How to Play


1. An Aussie Rules Primer

2. The Basics

3. Players and Positions

4. Scoring

5. Starting the Game

6. Possession and Disposal of the Ball

7. Rules

8. For More Information...

9. Videos


What is Australian Rules Football?

Australian Rules football, or 'footy' as it is colloquially known, is a physical contact sport unlike any sport played in America, but which combines the best elements of Ice Hockey, basketball and football to make for a fast paced, exciting and highly skilled game.

The Basics

The field

The Melbourne Cricket Ground
The Melbourne Cricket Ground

Aussie Rules is generally played on an oval field between 135 and 185 meters in length and 110 and 155 meters in width, although the sizes of grounds do vary. The MCG is considered to be the perfect ground. The boundary is marked with a white line drawn a few meters from the fence and the roaring crowd. At each end of the ground there are four posts consisting of two shorter outer posts and two taller inner posts. The inner posts are called the goal posts, the outer posts are the behind posts.

The Ball

The Famous Sherrin Footy

The ball is an oval bladder covered with smooth leather, tanned for day use or colored visible yellow for night. It is slightly larger and rounder than the American or Canadian ball, as it was not designed to be thrown. The T.W. Sherrin Company, of Collingwood manufactured the famous Sherrin football until the past few years.

Players and Positions

A team consists of 18 players with four interchange players (substitutes) allowed on the bench. Free substitutions are allowed at any time during the match, through a "gate" in front of either bench. Players are deployed in five lines of three across the oval, with the remaining three players assigned to follow the ball as it moves around the ground. Each player lines up on his opposite (for example, Fullback on Full forward). The players in each line are usually designated as being in either the left, center or right position in each line, relative to the direction of attack.

The three players assigned to follow the ball as it moves around the ground are known as "followers" Their positions are referred to as:

Ruckman: The Ruckman contests the 'ball-up' (Usually very tall and athletic).

Ruck-Rover: The Ruck-rover attempts to receive the ball from the Ruckman and deliver the ball into attack (A good combination of speed and height).

Rover: One of the hardest working players on the ground, the rover traditionally scouts the packs and sets up play by clearing the ball into attack. (Usually small, very fast and never tires)

Although the players have designated positions, they are free to move anywhere on the ground, (no offside rule) when play is in progress. There is no "goalie" in Aussie Rules.


A ball kicked between the two larger goal posts without being touched is a goal and scores 6 points. The ball is then returned to the center circle for a "ball-up."

If the ball passes between the goal posts by any other means or through the behind posts then it is a behind, and it scores 1 point. If the ball hits the goal post, a behind is scored. If the ball is forced, or carried, but not kicked over the scoring line anywhere between the goal posts, a behind is scored. Following a behind, the ball is kicked back into play from within the goal-square. The opposing fullback usually delivers the kick.

The score is given in three numbers. For example: 8.9 (57). The first number is the number of goals scored, worth 6 points each. The next number is the number of behinds at 1 point each and the final is the sum or the total score.

Starting the Game

The game commences with each player standing in their designated position. The main umpire (referee) bounces the ball in the center of the ground. This can be compared to a tip-off in basketball, and the opposing ruck men leap to gain possession of the ball. The game then progresses in a wild free-for-all until a goal is scored and the ball returns to the center for another bounce.

Possession and Disposal of the Ball

The Drop Punt
Drop Punt

Kicking can pass the ball quickly and effectively. This is different from American Football in that a kicking tee is never used and a kick is often taken while the player is running at or near full speed.

The ball may not be thrown, but is passed by holding it stationary in one hand, while punching it with the free hand.

Tackling Tackling

Aussie Rules is a physical game, and players can be either 'bumped," from the ball using the hip and shoulder (left) or tackled by grabbing any where above the knee or below the neck (right).


A "mark" is another name for a catch, and can be taken over the head or against the chest. The ball cannot touch the ground, and must travel at least ten meters in the air. A mark entitles a player to an uncontested disposal of the ball. Marks are one of the spectacular elements of the game, as players' leap up on opponents backs to take 'screamers'.


Yes, there are some rules too! Some of the main rules are:
This has been a brief description of the game. As with all sports, the best way to understand it is to either watch it, or even better by, getting involved!

More Information

Footy on TV
Football coverage in the United States changes from year to year. In the past few years, Fox Sports has provided highlights shows, the Match of the Week, and live coverage of the Grand Final, on their Fox Sports World channel on digital cable or satellite. Australian Football Association of North America (see below) does a great job organizing the coverage each year. You can check out at their web site for up to date information.

Footy on the Internet
Australian Football League: The official site of the 'Headquarters' of footy, the Australian Football League. It is a great site with plenty of pictures and news about the game, scores, the clubs and a video section with highlights of every game from every week!

United States Australian Football League: The home of the United States Australian Football League or USAFL. Formed in 1996, this organization has brought together and manages the ever-increasing North American Aussie Rules competition. These guys have a great vision for the game in the US and are worth checking out as they maintain a list of (and links to) all the teams in the USA and Canada.

Australian Football Association of North America: The home of the Australian Football Association of North America and closely affiliated to the USAFL. The keepers of the Footy FAQ (frequently asked questions) as well as up to date information on TV broadcasting of footy coverage are located here. AFANA has recently started marketing footies, clothing, (including jumpers) books and videos of Australian Rules Football to members and non-members alike. If you become a member however, you can get discounts on the offered merchandise, and support the efforts of AFANA. These guys are largely responsible for there being any TV coverage at all in the US, so give them a visit. Check Fox Sports World for program availability listings in your area!

The Age: The Age is one of the daily Newspapers in Melbourne (Australia) and a fantastic site with current news, great photos and a section just for the promotion of overseas football clubs.... Worth a look if you want to see just how far and wide Aussie Rules is being played. Click on the "Footy" banner.

This is just a few of links to get you started; you will find many more in the "Links" section of this web site.


Instructional videos can be found on the NC Tigers Footy 201 webpage.