Australian Rules Football (‘Aussie Rules’) is a game native to Australia that was first played in 1858. In 1857, Tom Wills, one of the founders of Australian Football, returned to Australia after schooling in England where he was football captain of Rugby School and a brilliant cricketer. Initially, he advocated the winter game of football as a way of keeping cricketers fit during off-season. The new game was devised by Wills, his cousin H.C.A. Harrison, W.J. Hammersley and J.B. Thompson. The Melbourne Football Club was formed on August 7, 1858 – the year of the code’s first recorded match between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar School. The game quickly blossomed. The Geelong Football Club was formed in 1859 and in 1866 an updated set of rules was put in place and competition started.
The Victorian Football League (VFL) was established in 1896 and the following year the League’s first games were played among the foundation clubs – Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, St Kilda and South Melbourne. In 1908, Richmond and University joined the competition but after the 1914 season, University left the League. In 1925, Footscray (now the Western Bulldogs), Hawthorn and North Melbourne (now the Kangaroos) joined the VFL. In 1982, on the verge of bankruptcy, South Melbourne relocated to Sydney and became known as the Sydney Swans. This was the informal beginnings of what would later become a national competition. This line-up of 12 clubs would remain unchanged until 1987 when the competition expanded to include further interstate clubs, the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Bears. As the VFL had now truly become a national competition, the VFL decided to change its name to the Australian Football League (AFL) in 1990.
At the end of the 1996 season, on the verge of bankruptcy, foundation club Fitzroy merged with the Brisbane Bears to form the Brisbane Lions. So by the start of the 1997 season, the competition now comprised of 16 clubs after Adelaide (in 1991), Fremantle (in 1995), and Port Adelaide (in 1997) joined the AFL. Further expansion occurred in 2011 with the introduction of a second team from Queensland, the Gold Coast Suns (GCS), who had recruited a top line rugby league player in the AFL’s attempt to expand the game into rugby territory. Further expansion also occurred in 2012 with the 18th team joining the competition, the Greater Western Sydney Giants (GWS), who became the second AFL team in New South Wales. Just like GCS, GWS recruited a top line rugby league player which along with GCS, has helped the AFL penetrate further into rugby territory. Although Victoria still has the greatest representation of teams in the AFL (10 teams), there is no doubt now that the AFL has become a truly national competition.
Aussie Rules is a fast, open game that requires considerable aerobic fitness. It could be described as a combination of Basketball, Rugby and Soccer as there are many aspects of these games that can be found in Aussie Rules. It has the one on one match ups like basketball, the tackling and kicking of Rugby, and the ball can at times be kicked off the ground like soccer. Teams pass the leather, oval-shaped ball by handpassing (punching the ball) or kicking. Players must kick the ball to score a goal and what’s more, you can still score if you miss the goals. A goal is worth 6 points but if you miss either side of the goal you can still score 1 point. Tackling and bumping opposition players is an important part of the game, which is why it has a tough reputation although the game doesn’t revolve around tackling like Rugby does.
Australia is the only country in the world where Aussie Rules is played at professional level however, the sport is played worldwide in the North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia.