Australian rules football in Australia

Australian rules football (referred to simply as football or footy in all states except New South Wales and Queensland) is the most watched and attended sport and the second most participated code of football in Australia. Since originating in Victoria in 1858 and spreading elsewhere from 1866, it has been played continuously in every Australian state since 1903 plus the two major territories since 1916.

Australian rules football in Australia
Contesting for possession in an indigenous community football game in the Northern Territory
Governing bodyAustralian Football League
National team(s)Australia
First played1858; 165 years ago (1858) in Melbourne, Victoria
Registered players555,629 (2023)[1]
National competitions
Club competitions
Audience records
Single match121,696Collingwood vs Carlton, at the MCG (1970 VFL Grand Final)
Season7,238,8582011 AFL season[3]

The sport is played by more than half a million Australians. Players participate at an organised level in various forms from Auskick (age 5) through to school-based, underage (up to age 19), open age, to Masters (35+) competition. It is the second largest code of football in Australia overall by number of participants after soccer. The season runs in most states and territories during the cooler seasons in Australia (from March to September), avoiding clashes with cricket, with the exception being the northern part of the Northern Territory where the season runs during the wet season (October to March). The highest participation rates (players per capita) can be found in the Northern Territory (5%), South Australia (4.8%), Victoria (4.3%), Western Australia (4.2%), Tasmania (3.3%) and the Australian Capital Territory (2.4%). Unlike other football codes which are strongest in urban areas, Australian rules football has the highest participation in regional and remote areas. Nationally this rate is 5.7%, almost double that of any other code. It is also fast growing in Queensland and New South Wales, though with participation rates of 1.3% and 1.1% respectively it is considered a minor sport, lagging behind soccer and rugby league in overall interest. These two states represent more than half of the Australian population and this dichotomy of football culture is referred to as the Barassi Line. South Australia is the only state where Australian rules is the code of football with the greatest number of participants.

The national professional competitions are the Australian Football League (men's) and AFL Women's. These are the most popular professional football competitions of any code, with millions of TV viewers across the country. The AFL governs the code nationally through the AFL Commission. The AFL originated in Victoria and changed its name from Victorian Football League in 1990 after a successful program of national expansion.

While the AFL phased out state and territory representative matches as it expanded nationally (with the exception of occasional matches featuring Victoria), players can still represent their states up to the age of 19 through the AFL Under 16 Championships and AFL Under 19 Championships or through their lower tier (semi-professional) state competitions.

Australia competes internationally mainly against New Zealand. Australia's national teams remain undefeated. From 2007 to 2019 the underage men's team competed annually against international opponents as the AFL Academy. Australia has fielded amateur teams against South Africa, Papua New Guinea and the United States. Sides representing Indigenous Australia have competed against Papua New Guinea and South Africa.

History edit

Engraving of the first intercolonial football match between Victoria and South Australia at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground, 1879
The first national interstate competition was held in 1908

It began in the Colony of Victoria in 1858, followed by the Colony of Queensland (1866)[4] and Colony of New South Wales (1866); Colony of South Australia (1877); Colony of Tasmania (1879); and, Colony of Western Australia (1881).

The first intercolonial representative match was Victoria vs South Australia (1879).

Delegates representing the football associations of South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland met in 1883 in order to standardise the rules across the colonies. The earliest governing body, the Australasian Football Council (later Australian National Football Council) dates back to this time.

Following a hiatus in Queensland (1892-1903) and New South Wales (1893-1903) it was revived after the Federation of Australia and expanded to the territories of the Australian Capital Territory (1911) and the Northern Territory (1916).

In Australian popular culture edit

The sport has had a significant impact on popular culture in its native Australia, capturing the imagination of Australian film, art, music, television and literature.

Audience edit

Attendance edit

Football is the most highly attended spectator sport in Australia. Government figures show that more than 2.5 million people (16.8% of the population) attended games in 1999.[5] In 2005, a cumulative 6,283,788 people attended Australian Football League (AFL) premiership matches, a record for the competition.[6] A further 307,181 attended NAB Cup pre-season matches and 117,552 attended Regional Challenge pre-season practice matches around the country.[7] As of 2010, the AFL is one of only five professional sports leagues with an average attendance of over 30,000 per game.

As well as the AFL attendances, strong semi-professional state and local competitions also draw crowds. The South Australian SANFL drew an attendance in 2008 of 362,209 with an average of 3,773 per game, while the Western Australian WAFL drew an attendance of 219,205 with an average of 2,332 per game.

Region/State/Territory Average AFL premiership season attendance (since 1990 as at 2023)[8]
  New South Wales 24,207
  Victoria 38,116
  Queensland 19,658
  Western Australia 34,462
  South Australia 35,919
  Tasmania 14,206
  Australian Capital Territory 10,989
  Northern Territory 9,320

Television edit

According to OzTAM, in recent years, the AFL Grand Final has reached the top five programs across the five biggest cities in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Australian rules football has achieved a #1 rating in the sports category in both 2004 and 2005.

Participation edit

Region/State/Territory Registered players 2016[9] Registered players in 2023[10]
  National 496,829 555,629
  New South Wales 51,177 71,481
  Victoria 209,117 235,970
  Queensland 47,274 68,354
  Western Australia 82,701 95,407
  South Australia 74,806 69,868
  Tasmania 15,732 14,528
  Australian Capital Territory 7,504 8,326
  Northern Territory 8,519 9,743


Structure and competitions edit

An Australian Football League match at Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast. Adelaide's Matthew Clarke and Melbourne's Mark Jamar contest a centre bounce. The man in the green shirt is a central field umpire.

The most powerful organisation and competition within the game is the elite professional Australian Football League (AFL). The AFL is recognised by the Australian Sports Commission as being the National Sporting Organisation for Australian rules football. There are also seven state/territory-based organisations in Australia, most of which are affiliated to the AFL. Most of these hold annual semi-professional club competitions while the others oversee more than one league. Local semi-professional or amateur organizations and competitions are affiliated to their state leagues.

Region Overview Governing body Major competition(s)
  Australian Capital Territory Overview AFL NSW/ACT AFL Canberra
  New South Wales Overview Sydney AFL
  Northern Territory Overview AFL Northern Territory Northern Territory Football League
  Queensland Overview AFL Queensland Queensland Australian Football League
  South Australia Overview South Australian Football Commission South Australian National Football League
  Tasmania Overview AFL Tasmania Tasmanian Football League
  Victoria Overview AFL Victoria Victorian Football League
  Western Australia Overview West Australian Football Commission West Australian Football League

National championships edit

Senior edit

The last senior national carnival was held in 1993 and the last match between interstate senior sides was held in 1999. Senior interstate competition is no longer contested by players from the Australian Football League. A one-off exhibition match featuring Victoria and a "dream team". However, the state leagues continue to compete in inter-league matches.

Under 18 edit

The AFL Under 18 Championships are the annual national Australian rules football championships for players aged 18 years or younger and includes teams from each Australian state or Territory. The competition is monitored by AFL recruiters and frequently seen as the second biggest pathway for junior players to the fully professional Australian Football League. The competition is currently sponsored by the National Australia Bank (NAB). The competition receives an increasing amount of coverage in the media, however still lags behind the TAC Cup in terms of interest in Victoria.

AFL players' Australian State of Origin edit

AFL player states of origin based on junior participation.

Region/State/Territory AFL Players (2019)
  New South Wales 47
  Victoria 483
  Queensland 33
  Western Australia 101
  South Australia 101
  Tasmania 23
  Australian Capital Territory 4
  Northern Territory 10


See also edit

Books edit

  • Blainey, Geoffrey (2010). A Game of Our Own: The Origins of Australian Football. Black Inc. ISBN 9781863954853.
  • Coventry, James (2015). Time and Space: The Tactics That Shaped Australian Rules and the Players and Coaches Who Mastered Them. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-7333-3369-9.
  • de Moore, Greg (2011). Tom Wills: First Wild Man of Australian Sport. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74237-598-4.
  • Hess, Rob (2008). A National Game: The History of Australian Rules Football. Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-07089-3.
  • Hess, Rob; Lenkic, Brunette (2016). Play On! The Hidden History of Women's Australian Rules Football. Bonnier Zaffre. ISBN 9781760063160.
  • de Moore, Greg; Hess, Rob; Nicholson, Matthew; Stewart, Bob (2021). Australia's Game: The History of Australian Football. Hardie Grant Books. ISBN 9781-74379-657-3.
  • Hibbins, Gillian; Mancini, Anne (1987). Running with the Ball: Football's Foster Father. Lynedoch Publications. ISBN 978-0-7316-0481-4.
  • Hibbins, Gillian (2008). "Men of Purpose". In Weston, James (ed.). The Australian Game of Football: Since 1858. Geoff Slattery Publishing. pp. 31–45. ISBN 978-0-9803466-6-4.
  • Hibbins, Gillian (2013). "The Cambridge Connection: The English Origins of Australian Football". In Mangan, J. A. (ed.). The Cultural Bond: Sport, Empire, Society. Routledge. pp. 108–127. ISBN 9781135024376.
  • Nauright, John; Parrish, Charles (2012). Sports Around the World: History, Culture, and Practice. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781598843002.
  • Pennings, Mark (2012). Origins of Australian Football: Victoria's Early History: Volume 1: Amateur Heroes and the Rise of Clubs, 1858 to 1876. Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd. ISBN 9781921421471.
  • Pippos, Angela (2017). Breaking the Mould. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781925475296.
  • Williamson, John (2003). Bucknell, Mar (ed.). Football's Forgotten Tour: The Story of the British Australian Rules Venture of 1888. Applegate. ISBN 9780958101806.

References edit

  1. ^ Ausplay Sports Report 2023 - Australian Football
  2. ^ "Women's participation soars in 2015".
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 May 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Brisbane Courier 25 May 1866
  5. ^ Sports Attendance, Australian Bureau of Statistics, April 1999.
  6. ^ "Aussie Rules sets attendance record". The Sydney Morning Herald. 28 August 2005.
  7. ^ 403 Forbidden
  8. ^ Average H&A Attendances By State
  9. ^ (excludes Auskick registrations)
  10. ^ (excludes Auskick registrations)
  11. ^ Ausplay Participation by Activity/State
  12. ^ AFL Player state of origin map