The Gridiron game of Australia

By: Stef Foster, Columnist

In my nearly eight months here I have watched and enjoyed a number of popular American sports: basketball, baseball and of course, the all-American, family favorite, football. I have been impressed by the devotion of your sports fans and astounded at the size of the multi-billion dollar industries that these sports create.

While we do have baseball, small representations of the NFL like Gridiron (‘grid-iron’) and a decent sized basketball league in Australia, there is a different sport at home that reigns supreme. Footy. So that’s like soccer, right? No, it’s not! It is Aussie football.

I’m not talking about soccer football, where players fall to the ground after being tripped by an opponent, clutching their leg like they’re about to die. I’m talking about Australian Rules Football (AFL), where if your opponent trips you, you get the heck up as quick as you can, possibly give him a friendly punch, then sprint after the ball and fight anyone and everyone who gets in your way.

AFL, also known as ‘Aussie Rules’ or ‘footy’ has the highest spectator attendance of any sport in Australia. The annual AFL Grand Final (equivalent to your Super Bowl) is currently the highest attended club championship event in the world. As you may have gleaned, it is a rough, full contact sport with few limitations on how you go about scoring points.

There are 18 players from each team on the field at a time. Players take certain positions such as forwards, midfielders or wingmen, but are allowed to move around any part of the field. Possession of the ball is up for contention at all times and players may use any part of their body to move the ball or obstruct opponents. Suffice to say, sometimes the game is a bit of a brawl. Unlike you American petals, AFL players do not wear helmets, shoulder pads, thigh pads, kneepads, chest pads or any sort of padding at all.

The footy field is oval in shape, as is the ball. There is no standard field size but it is typically between 135 and 185 meters long (147 to 202 yards) and between 110 and 155 meters wide (120 – 169 yards). Players cover an enormous distance each game, on average around 14km (8.7 miles) and sometimes over 20km (12.4 miles), and much of this distance is covered while sprinting.

Despite the many differences between our two national football codes, you will be pleased to hear that Aussie footy umpires, just like your referees, are often urged by ardent fans to take a trip to the optician in order to acquire a pair of prescription lenses that may assist them in correctly calling the game. Cheers mates.

Leave a Reply


Success! You're on the list.