Australian Rules Football

Australian Rules Football is the most popular sport in Australia, with thousands of amateur teams playing in local competitions, along with professional-level teams competing nationally. The game is usually referred to as “Aussie Rules”, “footy”, or “football” (room for confusion exists here, as soccer is also called “football” in various countries).

Australian Rules Football is the main code of football played in all states of Australia, except for New South Wales and Queensland, where rugby predominates. Aussie Rules is also played internationally, albeit in a minor fashion.

Distinguishing features:
The game is played on an oval ground, with goal posts at each end, by two teams of eighteen players each (with three interchange players, or “substitutes” who can replace other players at any time during the match). A football match consists of four quarters, each of 20 minutes playing time; although, if the game is delayed, such as by the ball going out of bounds, compensatory time can be added. The teams change ends of the oval after the end of each quarter.

Some distinguishing features of Australian Rules Football are:
* The ball is an oval shape, with a leather covering over the internal bladder.
* The ball can be kicked.
* Players can be tackled for the ball.
* If the ball is caught after being kicked (a “mark”), a free kick is awarded; a player who has marked the ball may not be tackled so long as he does not move from that spot (but may be tackled if he moves on).
* The ball cannot be thrown, but it can be handballed (holding the ball with one hand and hitting it with a clenched fist to propel the ball forward).
* Players can run with the ball, but only if they intermittently bounce or touch it on the ground.
* Scoring is achieved by kicking the ball through the goal posts. There are four goal posts: two tall posts in the middle, with a shorter post to the left and the right. A goal (worth six points) is scored by kicking the ball between the two tall middle posts; however, if the ball being kicked through the goal posts is touched by another player on its way through, it only scores one point. A “behind” (worth one point) is scored by kicking the ball between one of the tall posts and one of the side posts (the latter are known as “behind posts”).

History:
The game originated in Melbourne in the 1850s, with the Melbourne Football Club being formed in 1859 and the Victorian Football Association being established in 1877. The game was also played in other states, with the South Australian Football Association (later re-named the South Australian National Football League) being established in 1877, followed by the West Australian Football Association (later re-named the West Australian Football League) in 1885.

Several clubs broke away from the VFA in 1896 and formed the Victorian Football League, which went on to become the premier football organization in Victoria. In the late 1980s the VFL established professional clubs in other states and the game’s popularity began to increase nationally; and so, in 1989, the Victorian Football League changed its name to the Australian Football League. Following this, in 1995, the Victorian Football Association renamed itself as the Victorian Football League, with several VFL clubs affiliating with AFL clubs.

The origins of the game are unclear, with claims being made that it originated from rugby, Gaelic football, an Aboriginal ball game, or a combination of the three. Considering the involvement of the game’s founders with English football, the rugby origin seems the most likely; although the early development of the game was such as to clearly establish it as a truly Australian sport.

Reportedly the game was originally begun as a sport that would keep cricket players fit outside of the cricketing season, although its popularity went on to eclipse cricket in many areas. Matches are often played on cricket grounds and, like cricket, Aussie Rules refers to its referees as “umpires” and the edge of the playing field as the “boundary”.

Geoffrey Blainey, in his history of Australian football, A Game of Our Own, said “The game is essentially an Australian invention. It arose in the late 1850s when the various kinds of English football were still in flux and, at the beginning, it borrowed extensively from these games and especially from Rugby. Almost at once it was a distinctive game. So quickly did Australian football move in its own direction under its own momentum, and so often did it devise or adapt new rules and tactics that, within twenty years, it was far removed from Rugby and soccer and was still changing rapidly.”



AFL clubs (with years of establishment and internet links):
* Adelaide Football Club (1990) club website, Wikipedia article
* Brisbane Lions (1996) club website, Wikipedia article [formed by a merger of the Brisbane Bears (1986) (Wikipedia article) and the Fitzroy Football Club (1883) (Wikipedia article)]
* Carlton Football Club (1864) club website, Wikipedia article
* Collingwood Football Club (1892) club website, Wikipedia article
* Essendon Football Club (1872) club website, Wikipedia article
* Fremantle Football Club (1994) club website, Wikipedia article
* Geelong Football Club (1859) club website, Wikipedia article
* Gold Coast Football Club (2009) club website, Wikipedia article
* Greater Western Sydney Football Club (2009) club website, Wikipedia article
* Hawthorn Football Club (1902) club website, Wikipedia article
* Melbourne Football Club (1859) club website, Wikipedia article
* North Melbourne Football Club (1869) club website, Wikipedia article
* Port Adelaide Football Club (1870) club website, Wikipedia article
* Richmond Football Club (1885) club website, Wikipedia article
* St Kilda Football Club (1873) club website, Wikipedia article
* Sydney Swans (1874) club website, Wikipedia article [previously known as the South Melbourne Football Club, until it moved to Sydney in 1982]
* West Coast Eagles (1986) club website, Wikipedia article
* Western Bulldogs (1883) club website, Wikipedia article [previously known as the Footscray Football Club]



References and further reading:

The game and its organisations:
Australian Rules Football Rules”, Fuzilogik (accessed 28 July 2012)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for rec.sport.football.australian”, Footy Tipping Software Pty. Ltd. (accessed 28 July 2012)
About Aussie Rules”, Aussie Rules International (accessed 28 July 2012)
Introduction to Australian Football”, United States Australian Football League (accessed 28 July 2012)
Australian Footy Links”, Australian Football Association of North America (accessed 28 July 2012)
Rules of the game”, Dublin Angels & Demons Australian Rules Football Club (accessed 28 July 2012)
Australian Rules Football”, Wikipedia (accessed 28 July 2012)
Australian Football League”, Wikipedia (accessed 28 July 2012)
Victorian Football League”, Wikipedia (accessed 28 July 2012)
South Australian National Football League”, Wikipedia (accessed 28 July 2012)
Tasmanian Football League”, Wikipedia (accessed 28 July 2012)
West Australian Football League”, Wikipedia (accessed 28 July 2012)
Australian Football League reserves affiliations”, Wikipedia (accessed 28 July 2012)

History:
Geoffrey Blainey. A Game of Our Own: The Origins of Australian Football (rev. ed.), Black Inc., Melbourne, c2003, pages ix, 18-20
Football in Australia in the 1850s”, Australian Football (accessed 28 July 2012)
History”, Aussie Rules International (accessed 28 July 2012)
AFL history”, Australian Football League (accessed 28 July 2012)
Origins of Australian rules football”, Wikipedia (accessed 28 July 2012)
Chronology: A year by year summary of our history”, Melbourne Football Club (accessed 28 July 2012)
1859”, Demonwiki (accessed 15 August 2012)
History of the SANFL”, South Australian National Football League (accessed 28 July 2012)

Australian Rules Football organisations:
Australian Football League
AFL Victoria [which covers 12 Regions, 115 Leagues and 1942 Clubs] (accessed 28 July 2012)
South Australian National Football League
West Australian Football League
AFL New Zealand
AFL Canada
United States Australian Football League
Australian Football Association of North America
AFL Great Britain
Australian Rules Football League of Ireland
Dansk Australsk Fodbold Liga (Danish Australian Football League)

Fan pages and forums:
AFL create a poster [“Create your own AFL player poster online!”]
AFL Tables [general Australian Rules fan site]
Blueseum [Carlton fan site, with forum]
Bomber Internet [Essendon fan site, no longer updated]
The Cattery [Geelong fan site]
Demonwiki [Melbourne Football Club fan wiki site]
eSaint [St Kilda fan site]
The Footy Almanac [general Australian Rules fan site]
Footy SA [South Australian National Football League site fan site]
Footystats [general Australian Rules fan site]
Magpies Net [Collingwood fan site]
NorthMelbourneKangaroos.com [North Melbourne fan site]
Our Footy, Our Game [general Australian Rules fan site, with forum]
The Power From Port [Port Adelaide fan site]
Talking Football [general Australian Rules fan site, with forum]
The Tigers Lair [Richmond fan site]

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