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Australian Football (AFL) Lists


Ball rules
free kicks,
Playing positions


Objective: Two teams of 18 players. Players attempt to score goals by kicking the ball in between the opposing teams goalposts. They can run with the ball, kick it, or hit it, but throwing the ball is not allowed.

To start the game, a coin toss decides which team will aim for which end. The field umpire (see Officials, below) starts the quarter with by blowing the whistle, and bouncing the ball in the centre circle. No player may enter the circle, and until the ball has touched the ground, only four players per team are allowed inside the square.

If the ball cannot be bounced on the ground (if the ground is muddy) the ball can be thrown into the air, with the same rules applying. This is called a ball-up.

A game lasts for four quarters, each lasting 25 minutes playing time. Teams change ends after each quarter. A maximum of 3 minutes is allowed between the first and second quarters, 15 minutes at half-time, and 5 minutes between the third and fourth quarter.

The timekeepers sound a siren at the end of each quarter, and the field umpire blows the whistle to end the quarter. Time can be added on if there has been a delay in play.



The team with the most points at the end of the game wins. If both teams have the same number of points the game is a draw.

A goal is scored when an attacker kicks the ball over the goal line between the goalposts without it touching either the posts or another player. This counts for 6 points.

A behind is scored when

- the ball goes between the goalposts without qualifying as a goal.

- the ball touches or passes over a goalpost.
(the posts at the end of the pitch at the edge white half-rectangle).

- the ball passes over a behind line without touching a behind post.
(the posts either side of the goalposts).

- the ball is kicked or carried over the behind line or goal line by a defender.

When a player is kicking at goal from a mark or from a free kick, the kick must be on a direct line through the mark to the centre of the goal line.

Points can be scored after the quarter has ended, if:

- the ball was moving before the siren sounded.

- the player was awarded a free kick.

- the player took a mark before the siren sounded.

Scoring is not allowed after time if the ball was touched and assisted in transit or if it touches any player below the knee.

After a behind, unless a free kick has been given, the defending side kicks the ball from within the kick off lines (square). No opponent is allowed within 10 metres (33 feet) of these lines at the point of kick off.

The ball must be kicked clear of the hands and feet but does not have to be kicked over the kick off line.

Ball rules

A player can kick the ball but not throw it. The ball can be passed with the hands only if it is handballed (punched by holding it with one hand and hitting it with the fist of the other hand).

A player can hold the ball (and move around with it) until they are tackled by an opponent. Players are allowed to tackle an opponent who has the ball or block opponents near the ball but not in possession.

A player can run with the ball, but the ball must be touched or bounced on the ground at least once every 10 metres (33 feet). If the ball is hit over an opponents head and caught by the same player who hit it, it must be bounced or touched onto the ground within 10 metres, or passed.

A player who is in possession of the ball, when held by an opponent firmly enough to stop or greatly reduce their progress, must dispose of the ball by kicking or handballing it. If the tackled player does not do this in a reasonable time, the field umpire can award a free kick.

The player who is holding the opponent must allow a reasonable time for the opponent to dispose of the ball by kicking or handballing it. If the player with the ball is forced to lose possession (through being knocked down), play continues.

Bouncing the ball

The field umpire bounces the ball:

- at the start of each quarter.

- after a goal.

- when it is unclear which player has taken a mark.

- when a player kicking off from behind kicks off outside the kick off lines.

- in scrimmages (where players are all together).

- when the ball has been bounced or has gone over the goal line, without having been touched by any player.

- when the player claims a mark, after the ball has been touched, and keeps possession after being held by an opponent - if the field umpire thinks that the player with the ball has not heard the 'play on' call.

- when the goal umpire cannot see whether the ball has crossed the goal line.

What else can happen in Australian Rules football?


A mark is awarded when a player catches and holds the ball directly from the kick of a player at least 10 metres (33 feet) away. The ball must not have been touched by any other players before the mark.

A mark is awarded if the ball strikes an official but is caught by another player before it touches the ground.

The player who made the mark is allowed an unobstructed kick from anywhere behind where the mark was made. Only one opponent is allowed to stand at a mark and no other player is allowed within a 10 metre (33 feet) semi-circle behind the mark.

If an opponent does go into this space, it is called crossing the mark, and if a goal is scored, it counts. If a goal is not scored, the player may take another kick.

A mark is allowed if it was made by a player before the ball crossed a boundary. It is also allowed on a goal line.

Free kicks

A free kick is awarded to the player nearest an opponent who deliberately:

- infringes at the centre bounce.

- interferes with the bouncing of the ball by the field umpire.

- interferes with the field umpire during the match.

- interferes with an opponent when the ball is out of play or is more than 5 metres (17 feet) away.

- holds back trips an opponent who has kicked of handballed the ball.

- trips, kicks, (or attempts) an opponent.

- dangerous kicking when not in possession.

- strikes or attempts to strike an opponent.

- seizes an opponent below the knee or above the neck (including the upper shoulder).

- charges an opponent.

- pushes an opponent from behind - except when genuinely going for a mark.

- pushes an opponent in the face.

- pushes an opponent who is in the air.

- infringes the rules on holding the ball.

- handballs the ball incorrectly.

- throws or hands the ball to another player while the ball is in play.

- infringes the rules on running with the ball.

- puts the ball out of bounds without it being touched by another player.

- when kicking off from a behind, kicks the ball out of bounds without another player touching it.

- kicks the ball out of bounds without it touching the ground.

- interferes with an opponent while the ball is out of bounds.

- wastes time.

Rules on taking a free kick

- A player can take a free kick from any point behind where it was awarded.

- No other player may be within 10 meters (33 feet) and only one opponent is allowed at that distance.

- The field umpire will not award a free kick and instead allow play to continue if this would benefit the non-offending side.

- If an opponent deliberately delays a free kick or mark, it may be advanced a maximum of 50 metres (164 feet) towards the offending team's goal.

- If the offending team commits a second offence before the free kick is taken, the free kick may be taken from the place where the second offence took place - if it benefits the team taking the free kick.

If the offence was against a player who had disposed of the ball (kicking, passing, and so on), the non-offending team may take the kick from:

- where the ball touched the ground.

- where the ball was caught.

- where the ball was marked.

- where the ball went out of play.

- where the offence occurred.

Scoring from a free kick

If an offence takes place during a successful free kick at goal, the goal counts. If a behind is scored, another kick is awarded.

If a player of the team taking the kick commits an offence, no points are scored, and a free kick could be awarded to the other side.

If a player is fouled immediately after a score, another free kick is awarded where the offence occurred. There can be another score made before the ball returns to the centre circle for a bounce, or is kicked off.


A player with the ball may be tackled (checked) with the hip, chest, shoulder, arms, or open hands. A player without the ball may be pushed in the chest or side with fair and reasonable force, providing the ball is within 5 metres (17 feet) of that player.

If the ball goes out of play

To be out of play, the ball must completely cross the boundary line around the edges of the field. Unless a free kick has been awarded, the ball is returned to the position on the field where it went out.

If, after a mark or a free kick, the player does not put the ball back into play from outside the boundary line, the ball is returned to the field at the point where the original mark or free kick took place.

If a defender kicks from behind the goal line or behind line and hits a post, time and another kick can be taken.

Throw ins

When the ball is over the boundary line, the boundary umpire may be directed by the field umpire to throw the ball over the head towards the centre of the field. It must travel between 10 and 15 metres (33 feet to 50 feet) at a height of at least 10 metres (33 feet).


A team will usually have three extra players as interchange players (substitutes). A new player cannot enter the field of play until the player they are replacing has left it, unless in the case of injury where the player cannot be removed immediately.


A match is controlled by a field umpire, who follows the ball around, two goal umpires, who stand at opposite ends of the pitch behind the goalposts, and two boundary umpires, who stand along the sides of the pitch.

Playing positions

Note: Exact positions may vary.

The forward players main function is to score goals. The midfield players pass the ball up the field, and the back players prevent the opponents from scoring.


The ball

The ball is oval, and is usually covered with hide, containing a rubber bladder. A standard ball weighs 450-500 grammes (about 17 ounces), and is about 55 centimetres (22 inches) round and about 73 centimetres (29 inches) long.


Players wear no protective clothing at all - but they do have to remove jewellery, watches, and other items which could cause injury. They wear sleeveless shirts (guernseys in Australia), shorts, socks, and studded boots.

The pitch

The field is an oval between 135 and 185 metres (442 to 606 feet) in length and 110 and 155 metres (360 to 508 feet) in width. The boundary is marked with a white line drawn a few metres from the stands.

The goals are two sets of posts erected at the far ends of the oval. The inner set of posts are the goal posts, 6.4 metres (21 feet) apart on the boundary line and 6 metres (18 feet) tall. Two behind posts are set 6.4 metres (21 feet) from either goal post and must be at least 3 metres (9 feet) tall.

The goal square (it's actually a rectangle) extends 9 metres (30 feet) into the ground from the goal posts and is 6.4 metres (21 feet) wide. A radius is drawn on the oval 50 metres (164 feet) from each goal.

The centre circle is marked at the precise center of the oval, 3 metres (9 feet) in diameter, divided by a lateral line extending 2 metres (6 feet 6 inches) on either side of the diameter, and dividing the field in half. A centre square is centred on this, 45 metres (148 feet) on each side. These markings control the conduct of the centre bounces.


Australian Football (AFL) Lists

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