AFL basics

Letter Link: AFL

The game

  • AFL stands for Australian Football League.

  • The game is played on an oval-shaped field with scoring posts at each end. There are four scoring posts (the two middle ones are taller than the outside ones) and a score is recorded when the ball is kicked between two of the posts. One point is scored when the ball goes between one of the outside posts and a middle post. This is known as a behind. A goal (worth six points) is scored when the ball goes between the two middle posts.

  • Games are divided into four quarters of 20 minutes, plus extra time.

  • A game is won by the team which has the highest score at the final siren. The winning team collects four points, to be added to its ranking on the premiership table. A game that ends in a draw results in each team collecting two points.

Player being tackled
Player being tackled

  • There are quite a few rules to follow when playing Australian Football. Here are a few examples of what players can and cannot do:

    Players can:

    Players cannot:

    • push an opponent in the back

    • tackle another player too high (above the shoulders) or too low (below the knees)

    • run too far without bouncing the football (you can only run 15 metres before you have to bounce it, handball it or kick it)

    • trip another player.

  • It takes three types of umpires to umpire an AFL match:

    • goal umpires – they stand at the scoring posts (one at each end of the ground), watch the ball as it goes between the scoring posts and signal if it is a goal (six points) or a behind (one point).

    • field umpires – they are in charge of the play on the field and blow their whistle if a player breaks the rules, a mark is taken or if play needs to be stopped.

    • boundary umpires – they signal if the ball goes out of bounds (ie it goes over the outside line around the oval) and then throw it back in.

The team

  • Each AFL club has a list of players. Each week, 22 are selected for the game. Eighteen players are allowed on the ground at any one time and the other four sit on the bench while waiting for their turn to play.

  • There are 18 different teams in the Australian Football League. To find out more about each of them visit the About AFL clubs section.

  • There are three main positions in an AFL team: forwards, midfielders and defenders:

    • Forwards play close to their team's scoring posts and it is their job to score for their team.

      Within the forwards you will find a full-forward, a centre half-forward, two forward pockets and two half-forwards.

    • Midfielders play in the middle of the ground and it is their job to take the ball from a centre bounce (these happen at the start of each quarter and after a goal is scored) or from the defenders and move it to the forwards. Midfielders include the ruckman, who is usually the tallest player on the field, and also some smaller but fast and skilful players.

      Within the midfielders you will find a ruckman, a ruck-rover, two wings, a centre and a rover.

    • Defenders play in front of the other team's scoring posts and it is their job to stop the other team from scoring.

      Within the defenders you will find a full-back, a centre half-back, two back pockets and two half-backs.

    In modern-day Australian Football, it is common for players to play in more than one position and defenders can sometimes even kick goals.

The season

  • Each season is made up of 23 "home and away" rounds and four rounds of finals games. It runs from (approximately) the end of March until the end of September each year.

  • Only eight teams will make the finals each year. At the end of the 23 "home and away" rounds the top eight teams continue on to the finals. In each round of the finals the number of teams competing decreases as teams lose and are eliminated, until only two are left to battle it out in the AFL grand final.

  • AFL games are played all over Australia: Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Launceston, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin and Cairns. Even cities that do not have their own AFL team (such as Darwin or Hobart) still host games during the season. So, if you can, get out and see a match live!

  • A full AFL stadium is a sight to behold. People of all ages attend games. You will hear yelling, cheering and singing and see colourful hats, scarves, jumpers and banners, and even people with their faces painted.

A full AFL stadium
A full AFL stadium

Supporters at a game
Supporters at a game

To learn more about the game of Australian Football visit