2019 AFL Aussie Rules Final Stadium Crowd

Aussie Rules

For a long time – and perhaps unfairly – Australian sport has been seen as a bit of a nuisance by the rest of the world. Not only are they annoyingly good at cricket – see legends such as Steve Smith and Shane Warne for more info – but their decision to get really good at rugby, only to then bypass the rules in favour of their own “Aussie rules” has put a sizable dent in rugby’s international growth.

It’s fair to say that, without Aussie Rules, Australia may have won another three Rugby World Cups by now. Their very best athletes are choosing the former over the latter, and the insane popularity of Aussie Rules takes away interest in the national rugby team as if it’s just a sideshow to the big main event. Australia, however, is dead set on doing things its own way. 

The reason rugby fans are disgruntled is that rugby is a worldwide sport, whilst Aussie Rules is simply an Australian endeavour. But the Aussies in question don’t care. Aussie Rules may not be hugely popular outside of the country, but it’s their game and they’re going to keep loving it.

But why is this an unfair perception? Well, simply due to the fact that it’s not true. Many rugby fans believe Aussie Rules came along somewhere in the twentieth century, as a scandalous mutation of their own beautiful game. But Aussie Rules has been around for far longer than that. 

In actual fact, it is a completely unique game that was created in tandem with a different sport. The other one that Australians are rather good at…

Before we go into things, however, here’s the 101:

Aussie Rules: The 101

  • Aussie Rules is played on a large pitch, the size of two football fields.
  • Each team fields 18 players at a time.
  • Each game lasts 80 minutes – with four 20-minute periods.
  • Players can score by kicking the ball between two middle posts – worth six points – or one point by kicking between the inside and outside posts.
  • The ball is moved around by kicking, handling or running. 
  • After the ball is kicked, the catching player can call a mark and take a shot at the goal. If the goal is beyond reach, they can kick to a fellow player who can also call the mark and go for a shot themselves.
  • Australian Rules is the most popular sport in Australia, with a total of 3.06 million fans tuning in to watch the Grand Final in 2022.

An Unruly History Of Aussie Rules

The 19th Century 

Australian Rules was created in tandem with another sport. Aussie Rules was around since the early 19th century, but at that time, it was considered an “amusement” by colonists, and not an actual sport like cricket or horse racing. 

Cricket, however, did exist. And Australians were rather good at it. For this reason, the captain of the Victoria cricket team, Tom Willis, wrote a letter in 1858 asking for Aussie Rules to be formed into a club with a set of laws, in order to keep cricketers fit during the winter. 

It was, therefore, a means to an end. But it quickly grew a life of its own. By the 1870s, clubs were being formed around the country, in schools, workplaces, suburbs and even newly-found immigrant societies. 

Games became a regular occurrence and crowds of 2,000 to 3,000 gathered to watch. In 1876, a specific Aussie Rules ground was created in Carlton and an admission fee was introduced to the 5,000 spectators, who paid to watch Melbourne play Carlton.

Cricket clubs also took notice of this. With the prospect of money to be made from their grounds in the winter, the game of Aussie Rules moved onto cricket pitches, moving the field from a rectangular field – a la football – and into an oval playing ground.  In 1896, the first league was created. Known as the Victorian Football League – VFL – eight of the strongest clubs in the country came together to make the sport more commercial, appealing and economically viable. 

The 20th And 21st Century

In the early 1900s, the game spread from Victoria to South Australia, Western Australia, and then Tasmania; thereby completing its take-over as the Australian national sport. But, apart from being the nation’s favourite sport, a national league was not created. The problem was that New South Wales and Queensland were still rugby lovers, with the rugby union and league absorbing all of the best athletes who would otherwise have competed in Aussie Rules. 

In the 1980s, however, the VFL’s fight for a national league began to take shape when Brisbane and the West Coast were included in the competition.

In 1990, the VFL acknowledged an expansion of the game, with a rebrand to AFL – Australian Football League – and the inclusion of Adelaide, Fremantle and Port Adelaide within the ever-growing national league. In 2011, the Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney also joined the game, making the league amount to 18 teams overall. 

There are likely to be more teams joined over the coming years to “complete” the league, but as of right now, Aussie Rules remains the most popular sport in Australia, with more room for stratospheric growth in the future.

Aussie Rules: DAZN Bet’s Pop Quiz

Before you tune into the 2023 season, you’re going to need a few facts under your belt. With this in mind, here are small tidbits of knowledge that can help you understand the context of the game and its long history in the heat of Australia’s borders:

Who Is The Most Successful Aussie Rules Team?

Essendon and Carlton are technically the most successful VFL and AFL teams, having won 16 premierships between them.

Who Is The Most Supported AFL Team?

As of right now, the West Coast Eagles are the most popular AFL club, with a total of 103,000 members.

Who Is The Best Player In The History Of AFL?

Leigh Matthews is the best player of all time. He spent 16 years with the Hawks and he was named the greatest player of the 20th century by the AFL. 

Who Has Scored The Most Goals In The AFL?

Tony Lockett scored the most goals in his AFL career, totalling 1,360 goals across 281 games. 

Who Won The 2022 AFL Season?

The 2022 AFL final was won by Geelong Football Club, thrashing Sydney by 81 goals to win its ninth AFL premiership. Can they do it again? The new AFL season begins on 16th March and lasts until 30th September, so you’re going to have to watch and find out!