Can anyone here explain Australian Rules Football?

Which is probably the oldest Aussie Rules joke in existence.

Heh, no one’s explained this part yet, so I’ll do so. That strange oval-shaped field? Those coats the umpires wear that look like lab coats? Holdovers from cricket. Aussie Rules was originally designed as a way of keeping cricketers fit during the close season.

Thanks to everyone for the helpful responses. I had no idea that Australian sports were so regional. Do school kids play Aussie Rules? Here in USA, nearly every teenaged boy has the opportunity to play football, baseball, soccer, and other sports. Most try these things at least once and most schools (even financially-strapped ones) spend a huge amount of money and effort fielding a football team.

AFL seems so much rougher than rugby. Guys just running full-bore into each other. I’ll have to watch for the finer points of the game.

Damn. I probably haven’t heard it before 'cos until last year I’d never really paid attention to the game. As soon as I heard the word ‘footy’ I just tuned out. Ah, well…

I was actually quite disappointed with Jimeon for making this joke because I usually find him to be quite original.

The usual formulation is that Aussie Rules is a softies’ game because you get a point for missing.

Drum God, school sport opportunities vary. At least when I was at school, there was the opportunity to play soccer, aussie rules, rugby league, cricket, tennis, baseball, hockey, tennis and probably others that I’ve forgotten. But (strangely for such a sport mad nation) it was not taken as seriously as it seems to be taken in the US, at least in the sense of the school’s reputation riding on the prowess of its sports teams. However the principal at my school was notably anti sport.

Private schools would offer rugby union instead of league. And they do consider their reputation to ride on their sporting prowess, to at least some extent.

As to the heaviness of the game, opinions vary. I’ve played a bit of both AR and RL. The former can be heavier, in that as you say someone can run a long way before crashing into you at full tilt. But that happens less frequently, and the object is often to wrap you and the ball up, not to drop you to the ground, hard.

In Rugby, the tackling is much, much more constant, and the object is to drop you to the ground hard, but it tends to occur off less of a runup, I wouldn’t underestimate it. I would call rugby heavier overall, though I know Victorians would say otherwise.

I’ve been wondering about this - do players now have to live in the same state as their team or for example could a Brisbane Lions player live in Melbourne but play for Brisbane?

There would be no rule, but it would be unusual circumstances. Coaches and clubs tend to prefer the team trains together. One of those male bonding things. An exception was Simon Minton-Connell who played with Sydney while domiciled in Melbourne for at least one season. Chris Langford of Hawthorn was based in Sydney in 1996.

So where you live is really important? In US professional sports, it doesn’t matter where you live or even if you live in the USA. Many prominent players in American sports are from all over the world. The hottest basketball sensation right now is Houston’s Yao Ming, all the way from China.

I’m a bit confused about the difference between Rugby Union and Rugby League. Are the rules markedly different?

Is safety ever an issue or controversy in Australian sports? Right now, there is discussion that American football may be too dangerous. Here in Central Texas, a young man suffered a paralyzing injury while playing in the state championship game. Both he and the boy who hit him (in a legal block) are devastated. There is a strong push to make equipment such as helmets even safer. Is there much of a push to make Australian sports equipment safer? Both rugby and Aussie Rules seem to have minimal protective gear.

The word “premier” has been mentioned a few times. Is this the league “champion” – the overall winner?

Australia strikes me as a fascinating place. It seems that the culture is so different than America and Europe. I hope one day that I can visit.

Not really. It used to be, as TLD said. Now it’s all very professional and there is a draft etc

The differences are subtle but significant. You can certainly see that the games have the same origins. I suppose the most significant difference is that in Union, when you are tackled you must let go of the ball, although of course you try to let it go back to your teammates behind you, not to the opposition. Almightly pushing and shoving then occurs around the tackled player as each team tries to get the ball. In League, when you are tackled you get to keep the ball, play stops (very, very briefly by American standards: for perhaps 5 seconds) the teams reform, the opposition backs off 5 yards, and you start again.

No. In general, there is a view here that protective gear is for pussies. I am not espousing that view, you understand. But there you go.

However, what has been happening is a crackdown on certain types of dangerous tackles (spear tackles, head high tackles), which very severe penalties (suspension for significant portions of a whole season, for example) for such conduct.


It may be a hijack, but I can answer this one.

As legend has it, Rugby began at the Rugby School in England, when William Webb Ellis “picked up the ball and ran with it”. Until 1995, rugby union was a striclty amateur game (although there were some players who allegedly received payments).

In the early 20th century, miners in the north of England requested compensation from their clubs in the event that they were injured playing rugby. The RFU refused, and the professional rugby league was born.

League is only really played at a high level in Australia (by far the strongest League nation) and the north of England, and parts of NZ.

The main differences in the modern games include :[ul]
[li]Points - Rugby gives 5 points for a try, 2 points for a conversion, 3 points for field goals and penalties. League awards 4 points for a try, 2 points for conversions and penalties, and 1 point for a field goal.[/li][li]Number of players : League has 13 players per side. Rugby has 15 men per side - 2 extra forwards called “flankers” or “breakaways”.[/li][li]Lineouts - Rugby has a player (usually the hooker) throw the ball into 2 lines of opposing forwads when the ball reaches touch (goes out). League has a scrum.[/li][li]Scrums : League scrums are, for all intents and purposes unopposed, while rugby scrums are an artform (bet you can guess what position I play)[/li][li]The breakdown : The biggest difference between the sports is at the breakdown (when a player is tackled). In league, once a player is deemed to be tackled, he ‘plays’ the ball between his legs unopposed to another player. Each team has a ‘set’ of six tackles in a row before the ball must be kicked or turned over to the opposition. Rugby breakdowns are more technical - each side’s players contest either a ruck (if the ball is on the groun) or a maul (if the player with the ball is on his feet), where they try an push each other off the ball.[/li][/ul]

That is a fairly simple breakdown of the differences. Rugby is perceived as more technical and pedantic than league, but I prefer it as a sport to play and watch.

BTW, last weekend, the USA qualified over Spain as the final entrant in the Rugby World Cup in Australia later this year. If you get a chance, watch a few games. It is the biggest sporting event in the world this year, and only stands behind the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics in terms of international interest.

  • Bubba.

This is a matter of speculation, but arguably the use of protective equipment encourages more dangerous play? There are occasional complaints about the dangers of rugby up here, though, usually arising when there is a serious injury in an amateur or schools game (I’ve heard a couple of cases of serious head or spinal injury for instance).

When the League version was created, there was a lot of bad feeling between the two sports. Until the '90s you were banned for life from playing the Union version if you had ever played League, or even trained with League players.

Recently, those strict rules were abolished and there has been a lot of bridge building between the two sports. Many players have switched back and forth between the two and the skills involved are broadly similar enough to allow that to happen pretty seamlessly.

Tony Barber’s Underwear: it’s debatable whether the Rugby Union World Cup is really No.3 in interest (I’m sure a couple of other competitons would make that claim), but I agree it’s worth recommending to an American audience, especially if they’re already gridirion fans.

Rugby Union … a thugs game played by gentlemen.
Rugby League … a gentlemans game played by thugs. :smiley:

What the hell!

The fielding team has several players on the pitch at one time. (11?) One of them, the bowler (the man with the ball, analagous to baseball’s pitcher) tries to knock down the wicket (a precariously balanced contraption made of three sticks stuck in the ground and two bails set on top of them) by throwing or “bowling” the ball towards it. If the ball hits the wicket and knocks down the bails, it’s an out (aka a wicket, but I’ll continue to use the baseball terminology to avoid confusion).

The batsman (from the other team) stands in front of the wicket and protects it by swatting away a bowled ball with his bat. When he does so he and his partner (the only other dude from his team who is on the field) run back and forth along a straight strip of ground in front of the wicket, scoring a run each time they make it from the starting point to the safe spot at the other end of this strip. However, while they’re running, they’re vulnerable. If someone on the fielding team gets his hands on the ball and then knocks down the wicket by throwing the ball at it – or by just hitting it while he’s holding the ball – then that’s an out, too. (Unless the batsman and his partner can get back to base before the bails are disloged.)

The batting team scores four runs if the batted ball rolls off the pitch before it’s fielded and six runs if it is hit hard enough that it clears the pitch before it lands. A ball caught in the air is an out. Also, if the batsman doesn’t bat the ball but blocks it with his body, that’s an out – as long as the ball would have hit the wicket if unobstructed. Conversely, if a ball is thrown wide so that there’s no chance it could hit the wicket and the batsman has no opportunity to put it in play, that’s worth a run, IIRC.

Six bowled balls is an over, and after some number of overs a new bowler must step up from amongst the men on the field. The outgoing bowler becomes a fielder until it’s his turn to bowl again. Another important person on the fielding team is the wicket keeper, who catches the bowled balls. If he misses it and the ball gets away from him, IIRC the batsman and his partner can score runs just like it was a batted ball. (Similar to the dropped third strike in baseball.)

When a batsman gets out, he’s retired, but his replacement and his partner continue; the teams don’t switch sides back and forth as in baseball. Once the batting team gets ten outs against it, its innings are over, and then the switch is made. The former fielding team now has its own ten outs to beat the number of runs established by the team now in the field. Scores for an innings are typically well over 100, and it is uncommon but not incredibly rare for a single batsman to get 100 runs.

Since the first side’s innings don’t end until the tenth out, the game could go on for an undefined number of overs, and games do last more than a day. However, teams also play matches with a defined number of overs (I think I’ve seen 40, which seems to me pretty short were the teams playing a full match). In this case the innings only last that number of overs – or ten outs, whichever comes first. That’s why you’ll sometimes see scores reported as 116-6 to 110-3; that means one team got 116 runs in its innings and only 6 outs. My understanding is that in these matches, as long as your team doesn’t drop out due to being gotten out ten times, the number of outs doesn’t matter, so in that example the team with 116-6 would be the winner despite the fact that it got out twice as often as the other team. (But I may be wrong about that – hey, I’m a yank and I think I’ve done well enough so far.)


I always thought that it was soccer that was classed as the thug’s game played by gentlemen.

It may be debateable, but the television viewing audiences were estimated between 3-4 billion people for the 1999 world cup, which makes it a pretty big event.

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  • Bubba.

Read this

So it’s played by zombies then?

Went and looked at the AFL article on Wiipedia to see what teams are currently in the league.

Wow, St. Kilda must be the Chicago Cubs of Australian Rules Football – 115 seasons, one championship (1966). Wonder how many times they finished second or lost title games?

That helped a lot.

So, if I’m tackled, I jump up and immediately dispose of the ball (handball or kick)? The other guy doesn’t simply take it away from me? What if he wrestles it from me and successfully gets it out of my hands?

What if my kick doesn’t go fifteen meters? Is the field marked somehow so that we can all agree on how far fifteen meters is?

I don’t get this “mark” thing. So, my guy has been tackled and he kicks the ball more than fifteen meters. I catch it cleanly. I get a free kick, but I don’t want to kick it. I want to run with it (bouncing it every fifteen meters). Can I? What if my guy kicks the ball and the someone on the other team catches it cleanly? He gets a free kick, but I don’t understand why he wants to kick it instead of running like a madman.

To score, can I kick the ball anytime I think I’m close enough to make a goal? Can I get right up to the goal line? Am I likely to get clobbered there? In American football, strict rules protect the kicker because he is very vulnerable with one foot down, one leg extended in the air, and his junk hanging out. In Aussie Rules, if I am in the act of kicking, can I be knocked to the ground? Do other players get kicked in the face as someone tries to get a kick off before getting tackled?

I have now watched two games - including one last night (well, morning; it went until 3:30am!). It’s insane, but so much fun! The fluidity is a little bit like hockey, where you can pass and check with abandon and the game doesn’t really stop. The similarities to soccer and football are enough to begin to piece the game together while watching. I’ve seen a bit of rugby (I’m pretty sure always union) and have a vague understanding of those rules, so add it all up and I can begin to sort things out. I don’t know that I’ll seek it out, but I will definitely watch it when I stumble upon it!

Both games I’ve seen have involved Collingwood, so I found myself cheering for them last night simply because I vaguely recognized a few of the players. Also, Steele Sidebottom. You gotta love that name!

I think last night’s game was the ANZAC day one; there was some sort of trophy and medal ceremony afterways. The crowd was nuts - so emotional over mistakes and the opposition scoring - great atmosphere. Is the stadium always split in two with fans from each team filling half? Do teams share stadiums?

Is there any part of the game that has a “home field” advantage (other than possible crowd support?). In hockey you get your bench closer to your defensive zone for 2/3 periods, and you get last change for substitutions before every puck drop so you have the advantage in matching players against each other. I can’t see anything in the Aussie Rules that seem to give an advantage one way or the other, but I’m not sure.