The Australian Football League (AFL) is the highest-level professional competition in the sport of Australian rules football. Through the AFL Commission, the AFL also serves as the sport’s governing body, and is responsible for controlling the Laws of the Game. The league was founded as the Victorian Football League (VFL) as a breakaway from the previous Victorian Football Association (VFA), with its inaugural season commencing in 1897. Originally comprising only teams based in the Australian state of Victoria, the competition’s name was changed to the Australian Football League for the 1990 season, after expanding to other states throughout the 1980s.
Australian Football today
Australian Football is a unique game utilising many skills. It is a favourite Australian pastime, generally regarded by the players and spectators as the greatest game of all. Spectacular high marking, penetrating long kicking and non-stop action are features which distinguish Australian Football from other football codes such as Rugby Union, Rugby League and Soccer.
The standard Australian Football ground is a grassed oval measuring between 135–185 metres in length and 110–155 metres in width, with smaller grounds being used for junior games.
The standard size football is made of leather, is ovoid shaped, and measures 550 millimetres × 725 millimetres in circumference. The shape of the ball produces an unpredictable bounce, which increases the amount of skill required both to kick and mark it. For young players of primary school age, smaller balls are used.
The object of the game is to score points by kicking the ball between sets of four posts equally spaced at 6.4 metres apart, at each end of the ground. The middle two are the goal posts and the outside ones are the behind posts. Six points are scored when the ball is kicked between the two middle posts without being touched by any player. A six-point score is called a goal and is signalled by the goal umpire waving two flags overhead. One point is scored when the ball passes between a goal post and a behind post (or hits a goal post, or is touched by a player before going between the two middle posts). This is called a behind and is signalled by the goal umpire waving one flag overhead.
A regulation game consists of 80 minutes playing time divided into four quarters. In under age competitions, the length of a game is shortened to compensate for the players’ limited physical development. The start and end of each quarter is signalled with a siren and teams change goal ends after each quarter.
Australian Football is played by two teams of twenty-two players but only eighteen players are on the field at any one time. The remaining four players may be interchanged at any time during the match. Players interchanging must enter and leave the ground through a specially marked interchange area on the boundary line.