A Comprehensive Guide To The Rules And Format Of Australian Football

Australian Rules Football, or AFL, is a fast-paced and exciting sport gaining popularity worldwide. However, for those who are new to the game, the rules and format can be daunting. In this blog post, we’ll comprehensively explain the AFL rules and format to help you better understand the game.

In this blog post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about Aussie rules and format, from how points are scored to the role of umpires and team structure.

 We’ll cover everything you need to know to enjoy watching and understanding AFL fully. So whether you’re a seasoned fan or just starting, then go through the article to know more details.

What Countries Play Aussie Rules?

There are six states and two territories on the Australian continent. Aussie Rules is the most popular football code in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory.

Rugby League is the most popular sport in Queensland and New South Wales. The AFL provides financial or practical support to leagues worldwide, including Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, Japan, and New Zealand.

Here is an overview of the laws governing Australian Rules Football:

An Overview of Australian Rules Football Laws

Australian rules and football laws were developed by the Melbourne Football Club in 1859. They have been revised as the sport developed into its current form. Before the establishment of the sport’s governing bodies, the statutes existed.

In 1905, the Australasian Football Council (AFC) was formed. It assumed responsibility for the statutes as the first national and international organization. At the same time, local leagues continued to have considerable flexibility.

Through the AFL Competition Committee, the Australian Football League (AFL) Commission has maintained the game’s regulations since 1994.

The Basic AFL Rules and Format Explained

Now we are going to break down basic AFL rules and format. Which will give you a clear idea of AFL.

The Game

There are four quarters in the game, each lasting 20 minutes. Umpires keep track of the time during play. Time is added to the quarter’s playing time when play is unduly delayed, such as when the ball escapes from the playing area. It is called ‘time on’.

Teams switch ends at the end of each quarter. Teams can change ends between the first and second quarters and between the third and fourth quarters. Players can leave the ground for up to 15 minutes during half-time.

The Field

AFL is played on a grass oval measuring 135–185 meters long and 110–155 meters wide. Besides the boundary line, fifty-meter lines, center squares, goal squares, and center circles mark the field of play.

16 venues in Australia can host AFL games, the largest being Melbourne Cricket Ground, which holds the Grand Final annually.

Ground Name Ground Size
Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG)155m x 136m
Spotless Stadium – Sydney164 m x 127.5m
ANZ Stadium – Sydney 160m x 118m
Etihad Stadium 159.5m x 128.8m
Adelaide Oval 167 m x 123m
Woolloongabba Cricket Ground 156m x 138m
Metricon Stadium 161m x 134m
Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) 160m x 141m
Manuka Oval – Canberra162.5m x 138.4m
Optus Stadium  – Perth165 m x 130m
Aurora Stadium  – Launceston, Tasmania 170m x 140m
Blundstone Arena (Bellerive Oval) – Hobart, Tasmania160m x 124m
Skilled Stadium170m x 117m
TIO Stadium – Darwin, Northern Territory 175m x 135m
TIO Traeger Park – Alice Springs, Northern Territory 168 m x 132m
Cazaly’s Stadium – Cairns, Queensland165 m x 135m

Players Position

The positions in football are less technically defined than in sports like Rugby Union or American Football because of the fluid character of the current game.

However, because each position demands a distinct set of talents, most players will only play in a small variety of positions during their careers. Utility players are footballers who can play comfortably in a variety of roles.

Full Forwards:Left Forward PocketFull ForwardRight Forward Pocket
Half Forwards:Left Half Forward FlankCenter Half ForwardRight Half Forward Flank
Center Line:Left WingCenterRight Wing
Half Backs:Left Half Back FlankCenter Half BackRight Half Back Flank
Full Backs:Left Back PocketFull BackRight Back Pocket

The Ball

A ball moves around the field through kicks, handballs, and runs. When a player from the same team as the kicker catches the ball cleanly in the air, it is called a mark.

When players mark the ball, they can shoot or kick it to a teammate, who can decide whether to hit or kick it.

The player must catch and bounce the ball every 15 meters or pass it by kicking or handballing it to a teammate. In handball, the ball is punched in the desired direction.


There are 18 teams in the AFL, which is divided into five states: Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory. The Australian winter football season consists of 23 rounds (home and away).

The top eight teams play in the AFL grand final, while the best team during the home and away season is awarded the minor premiership.


A player can score by kicking the ball through the goalposts. At each end of the field are four posts: two tall goal posts and two shorter behind posts. When the ball flies between the outside and middle posts, it is awarded a single point, or behind, equivalent to six points.

The Umpires

Three-field umpires control the game. A field umpire is responsible for starting play, awarding marks and free kicks, and generally enforcing game rules. Each field umpire controls roughly a third of the field when performing their duties.

The umpire in charge at any given time is where the ball is disputed. However, either of the other field umpires may point out rules violations occurring “behind the play”. To transfer control, field umpires may signal each other.

Out of Bounds

When a ball crosses the boundary line entirely, it is considered out of bounds. As in soccer, the ball remains in play if it is over or on the boundary line. Over the boundary line, a player may possess the ball while part of it remains in play without it being ruled out of bounds.

Possession and Disposal of the Ball

  • A player may keep the ball for as long as he likes when his opponent does not have it.
  •  A player lying on or over the ball assumes possession of it.
  •  A player must bounce or touch the ball every 15 meters. When the runner is challenged, the distance isn’t strictly enforced.
  • When a player owns the ball and is being held by an opponent, the player must kick or handball the ball immediately. The only way to tackle is shoulder-to-knee.

Handball players must hit the ball with a clenched fist while holding the ball in one hand. There must be no hand movement relative to the player’s body. Overhand passing is not permitted.

Kicks must travel at least 10 meters before a mark can be allowed, and the ball must have traveled through the air without being touched by another player. A player taking a mark can kick back to where he took it.


Players can impede an opponent’s movement towards the ball as long as they are within 5 meters of the ball. In shepherding plays, players push their opponents in the chest or side or place their bodies between them and the ball.  Similar to a basketball screen or a football block.

Free Kicks

Players may receive free kicks with or without the ball. Generally, free kicks are taken at the site of an infringement.

If the following rules are broken, the player in possession of the ball receives a free kick:

  1. If an opponent holds the ball, don’t dispose of it quickly.
  2. Misusing a handball or a kick to dispose of the ball.
  3. Without bouncing or touching the ball, a player kicks the ball across a boundary line.
  4. Overtaking the boundary line intentionally.
  5. Running over 15 meters without bouncing the ball or touching it.

Players are given a free kick if they:

  1. Grabs the opponent’s shoulders or knees with the ball.
  2. Grasps the back of an opponent.
  3. Attempts to trip an opponent.
  4. Attacks an opponent.
  5. Punches or bumps an opponent attempting to mark in the air.
  6. When an opponent is more than 5 meters away from the ball, he shepherds the ball.
  7. At the restart of play, enter the center square before the ball bounces.

A player standing on a free kick or mark receives a 50-meter penalty if:

  1. The umpire indicates a point for standing; the player refuses to stand there.
  2. Returns the ball deliberately late to the kicker.
  3. Stops play by holding the player who will take the kick.
  4. Before or as the ball is kicked, it runs over the mark.

Kick-in After Behind

Following the score of a behind, if a ball is kicked back into play from the goal square and subsequently goes “out of bounds” without being touched by a player of either team, it is treated as if it had gone out of bounds on the full. A free kick is awarded to the attacking team.

Relayed Free Kicks

When a player is infringed upon, his or her teammate may take the free kick from the spot where the ball landed following the disposal. An umpire will adjudicate this.

Play On

When a player is infringed upon, an umpire does not need to hold up play by awarding him a free kick. The umpire allows play to continue when a player or a teammate has possession and is in an advantageous position. The practice is known as ‘paying the advantage’.

Final Thoughts

AFL is a unique and thrilling sport that has captured the attention of millions of fans worldwide. Understanding the game’s rules and format can enhance your enjoyment and appreciation.

Thanks for taking the time to read this comprehensive explanation of AFL rules and format. We’ve covered everything you need to know. The following guide is designed to help you learn more about the Australian Football League, whether you are an avid fan or just getting started. Enjoy the thrills of Australian Rules Football, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the action!


What is a mark in Australian football?

Australian football marks are like free kicks in soccer or field goals in American football. The player who catches the pass without hitting another player or the ground receives an impact. Catching a pass over ten meters without hitting another player or the ground earns a mark.

What is a normal score for an Australian Rules Football Game?

A game of Australian Rules Football might have strange scoring. These are all accurate footy scores: 4.1 to 3.8, 9.9 to 6.1. That means a team scored four goals and one behind. A goal has six points and behind has one point.

Golam Muktadir is a passionate sports fan and a dedicated movie buff. He has been writing about both topics for over a decade and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with his readers. Muktadir has a degree in journalism and has written for several well-known publications, including Surprise Sports.