If you're planning on watching Australian Football, either on television or live, and you have no idea about the game, you're in for a hell of a lot of fun. Australian Football, or Aussie Rules as it is also known, is often rated as one of the quickest sports in the world. For sustained running punctuated by frenetic one-on-one contests, high leaping and body-on-body contact, it is undoubtedly the best spectator sport in the world. The first element of Australian Football to understand is that players can move the ball by hand or foot forwards, backwards or sideways. Players can run to any position on the ground as there is no offside rule.
Most teams, ideally, attempt to move the ball by kicking or handballing to teammates who have space. In 95 percent of cases, the ball is moved in the direction of their goal. This means that teammates of the player with the ball should be running to provide an option for him to kick or handball to. It also means that the quicker a player anticipates what is happening up the field, the more chance he has of creating space. Much of the time though, the football is in dispute and this is where some of the real excitement of Australian Football occurs.
Players need pace to outrun or evade opponents, a high leap to mark and possibly take a 'screamer' (a high mark where a player uses an opponent as a step to greater height and be the first to grab the football) and good strength to either break a tackle or bump an opponent to gain the ball.
A team is made up of 22 players, of which 18 are on the ground at any one time. The players play in positions all over the ground, but are generally matched up to a specific opponent.
When the ball bounces to start play, most players will be standing close to their opponents. Those in the forward line will be running around trying to create space between themselves and their opponents, while their opponents, in defence, will generally be trying to stay close to their men.
The game is divided into four quarters, with one quarter consisting of 20 minutes plus time-on. Time-on is the extra time allocated when play stops. The teams swap ends (kick in the other direction) at the end of each quarter with the idea is to score more total points than the opposition. Total points is the combination of goals and points scored during a game.