Nothing beats a game of Aussie Rules.
The value of sport is certainly not lost on Australians and one could tell as much without having to spend much time on the continent. A conversation on a sporting topic could be struck up with just about anyone hailing from the land down under. Soccer, cricket, rugby and basketball are all beloved in Australia but none of those come close to Australian Rules Football in popularity over here.
The sport is also referred to as Aussie rules, football or footy. While it looks a lot like rugby, the two disciplines are very different.
Australia’s AFL consists of 18 teams and, five years ago, boasted the fourth-highest league attendance in the world. It is by far the most popular sporting tier in the country.
Aussie rules football is played on an overly large pitch, a pitch so big, two football pitches could fit into any of its stadiums. There’s no question as to whether or not it commands the biggest playing area in any sport of its kind. Due to the space that needs covering, teams are made up of 18 players, with forwards bringing up the attack, midfielders manning the middle, and defenders protecting their teams’ goals. Benches consist of just four players who can either come on for tactical reasons, injuries, or so starters could rest.
The game itself is made up of four 20-minute quarters. They’re all started by the umpire’s bouncing of the oval-shaped ball into the middle of the pitch, followed by the teams vying for possession.
The object of the game is to put the ball through the opponent’s middle posts by means of kicking. The ball is moved across the field of play by either running, handballing (hitting with one’s fist), or kicking. Running, though, requires the ball to be bounced every 16 yards. Players could either score six points with an accurate shot, which calls for the ball to be kicked between the goalposts without being touched by another player. One point is awarded to what’s called a “behind” which is scored if a kicked ball hits one of the middle goals, goes between one of the middle posts and an outside post, or is carried or handballed across the goal line by a player.
Final scores would denote the number of six-pointers and the number of behinds, with the combined scores in brackets. An example of a scoreline would read like this: Fremantle 14.10 (94) defeated Port Adelaide 11.12 (78).
This sport is quite intense and fosters plenty of contact. Players risk serious injury every time they step out onto an Aussie rules pitch. Hard tackling is allowed as long as it isn’t too high or too low – players are allowed to forcefully barge into or grapple an opponent in any area between the shoulders or knees.
As mentioned above, teams get the ball from point to point by either kicking it, hitting it with a fist, or running. If a ball is caught cleanly by a player on the same team as a kicker, it’s called a mark. A mark is considered to be one of the most impressive feats in Aussie rules as it sometimes requires players to leap to great heights to ensure they get a solid catch without the opponent touching the ball. What’s more, players are allowed to use the opponent as a prop or springboard with no penalty. A catch off a mark leaves the receiver with the option of either taking an unimpeded shot at goal or continuing play, which includes kicking to a teammate in a better position to score. That player can then go for goal providing he makes a mark himself.
Australia’s AFL currently consists of 18 teams who play 22 games a regular season, each with one bye week. The top eight teams go on to the playoffs or, as it’s called there: the finals. The two teams who emerge from these finals face each other in the Championship Game or Grand Final, which is equivalent to the Super Bowl in the United States. The Richmond Tigers are the league’s reigning champions after defeating the Geelong Cats 12.9 (81) to 7.8 (50). The AFL’s 2021 season has been confirmed for a March 18 start and the best sportsbooks will have odds for most AFL teams.
“Our plan and our start date will be 18 March next year with a 22-round season,” AFL chief Gillon McLachlan revealed in November. “What we talked about was the timing of the release. We stand here today having worked through a great collaboration with our clubs, our players, our venues, our supporters to get through this year. And what it’s taught is things move fast, and we look to 2021 knowing COVID will still be around and we’ll have to work through it to an extent.”