Low Down on Aussie Rules
Joe Burton provides an overview of the rules and principles of Australian Football, the history of the sport and the health benefits one gets from playing the sport.
Australian Rules Football is a sport that only gets played Down Under. There have been some inroads in recent years to try and grow the game's fan-base and participation in other countries. Right now, the success has been minimal, but hopefully, the game will start to gain relevance and a following in years to come.
Rules and objectives of the game
Both the pitch and the ball in Aussie Rules are oval-shaped, while neither side can have more than nine players on the field at any given time. In essence, the game is an amalgamation of rugby and football. Players can play the ball in any direction. This can be done by kicking, clenched fist (known as a handball) or an open-hand tap. However, throwing the ball is strictly outlawed, and anyone that does it will concede a free-kick. Once you have possession, the only way you can dispose of it is by way of kicking or punching.
Participants may run with the ball, but only if it touches the floor or is bounced once every 15 seconds. Defenders are allowed to bump and tackle the attacking players, but an aggressive tackle aimed at an opponent's back will warrant a penalisation.
The Australian Football League (AFL), the premier Aussie Rules division, can trace its roots back to the Victorian Football League, which was founded in 1897. After the Victorian league was expanded to other states in the 1980s, the league changed its name to encompass the new national element of the game, renaming itself as the AFL in 1990.
Carlton and Essendon are the two most successful sides in the competition with 16 Premierships each, while Hawthorn is the current defending champions and are the current favourites to land the much-coveted Championship this time around in the sports betting.
In a similar vein to American sports, the AFL has a league and playoff format. The top eight teams in the division go through to the final series, which functions in a straight knockout scenario. If your team is fortuitous enough to make it to the final, they will play at the legendary Melbourne Cricket Ground. This stadium has a staggering capacity of 100,000 and is called the “Spiritual Home of Australian Sport”; playing there is a momentous occasion for any Aussie Rules player.
Again, like America, the league also has an MVP award. The Brownlow Medal is given to the best player in the league, with the current MVP being Matt Priddis of the West Coast Eagles.
As previously mentioned, Aussie Rules is a concoction of football and rugby, and henceforth involves a significant amount of running. The average AFL player runs between 12 to 13km per game. Nathan Buckley, who spent the majority of his career with Collingwood before retiring, once ran 19km in a game.
In the Premier League, England's top-flight football division, the average is usually beneath 10km, and in rugby union, it is not generally higher than 7km. Already you can see that Aussie Rules is the best sport for cardio exercise. The distance that these players cover per game is a testament to their natural fitness, not to mention the enduring nature of the game.
It is not just running through. Tackling other players takes its toll on the body. Driving your shoulder into someone at high speed is only going to strengthen the muscles. The same goes for the abdomen, while the muscles in your legs, which are already being worked hard, will also enlarge as they aid in the tackling process.
With it being a high-impact contact sport, your body will get pretty battered. Most of the time it will just be bruises, but on the rare occasion you can pick up a severe injury. But that said, is that not the same for all sports? In the grand scheme of things, football looks relatively safe, but when you factor in the number of players that have injured their knees - the medial collateral ligament (mcl) injury is one of the common with footballers - you soon realise that even a benign sport can have serious repercussions.
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About the Author
Joe Burton is a sport enthusiastic. After emigrating from the UK to Australia, he decided to swap football for Aussie Rules. He has not looked back since. Besides playing sport, Joe works as a freelance journalist mainly covering European sports, so he still keeps some links with his footballing past. As an avid fan of Liverpool FC, Melbourne City and St Kilda you would not think he would have time to be a family man, yet somehow, he manages.