Introduction to Aussie Rules
All about Australian Rules football
Aussie Rules (‘Australian Rules football’ to give it its full name or ‘footy’ to give its Australian monicker) is extremely popular in its homeland and continues to grow in popularity elsewhere. Whether you want to watch or play, it’s a fast and frantic game — not surprising considering there are 36 players on the pitch at any given time. Few games can compete with Aussie Rules for sustained action, making it a great spectacle.
Unlike a sport such as rugby where a player must pass the ball backwards or kick it forwards, in Aussie rules the players can move the ball by hand or foot forwards, backwards or sideways. There is no frustrating offside rule and players are not restricted to playing inside set zones, although tactics may mean they all have a specific role to play.
As in most ball games, possession is king, and competition for the ball is what makes Aussie Rules the great contact sport it is. Players will attempt to lose their marker to create space for a teammate to make the killer kick or handball.
Good players need to possess excellent pace, great agility, good ball handling skills plus the strength to break a tackle or bump an opponent in order to gain possession of the oval-shaped ball. The aim of the teams is to score more goals than their opponents by kicking the ball between the goalposts.
If the contact element of the game is putting you off, there is also a non-contact version called Touch Aussie Rules which can be played by all ages and abilities. Teams are mixed and the goals kicked by females are worth more points than those scored by males
The origins of Aussie Rules
The origins of the game can be traced back to Melbourne in the 1850s when cricketers were seeking a winter sport to keep them fit in the off season. A game was organised by a man considered one of the founding fathers of the game, Tom Wills, who had returned to Australia after schooling in England.
This game on July 31, 1858 was an early hybrid of Aussie Rules, based in part on rugby and soccer and later led to the formation of Melbourne Football Club and then the first set of Australian Football laws.
Early games had used a round football but later the oval-shaped rugby ball came to prominence. There were originally no limits on the number of players in games as the rectangular pitches used were often huge, but by the 1880s, cricketing ovals were used.
Since the initial laws were drawn up there have been numerous revisions and even the modern day laws are altered on an almost annual basis. Aussie Rules is now played in over 50 countries and is considered one of the fastest growing sports around.