
Equipment Football
Olympic Demonstration sport, 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Australian rules football, officially known as Australian football, also called football, footy or Aussie rules (and in some regions is marketed as AFL, after the Australian Football League, the only fully professional Australian football league) is a sport played between two teams of 18 players on the field on either an Australian Football ground, a modified cricket field or similar sized sports venue.

The game's objective is to move the ball downfield and kick the ball through the team's goal. The main way to score points is by kicking the ball between the two tall goal posts. The team with the higher total score at the end of the match wins unless either a draw is declared or a tie-break is used.

During general play, players may position themselves anywhere on the field and use any part of their bodies to move the ball. The primary methods are kicking, handballing and running with the ball. There are rules on how the ball can be handled: for example, players running with the ball must intermittently bounce or touch it on the ground. Throwing the ball is not allowed and players must not get caught holding the ball. Possession of the ball is in dispute at all times except when a free kick or mark is paid. A distinctive feature of the game is the mark, where players anywhere on the field who catch a ball from a kick (with specific conditions) are awarded possession. Australian Football is a contact sport, in which players can tackle using their hands or use their whole body to obstruct opponents. Dangerous physical contact (such as pushing an opponent in the back), interference when marking and deliberately slowing the play are discouraged with free kicks, distance penalties or suspension for a certain number of matches, depending on the seriousness of the infringement. Frequent physical contests, spectacular marking, fast movement of both players and the ball and high scoring are the game's main attributes.

Details of the game's origins in Australia are obscure and still the subject of much debate. Australian football became organised in Melbourne in May 1859, when the first laws of the game were published by the Melbourne Football Club.

Australian football is the major participation and spectator sport in Australia. The sport is also played at amateur level in many countries and in several variations.

The most prestigious competition is the Australian Football League (AFL), culminating in the annual AFL Grand Final, currently the highest attended club championship event in the world. The rules of Australian football are governed by the AFL Commission with the advice of the AFL's Laws of the Game Committee.

Laws of the game


Typical Australian rules football playing field.

Both the ball and the field of play are elliptical in shape. No more than 18 players of each team are permitted to be on the field at any time.

Up to four interchange (reserve) players may be swapped for those on the field at any time during the game. In Australian rules terminology, these players wait for substitution "on the bench"—an area with a row of seats on the sideline. Players must interchange through a designated interchange "gate" with strict penalties for too many players from one side on the field. In addition, some leagues like the AFL have each team designate one player as a substitute that can be used to make a single permanent exchange of players during a game.

There is no offside rule nor are there set positions in the rules; unlike many other forms of football, players from both teams may disperse across the whole field before the start of play. However, a typical on-field structure consists of six forwards, six defenders or "backmen" and six midfielders, usually two wingmen, one centre and three followers, including a ruckman, ruck-rover and rover. Only four players from each team are allowed within the centre square (50 metres (55 yd)) at every centre bounce, which occurs at the commencement of each quarter, and to restart the game after a goal is scored. There are also other rules pertaining to allowed player positions during set plays (that is after a mark or free kick) and during kick-ins following the scoring of a behind.

Match duration

A game consists of four quarters and a timekeeper officiates their duration. Quarters are 20 minutes long at professional level. The clock stops if a team scores, the ball goes out of play or at the umpire's discretion. The umpire signals time-off to stop the clock for various reasons, such as the player in possession being tackled to the ground and leading to stagnant play as neither side can recover the ball. Time resumes when the umpire signals time-on. The official game clock is only known on the field by the timekeepers. Official game time is not displayed to the players or the public; the only knowledge they have of time is when sirens sound to mark the beginning and end of each quarter. Official time may be approximated by broadcasters to display to television audiences. Teams change ends at the end of each quarter.

General play

Marking (catching) the ball is an important skill. (Pictured: Essendon great John Coleman takes a specky in 1950.)

Games are officiated by umpires. Australian football begins after the first siren, the umpire bounces the ball on the ground (or throws it into the air if the condition of the ground is poor), and the two ruckmen (typically the tallest players from each team), battle for the ball in the air on its way back down. This is known as the ball-up. Certain disputes during play may also be settled with a ball-up from the point of contention. If the ball ever goes out of bounds (beyond the oval boundary line around the edge of the field), a boundary umpire will stand with his back to the infield and return the ball into play with a throw-in, a high backwards toss back into the field of play.

The ball can be propelled in any direction by way of a foot, clenched fist (called a handball or handpass) or open-hand tap but it cannot be thrown under any circumstances. Once a player takes possession of the ball he must dispose of it by either kicking or handballing it. Any other method of disposal is illegal and will result in a free kick to the opposing team. This is usually called "incorrect disposal", "dropping the ball" or "throwing". If the ball is not in the possession of one player it can be moved on with any part of the body.

A player may run with the ball but it must be bounced or touched on the ground at least once every 15 metres. Opposition players may bump or tackle the player to obtain the ball and, when tackled, the player must dispose of the ball cleanly or risk being penalised for holding the ball. The ball carrier may only be tackled between the shoulders and knees. If the opposition player forcefully contacts a player in the back whilst performing a tackle, the opposition player will be penalised for a push in the back. If the opposition tackles the player with possession below the knees (a low tackle or a trip) or above the shoulders (a high tackle), the team with possession of the football gets a free kick.

Precise field and goal kicking is the most important skill in Australian football

If a player takes possession of the ball that has travelled more than 15 metres (16 yd) from another player's kick, by way of a catch, it is claimed as a mark (meaning that the game stops while he prepares to kick from the point at which he marked). Alternatively, he may choose to "play on": forfeiting the set shot in the hope of pressing an advantage for his team (rather than allowing the opposition to reposition while he prepares for the free kick). Once a player has chosen to play on, normal play resumes and the player who took the mark is again able to be tackled.

There are different styles of kicking depending on how the ball is held in the hand. The most common style of kicking seen in today's game, principally because of its superior accuracy, is the drop punt, where the ball is dropped from the hands down, almost to the ground, to be kicked so that the ball rotates in a reverse end over end motion as it travels through the air. Other commonly used kicks are the torpedo punt (also known as the spiral, barrel, or screw punt), where the ball is held flatter at an angle across the body, which makes the ball spin around its long axis in the air, resulting in extra distance (similar to the traditional motion of an American football punt), and the checkside punt or "banana", kicked across the ball on the outside of the foot is used to curve the ball (towards the right if kicked off the right foot) towards targets that are on an angle. There is also the "snap", which is almost the same as a checkside punt, except that it is kicked off the inside of the foot and curves in the opposite direction. It is also possible to kick the ball so that it bounces along the ground. This is known as a "grubber". Grubbers can bounce in a straight line, or curve to the left or right.

Apart from free kicks, marks or when the ball is in the possession of an umpire for a ball up or throw in, the ball is always in dispute and any player from either side can take possession of the ball.


The two tall central posts are the goal posts, and the two shorter outer posts are the behind posts

A goal, worth 6 points, is scored when the football is propelled through the goal posts at any height (including above the height of the posts) by way of a kick from the attacking team. It may fly through "on the full" (without touching the ground) or bounce through, but must not have been touched, on the way, by any player from either team. A goal cannot be scored from the foot of an opposition (defending) player.

A behind, worth 1 point, is scored when the ball passes between a goal post and a behind post at any height, or if the ball hits a goal post, or if any player sends the ball between the goal posts by touching it with any part of the body other than a foot. A behind is also awarded to the attacking team if the ball touches any part of an opposition player, including his foot, before passing between the goal posts. When an opposition player deliberately scores a behind for the attacking team (generally as a last resort, because of the risk of their scoring a goal) this is termed a rushed behind. Before the start of the 2009 season, there was no additional penalty imposed for rushing a behind, compared to any other behind. However, for the start of the 2009 season a new rule was announced awarding a free kick against any player who deliberately rushes a behind.

The goal umpire signals a goal with two hands raised at elbow height, a behind with one hand, and then confirms the signal with the other goal umpire by waving flags above his head.

The team that has scored the most points at the end of play wins the game. If the scores are level on points at the end of play, then the game is a draw; extra time applies only during finals matches in some competitions.

As an example of a score report, consider a match between Collingwood and St Kilda. Collingwood's score of 16 goals and 12 behinds equates to 108 points. St Kilda's score of 7 goals and 10 behinds equates to a 52 point tally. Collingwood wins the match by a margin of 56 points. Such a result would be written as:

" Collingwood 16.12 (108) defeated St Kilda 7.10 (52)."

And said:

"Collingwood, sixteen-twelve, one hundred and eight, defeated St Kilda seven-ten, fifty-two".

Additionally, it can be said that:

"Collingwood defeated St Kilda by fifty-six points".

The home team is typically listed first and the visiting side is listed second. The scoreline is written with respect to the home side.

For example, Port Adelaide won in successive weeks, once as the home side and once as the visiting side. These would be written out thus:

" Port Adelaide 23.20 (158) defeated Essendon 8.14 (62)."
" West Coast 17.13 (115) defeated by Port Adelaide 18.10 (118)."

Structure and competitions

The football season, proper, is from March to August (early autumn to late winter in Australia) with finals being held in September and October. In the tropics, the game is sometimes played in the wet season (October to March). Pre-season competitions in southern Australia usually begin in late February.

The AFL is recognised by the Australian Sports Commission as being the National Sporting Organisation for Australian Football. There are also seven state/territory-based organisations in Australia, most of which are now either owned by or affiliated to the AFL.

Most of these hold annual semi-professional club competitions while the others oversee more than one league. Local semi-professional or amateur organisations and competitions are often affiliated to their state organisations.

The AFL is the de facto world governing body for Australian Football. There are also a number of affiliated organisations governing amateur clubs and competitions around the world.

For almost all Australian rules club competitions the aim is to win the Premiership. The premiership is always decided by a finals series. The teams that occupy the highest positions on the ladder play off in a "semi-knockout" finals series. From the 1930s the finals series was usually contested by the top four teams (3rd versus 4th (First semifinal); 1st versus 2nd (Second semifinal); winner of First versus loser of Second (Preliminary final); the winner of Second versus winner of Preliminary playing in the Grand Final for the premiership). Many leagues have adopted a final series involving five, six or eight teams with a variety of methods used to determine the winner. The AFL finals system is contested by the top eight teams.

Unlike many association football competitions there are usually no separate "league" and "cup" trophies. The team finishing first on the ladder is often referred to as a "minor premier", although this bears little or no significance. In the AFL, this is the McClelland Trophy and is considered a consolation prize. The team that finishes at the bottom of the ladder at the end of the season receives "the wooden spoon".

It is uncommon for promotion and relegation to occur in Australian football state level competitions although it is common among suburban leagues (such as the Eastern Football League and Victorian Amateur Football Association in Melbourne).



A statue next to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the approximate site of the 1858 "foot-ball" match between Melbourne Grammar and Scotch College. Tom Wills is depicted umpiring behind two young players contesting the ball. The plaque reads: "Wills did more than any other person – as footballer and umpire, co-writer of the rules and promoter of the game – to develop Australian Football during its first decade."

As early as 1841, there is documented evidence of "foot-ball" being played in metropolitan and country Victoria as well as mention of early matches in Adelaide (1843) and southern Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). While the exact rules being played in these matches are unknown they may have shared similarities and influences.

In 1858 English public school football games began to be played in Melbourne and surrounding districts. The earliest known such match was played on 15 June 1858 between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar School on the St Kilda foreshore.

A letter by Tom Wills was published in Bell's Life in Victoria & Sporting Chronicle on 10 July 1858, calling for a "foot-ball club", or some other "athletic game", with a "code of laws" to keep cricketers fit during winter. This letter is regarded by many historians as being a catalyst for the development of a new code of football in 1859 today known as Australian football.

On 31 July, a knock-a-bout match at Yarra Park was played between a "St Kilda scratch team" and "Melbourne scratch team". Trees were used for goal posts and there were no boundaries and the match lasted from 1 p.m. until dark. There were no rules and fights frequently broke out. Melbourne being a relatively young city, the majority of the early players were migrants and the media of the time noted that participants of each nationality played the game their own distinctive way: the English played in a fashion that resembled rugby football, the Scots played recklessly, and the Irish played in a fashion that resembled the Irish sport of Gaelic football. How the Welsh played is unknown.

Another significant milestone in the sport's development was a match between Melbourne Grammar School and Scotch College, which began on 7 August 1858 at Richmond Park, was umpired by Wills and Macadam, and which also involved Scotch College headmaster Thomas H. Smith. A second day of play took place on 21 August and a third, and final, day on 4 September. While the full rules that were used is unknown, some details of the match survived. It was played with a round ball, the distance between the goals was approximately half a mile (approximately four times longer than the modern Melbourne Cricket Ground playing surface), there were 40 players per side and one goal each side was scored with the game being declared a draw. The two schools have competed annually ever since for the Cordner-Eggleston Cup.

First rules

The Melbourne Football Club rules of 1859 are the oldest surviving set of laws for Australian football. The ten simple rules were drawn up on 17 May in a meeting was chaired by Wills and in attendance were journalists W. J. Hammersley and J. B. Thompson. Accounts of the people directly involved differ. Some sources claim that Thomas H. Smith, Alex Bruce and or H. C. A. Harrison were also present. The meeting was held at the Parade Hotel, East Melbourne hosted by owner and Melbourne Cricket Club member Jerry Bryant. The publican was a friend of Tom Wills with a personal interest in introducing football to Melbourne's schools. Bryant had played a role in organising early football matches at the nearby Richmond Park and his son was one of the first players. The rules were signed by Tom Wills, William Hammersley, J. Sewell, J. B. Thompson, Alex Bruce, T. Butterworth and Thomas H. Smith. Importantly, the rules were widely publicised and distributed.

Early competition in Victoria

A game at the Richmond Paddock in the 1860s. A pavilion at the MCG is on the left in the background. (A wood engraving made by Robert Bruce on 27 July 1866.)

In 1859 several new football clubs formed including the Castlemaine Football Club, Geelong Football Club (which Wills directly helped to form) and the Melbourne University Football Club. While many one-off matches are recorded to have taken place between several early teams from Melbourne's suburbs and country Victoria (such as the Ballarat and Geelong competitions), in the early days many had not yet formed clubs for regular competition.

The first ever trophy for Australian Football, the 1861 Challenge Cup, was won in 1862 under Melbourne's rules by University over Melbourne. The competition continued into the 1860s with the addition of other teams from Melbourne's suburbs. Two further competitions, the South Yarra Challenge Cup (which had evolved from the Caledonian Games) and "Second Twenties" were held in the 1860s and 1870s.

Some rival rules eventually gave way to an acceptance of the Melbourne rules. In 1860, the Melbourne Football Club redrafted its rules following the input of several other clubs. The requirement to bounce the ball while running was introduced in a significant redraft of the Melbourne rules in 1866 by H. C. A. Harrison and his rules committee to satisfy the Geelong Football Club's own set of very different rules. Behind posts, introduced at this time, are also believed to have come directly from the Geelong rules. The new rules became known as the Victorian rules, which became more widely adopted. In 1869, a 100-minute time limit was introduced to the game for the first time. Previous to this, winners were decided in a number of ways, but most commonly the first side to kick two goals.

The relationship with cricket primarily came out of co-existence and many of football's founders were cricketers. As a result, the sport shares some terminology (i.e. "umpires" and "boundary"). However cricket authorities did not initially allow football to be played on their grounds and in the early years football was played primarily in parks. The first football match played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) was not until 1876. Cricket authorities soon saw the opportunity to capitalise on the rapid growth of Australian football, however, and soon most grounds in Victoria were expanded to accommodate the dual purpose, a situation that continues to this day.

Football matches between 1859 and 1899 were played in a 20-per-side format.

Spread to other colonies

Engraving of the first intercolonial football match between Victoria and South Australia at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground, 1879. Victoria won 7 goals to 0.

Gradually the game—known at first as "Melbourne rules" became "Victorian rules" and then "Australian rules" or "Australasian rules" gained roots in other Australasian colonies, beginning with South Australia (1860), Tasmania (1864), Queensland (1866), and New Zealand (1871). In 1877, the sport's first governing bodies, the South Australian Football Association and the Victorian Football Association were formed on 30 April and 17 May respectively. The game began to be played in New South Wales in 1877, in Western Australia in 1881 (during the 1880s, young men sent to school in Adelaide brought the game home when they had finished their education—more came from the eastern states later in the WA gold rush) and the Australian Capital Territory in 1911. By 1916, the game was first played in the Northern Territory, establishing a permanent presence in all Australian states and mainland territories.

The South Australian National Football League (SANFL), formerly named the South Australian Football Association, and the West Australian Football League (WAFL), formerly named the Western Australian Football Association, were strong, separate competitions by the 1890s. However, late in the century the code began to decline in New South Wales and Queensland largely due to competition with other more popular football codes, as well as interstate rivalries and the lack of strong local governing bodies. In the case of Sydney, denial of access to grounds and the loss of professional players to other football codes directly inhibited to the game's growth.

The first intercolonial match had been played between Victoria and South Australia on 2 August 1879.

Emergence of the VFL

In 1896, delegates from the stronger and wealthier VFA clubs—Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, St Kilda and South Melbourne—met to form a breakaway competition and in 1897, the Victorian Football League (VFL), was born as an eight-team competition. Popularity of the VFL grew rapidly and by 1925 with 12 teams, had become the most prominent league in the game and would dominate so many aspects of the sport from that point on.

Effects of the two world wars

Australian soldiers, sailors, and airmen take part in an impromptu game of end-to-end Australian rules football in Central Australia in 1944.
A NSW player outmarks a West Australian opponent in the goal square at the 1933 Australian Football Carnival at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Both World War I and World War II had a devastating effect on the sport of Australian football and on Australian sport in general. While scratch matches were played by Australian " diggers" in remote locations around the world, the game lost many of its great players to wartime service. Some competitions never fully recovered. Between 1914 and 1915 talks were held for a proposed amalgamation with rugby league, the predominant code of football in New South Wales and Queensland was considered and trialled. World War I saw the game in New Zealand go into recess for three quarters of a century. In Queensland, the state league went into recess for the duration of the war. VFL club University left the league and went into recess due to severe casualties. The WAFL lost two clubs and the SANFL was suspended for one year in 1916 due to heavy club losses. The ANZAC Day clash is one example of how the war continues to be remembered in the football community.

Interstate football and the Australian National Football Council

The Australian National Football Council's primary role was to govern the game at national level to facilitate interstate representative and club competition.

The ANFC ran the Championship of Australia, the first national club competition, which commenced in 1888 and saw clubs from different states compete on an even playing field. During this time, the Port Adelaide won a record four national club championships. Although clubs from other states were at times invited, the final was almost always between the premiers from the two strongest state competitions of the time—South Australia and Victoria—and the majority of matches were played in Adelaide at the request of the SAFA/SAFL. By the 1960s, as VFL clubs increasingly recruited the best players from other states, they began to dominate the competition and the last match was played in 1976, with North Adelaide being the last non-Victorian winner in 1972. Between 1977 and 1987, the Australian Football Council (AFC) in conjunction with the VFL ran a night series, which invited clubs and representative sides from around the country to participate in the "National Football League" for the Wills Cup, however Victorian sides still dominated.

With the lack of international competition, representative matches between state teams were regarded with great importance. Originating from the early intercolonial matches, these tests continued well after Federation of Australia in 1901 and the Australian Football Council co-ordinated regular interstate carnivals. In 1908, a Jubilee Australasian Football Carnival was held to celebrate 50 years of Australian Football. The carnival included teams representing Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia and New Zealand. Again, due primarily to the VFL recruiting the best players, Victoria dominated interstate matches for three quarters of a century. Representative football was kept alive longer than the national club competition with the introduction of State of origin rules in 1977. The new rules mean that rather than representing the state of their adopted club, players would return to play for the state they were first recruited in. This instantly broke Victoria's stranglehold over state titles and Western Australia and South Australia began to win many of their games against Victoria. Both New South Wales and Tasmania scored surprise victories at home against Victoria in 1990.

Towards a national club competition

An AFL Premiership season match at Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast between Adelaide and Melbourne. The AFL is the most attended national competition in Australia and the only fully professional league for Australian football in the world.

In 1978, the term Barassi Line was used to describe the dichotomy that existed in Australia's football culture, where Australian Football was most popular in all states bar New South Wales and Queensland. This description prompted the first suggestions of regular interstate club competition and of overcoming the dichotomy and establishing a national league.

By 1980, the way the game was played had changed dramatically due to innovative coaching tactics, with the phasing out of many of the game's kicking styles and the increasing use of handball; whilst presentation was influenced by television.

In 1982, in a move that heralded big changes within the sport, one of the original VFL clubs and now struggling, South Melbourne, relocated to Sydney and became known as the Sydney Swans. In the late 1980s, due to the poor financial standing of many of the Victorian clubs, the VFL pursued a more national competition. Two more non-Victorian clubs, the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Bears began playing in 1987. In their early years, the Sydney and Brisbane clubs struggled both on and off-field because the substantial TV revenues they generated by playing on a Sunday went to the VFL. To protect these revenues the VFL granted significant draft concessions and financial aid to keep them competitive. Each club was required to pay a licence fee which allowed the Victorian based clubs to survive.

The league changed its name to the Australian Football League (AFL) following the 1989 season. In 1991, it gained its first South Australian team, Adelaide, which paid five million dollars to enter the AFL. During the next five years, two more non-Victorian teams, Fremantle and Port Adelaide, joined the league. From 2011 to 2012 two new teams were added to the competition—the Gold Coast Suns in 2011 and the Greater Western Sydney Giants in 2012. The AFL, currently with 18 member clubs, is the sport's elite competition and the most powerful body and continues to seek further opportunities to expand into new markets.

Following the emergence of the Australian Football League, the SANFL, WAFL and other state leagues rapidly declined to a secondary status. Apart from these there are many semi-professional and amateur leagues around Australia, where they play a very important role in the community, and particularly so in rural areas. The VFA, still in existence a century after the original schism, merged with the former VFL reserves competition in 1998. The new entity adopted the VFL name and remained a primarily state-based competition.

State of origin games also declined in importance, especially after an increasing number of withdrawals by AFL players. The AFL turned its focus for representation to an annual International Rules Series against Ireland in 1998 before abolishing State of Origin in 1999. The second-tier state and territorial leagues still contest interstate representative matches.

Although Tasmanian AFL Bid has been ongoing, the AFL's focus has become gaining marketshare in lucrative and broadcasting rights in two populous Australian states, introducing clubs on the Gold Coast ( Gold Coast Football Club) and in Greater Western Sydney ( Greater Western Sydney Football Club). The AFL regularly schedules pre-season exhibition matches in all Australian states and territories as part of the Regional Challenge. The AFL has signalled further expansion by scheduling a competition match in New Zealand 2013 and up to three competition matches in 2014 played in Wellington.

Australian football internationally

Action from a 1999 Australian football match in Nauru at the Linkbelt Oval

Australian football is played at an amateur level in various countries around the world. Over 50 countries are home to clubs or leagues who play regularly. Twenty countries have participated in the Euro Cup and 22 countries have participated in the International Cup with both competitions prohibiting Australian players. Over 20 countries have either affiliation or working agreements with the AFL. There have been several players in the VFL/AFL who were born outside Australia and since 1982, an increasing number of players have been recruited from outside Australia through initiatives such as the Irish experiment and more recently, international scholarship programs.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the game spread with the Australian Diaspora to areas such as New Zealand and South Africa; however this growth went into rapid decline following World War I. After World War II, the sport experienced a small amount of growth in the Pacific region, particularly in Nauru, Papua New Guinea and later New Zealand.

Most of the current amateur clubs and leagues in existence have developed since the 1980s, when leagues began to be established in North America, Europe and Asia. As the size of the Australian diaspora has increased, so has the number of clubs outside Australia. This expansion has been further aided by multiculturalism and assisted by exhibition matches as well as exposure generated through players who have converted to and from other football codes. In Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States there are many thousands of players.

The AFL became the de facto governing body when it pushed for the closure of the International Australian Football Council in 2002. The Australian Football International Cup is currently the highest level of senior international competition.

International rules football

Since 1967 there have been many matches between Australian football teams (mainly from Australia) and Gaelic football teams (mainly from Ireland), under various sets of hybrid, compromise rules known as International rules football. In 1984, the first official representative matches of International Rules were played, and these were played annually each October between the AFL and the Gaelic Athletic Association, also known as the GAA, between 1998 and 2006. These were part of the official International Rules Series, which attracted large crowds and media interest in Ireland and Australia. In 2007 the international rules series was abandoned because of the aggression and the severity of the Australian team in the previous year, but in 2008, under new rules to protect the player with the ball, it resumed in Australia.

Australian football culture

Before the start of each AFL match, players run through a banner constructed by supporters.
Australian rules football is popular among indigenous communities.

Australian football is a sport rich in tradition and Australian cultural references, especially surrounding the rituals of gameday for players, officials and supporters.

Australian football has attracted more overall interest among Australians (as measured by the Sweeney Sports report) than any other football code, and, when compared with all sports throughout the nation, has consistently ranked first in the winter reports, and most recently third behind cricket and swimming in summer.

In 2006, 615,549 registered participants played Australian football in Australia. Participation increased 7.84% between 2005–06. The Australian Sports Commission statistics show a 64% increase in the total number of participants over the 10 year period between 2001–2010.

Australian football is played in more than 30 countries around the world. In 2004, there were over 25,000 participants outside of Australia. This has grown to about 35,000 people in 32 countries playing in structured competitions outside of Australia. Australian rules is the national sport of Nauru.

Many related games have emerged from football, mainly with variations of contact to encourage greater participation. These include Kick-to-kick (and its variants such as "End to End Footy" and "Markers Up"), Auskick, Rec Footy, Women's Australian rules football, 9-a-side Footy, Masters Australian Football, handball and longest-kick competitions. Players outside of Australia sometimes engage in related games on the available fields, like Metro Footy (played on gridiron fields) and Samoa Rules (played on rugby fields).

Australian Football Hall of Fame

For the centenary of the VFL/AFL in 1996, the Australian Football Hall of Fame was established. In that year 136 identities were inducted, including 100 players, 10 coaches, 10 umpires, 10 administrators and six media representatives.

The selections have caused some controversy, mainly because of the predominance of VFL players at the expense of those who played in other leagues in the years before there was a national competition.

The elite Legend status was bestowed on 12 members of the Hall of Fame in 1996: Ron Barassi, Haydn Bunton Senior, Roy Cazaly, John Coleman, Jack Dyer, Polly Farmer, Leigh Matthews, John Nicholls, Bob Pratt, Dick Reynolds, Bob Skilton and Ted Whitten (see above list for further details).

The following twelve members have been promoted to the status of "Legend" since 1996: Ian Stewart (1997), Gordon Coventry (1998), Peter Hudson (1999), Kevin Bartlett (2000), Barrie Robran (2001), Bill Hutchison (2003), Jock McHale (2005), Darrel Baldock (2006), Norm Smith (2007), Alex Jesaulenko (2008), Kevin Murray (2010) and Barry Cable (2012).

Retrieved from ""