Understanding Australian Rules Football

Australian football, also known as Australian Rules football or just "footy" is the most popular spectator sport in Australia. Developed in the 1850s, Australian football combines elements of many different sports, including soccer, rugby, volleyball and even basketball!

The Basics Of Australian Football
There are no rules defining a specific size for an Australian football field. They are oval with a length of between 135 and 185 meters and a width of 110 to 155 meters. The field has sets of goal posts at either end. There are four posts in each set: the inner two posts are called goal posts, while the outer two posts are called behind posts. In the middle of the field is a 50-meter square called the center square.

Each team can have 18 players on the field and four extra players (called interchange players) that may be substituted during play.

An Australian football match is divided into four 20-minute quarters. Australian football rules allow for stoppages of the clock after scoring, when the ball is declared out of bounds or at the discretion of the umpire.

Moving The Football
Australian football rules state that players may hold the ball only if they bounce or touch the ball on the ground every 15 meters. Players may not throw or hand the ball off, but may move it through the air with a "hand pass" which is a close-fisted bumping of the ball similar to a volleyball serve.

At any time, a player may kick the ball to advance it or attempt a score. If the ball travels more than 15 meters in the air and is caught by another player, the receiving player is said to have received a "mark." A player who receives a mark may choose to take a free kick (which stops play) or "play on," which allows play to continue. Deciding to use a mark can change the strategy of a game, since it allows the other time to reposition their players.

A player holding the ball may be tackled to prevent further progress. A player who is tackled must dispose of the ball by kicking or hand passing it. A player who fails to get rid of the ball properly is charged with holding.

Australian Football Scoring And Penalties
Scoring in Australian football is limited to kicking the ball through the opponent's goal. If a ball is kicked between the goal posts with out being touched (even if it bounces), six points are awarded. If the ball is kicked between a goal post and a behind post, one point is awarded. A defending player may score a behind in his own goal (awarded to the attacking team) to avoid letting the other team score a six-point goal. This kind of defensive play is called "rushed" behind.

Infractions of the rules of Australian football are penalized with a free kick. A free kick is awarded at the point of the violation and can be used to score a goal.

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