AFL rules and details


Local Insights

6/19/20235 min read

a sports stadium with a field and a field with a crowd of people with Melbourne Cricket Ground in the background
a sports stadium with a field and a field with a crowd of people with Melbourne Cricket Ground in the background

Explore the exhilarating world of AFL with our detailed guide. Learn about the rules, tactics, and cultural impact of Australia's beloved footy.

From the furthest corners of Scotland to the sun-drenched fields of Brazil, football is a global phenomenon. But there's a version of the beautiful game that's not as internationally known but is equally loved by its passionate fanbase - the Australian Football League (AFL), or as it's colloquially known, footy.

The Genesis of AFL (Australian Football League)

The AFL found its origins in Melbourne in the 1850s, and it has since grown to become Australia's most popular spectator sport. Combining the physicality of rugby, the pace of Gaelic football, and the spherical playing field reminiscent of cricket, AFL is a unique mix that creates a spectacularly entertaining sport.

Objective of the Game

In essence, the objective of AFL is to kick the football between a series of large, upright posts. The team that has accrued the most points at the end of play is declared the winner. However, the intricacies of the rules and gameplay provide AFL with its unique flavour, so let's delve into those finer details.

Scoring in AFL

In AFL, teams score by kicking the football through two types of posts at the opposing team's end of the field:

  • Goal: When the ball is kicked through the two larger central posts without being touched by any other player, it's deemed a goal, adding six points to the team's total.

  • Behind: A single point is scored, termed as 'behind', when the ball passes between one goal and one smaller 'behind' post, or hits the post.

This scoring system adds an interesting tactical depth to the game - do you go for the glory of a goal or play it safe with a behind?

General Field Layout and Its Significance

AFL is played on an oval pitch, typically a modified cricket ground. This pitch is marked with a 50-metre arc from the goal line, indicating the scoring zone. The field is also divided into three sections - the forward line, midfield, and backline. Each section plays a crucial role in both attacking and defending strategies.

Player Positions and Roles

An AFL team consists of 18 players on the field and four interchange players who can substitute on and off the field an unlimited number of times. The on-field players can be divided into:

  • Forwards: Positioned in the forward 50-metre arc, forwards' primary role is to score goals. They utilise their excellent kicking skills and agility to outmanoeuvre the opposing defenders.

  • Midfielders: Midfielders are the engine of an AFL team, working both offensive and defensive roles. Their excellent stamina and ball-handling skills make them crucial in controlling the game.

  • Defenders: The last line of defence, defenders are tasked with thwarting the opposition's scoring attempts. They rely on their strength and positioning skills to prevent the opponents from getting a clear shot at the goals.

  • Interchange Bench: The interchange bench players can be brought on to replace tired or injured players, allowing the team to maintain their intensity throughout the match.

Duration and Quarters: The Game's Flow

An AFL match is divided into four 20-minute quarters with a 6-minute break after the first and third quarters, and a longer 20-minute break at half time. But with time added on for stoppages, a match can last up to 120-150 minutes, making for a riveting spectacle.

Starting the Game: The Centre Bounce

One unique feature of AFL is the 'centre bounce'. The game begins and resumes after every goal with the umpire bouncing the ball in the centre circle, with the ruckmen from each team contesting the ball. It's a unique and exciting way to keep the game flowing.

Tackling and Marks: Physicality in AFL

AFL is a contact sport, with players allowed to tackle the opponent to win possession of the ball. However, to protect players, tackles must be below the shoulders and above the knees. Another key aspect of AFL is 'marks', where a player catches a ball that has been kicked more than 15 meters. The player is then given a free kick.

The Ball: Handling and Movement

AFL ball handling rules encourage fast and exciting gameplay. Players can move the ball either by running with it, but must bounce it every 15 meters, by using a clenched fist to strike it out of the hand (handball), or by kicking it.

Free Kicks and Penalties: Maintaining Fair Play

To maintain fair play, infringements like holding the ball too long, high tackles, pushing in the back, and out of bounds result in free kicks to the opposition. More severe breaches of conduct can result in a player being reported, with subsequent penalties or suspensions determined by the AFL Tribunal.

Umpiring and Officials: The Silent Contributors

AFL matches are overseen by a team of field, boundary, and goal umpires, each having unique roles and responsibilities. Their task is to enforce the rules, control the flow of the game, and ensure fair play. It's a challenging job that requires acute observation and quick decision-making.

AFL Off the Field: Drafting and Transfers

Off-field activities such as drafting young talent and transferring players between clubs add another layer of intrigue to AFL. The draft system offers every club a chance to rebuild or bolster their squad, while trades can turn a team's fortunes around in a single season.

The Grand Finale: The AFL Grand Final

The pinnacle of the AFL season is the Grand Final, a match that decides the champions of the league. The two best teams of the season face off in a do-or-die contest. With high stakes, incredible intensity, and a festival-like atmosphere, it's a sports spectacle unlike any other!

The Cultural Significance of AFL

AFL isn't just a sport; it's an integral part of Australian culture. From grassroots local matches to the professional league, it brings communities together, fosters national pride, and continues to create memorable moments that are celebrated long after the final whistle.


AFL is more than a game of football; it's a strategic, adrenaline-fueled, action-packed spectacle that captivates audiences with its uniqueness. With each rule adding depth and excitement, it's no wonder AFL is beloved by millions in Australia and steadily gaining international attention.


How many players are there in an AFL team?

There are 18 players from each team on the field at any given time, with four additional players on the interchange bench.

How long does an AFL game last?

An AFL game consists of four 20-minute quarters, but with stoppages and breaks, a game could last between 120-150 minutes.

What is a 'behind' in AFL?

A 'behind', worth one point, is scored when the ball passes between a goal and behind post, or hits a post.

What is the 'centre bounce' in AFL?

The 'centre bounce' is where the umpire bounces the ball in the centre circle to start the game or resume play post goals.

What is a 'mark' in AFL?

A 'mark' is when a player catches a ball that's been kicked more than 15 meters, earning a free kick.

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