Anyone going to Australia will soon learn about one of its favourite sports, Australian rules football. Despite its informal sounding name, it’s a serious sport with an established domestic league in place. You’ll see it regularly being broadcast on Australian television, and there are also Aussie Rules clubs in the UK and the US.
A Brief History
Today, this mix of Gaelic football and football draws crowds up to 50,000. It caused players to become national heroes.
The game initially started in the late 1800s as cricketers grew bored with the long off-season in Melbourne. In response, they developed Aussie Rules football to keep themselves entertained and it quickly grew in prominence
The first recorded game of ‘Footie’ was in 1858 when Scotch College met the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School. Composite rules were used to make it distinct from other rugby type games.
The Victoria Football Association evolved in 1877. With it came original football clubs like Melbourne, Hotham, Albert Park, Geelong, and St Kilda. The Victorian Football League (VFL) followed in 1896. Eventually, this would evolve into the Australian Football League, or AFL.
To reflect the game’s illustrious history, the official home of the sport is Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Aussie rules football takes place on any Australian football ground or a modified cricket field. Two teams of 18 players take part in the game.
The main objective is to move the ball to the opposite team’s side of the field and kick it through their goal. You score six points by kicking the ball through the two goal posts. The highest score wins the game.
The ball remains in dispute at all times. Players can tackle with their hands and obstruct players with their bodies. They can go anywhere on the field and move the ball with any part of their hands; although there are rules on how they can handle the ball. Throwing and holding the ball isn’t allowed.
There are free kicks awarded for fouls. The mark is the most distinctive feature. Referees award possession of the ball to the team which catches a ball from a kick.
The main football season, as organised by the AFL, lasts from March until September. Straight after the season ends, the cricket season begins. In the tropics, sometimes there are games during the wet season; from October to March. Pre-season games also occur in late February.
There’s no denying how popular Aussie rules football has become. It’s rich in culture and history and is now an integral part of the Australian conscious.
It’s more popular than any other type of football code. It’s consistently ranked as the top winter sport, according to the Sweeney Sports report. In the summer, it’s the third most popular sport; behind cricket and swimming.
It’s also caused a large upsurge in sports betting on the games and players. The most popular sports betting sites in the world (as ranked in online-betting.org) have all opened betting for the sport, and even running promotions due to its expanding online fanbase.
In 2006, there were over 615,549 registered players. And the Australian Sports Commission said between 2001-2010 there was a 64 per cent increase in the number of players. 30 countries around the world now play the game.
It also gains the title as the most followed spectator sport. In 2007, over seven million people attended a game in person. In 2016, the AFL Grand Final was the most-watched broadcast in Australia, with an at-home audience of 6.5 million spectators.