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Why Now Is A Great Time To Start Watching Australian Rules Football

Team USA Basketball pose for a photograph during the 2019 AFL round 23 match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Essendon Bombers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 23, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – If you’re anything like me, and are starting to realize just how much you miss live sports, I may just have a solution for you. The Australian Football League, otherwise known as the AFL or footy, is commencing with the start of their 2020 season.

I understand that it is not your traditional, mainstream sport that you would normally be bunkered down in front of the television to watch here in the States, but it is full of high-flying action and it does include two teams filled with players with superior athleticism running, tackling and even jumping over each other.

The AFL is one of just a very few professional sporting leagues that are continuing to hold sporting events.

The season will not look like other seasons of the past, the AFL has already altered the way the games will be played. Generally, the AFL season is 22 weeks, this season it will be 17 weeks long. The game duration has also been shortened and there will be no spectators in the seats.

“We also embark on this journey with clear instruction from the government that all industry and all parts of society need to keep moving forward and we simply cannot stand still,” AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said in a press conference yesterday.

The announcement comes after the AFL Players Association, as well as club CEO’s, advised the league office that the players wanted the season to start.

Now for the fun part of the article to start.

What Is Footy?

The chances are that you have probably seen this-

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 23: A goal umpire signals a goal during the round 21 AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Melbourne Demons at Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 23, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

It seems as though many American sporting fanatics have come across the very funny and entertaining way in which goal umpires in Australian football use their arms to signify a goal has been scored. Regardless, if you have seen this before, you are ahead of the curve, congratulations. However, I would still recomend you read the basic rules below.

I must admit, if I were to try and describe to you via text how the game of Australian Rules Football works, we could be here for a while and the chances of you finishing this article quickly become ever so slim. So here are some of the basic rules-

  •  The game is played on an oval-shaped grass field that is roughly 150-200 yards long and 120-170 yards wide, although every oval is shaped differently. Even at the professional level.
  • There are four goal posts positioned on either end of the oval. Two tall sticks stand in between two smaller sticks. If you kick the ball in between the two big sticks, your team scores six points. If you kick the ball between a big stick and small stick, your team scores 1 point, and if you kick the ball between the small stick and the crowd then the other team receives the ball where the ball crossed the boundary line and no score is tallied.
  • You can only score by kicking the ball.
  • Each team has 18 players on the field at any given time.
  • There are no offsides.
  • To pass the ball you must either punch it with a closed fist, otherwise known as a handball, or kick it to your teammates.
  • When running with the ball you must bounce or tap the ball on the ground every 15 steps. If you fail to do so then the referee will award a free-kick to the other team.
  • You cannot tackle below the knees or above the shoulders.

If you made it through all those bullet-points, congratulations. You should have a basic understanding of how one of the most entertaining games in the world is played (sorry, being from Australia I am bias).

You can also watch this 4-minute YouTube video that gives viewers a pretty good visual explanation on how the game is played-

Basketball Fans Will Apparently Enjoy Footy A Lot

Hopefully, this is not where I lose you, because there is some great content below. But, because I know how much Utahns love Philadelphia All-Star guard and Australian native Ben Simmons, I figured it would only be fitting to post this video where ESPN discusses the similarities between Australian football and basketball as well as the impact Australian football has had on Simmon’s basketball career. It is fascinating.

Where Can You Watch Footy In The States?

The majority of Australians that live in the United States use the official AFL.com.au Watch Overseas link to watch their favorite team play every week. However, the annual service does set you back roughly $150 USD.

The official YouTube page of the AFL does upload 5-10 minute highlights of every game played every week.

I am sure there are also streaming services somewhere on the internet that you can find as well. Just be careful that the links that you click on doesn’t inundate your computer with viruses.

Need A Team To Follow?

Not that I would want to point you in the wrong direction or anything, but I would highly recommend following the Sydney Swans. Not because of their brilliant name, but because of the way they play the game.

Their head coach is nicknamed “Horse” and their star player is arguably the best to ever play the game. His name happens to be Buddy Franklin.

With that being said, welcome to the close-knit, loving and caring community that is the Sydney Swans fanbase.

Oh, and if you are a fan of late-night TV host Conan, you can check out this hilarious video of the comedian showing off his lack of athleticism with the Swans players during his Australian tour in April of 2019.

You may also be interested in a team named Collingwood. The best way to describe Collingwood and its fans is to compare them to Dallas Cowboy fans in America. Although, they do have an American that plays for them. His name is Mason Cox and he played collegiate basketball for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He participated in a combine that was held in the States (I do not think they hold them anymore) by the AFL and was fortunate enough to be drafted in the 2015 Rookie Draft with the 60th pick. It helps that he stands at 6 feet and 11 inches.

Lastly…

And Finally, it would be rude of me to finish this story without posting a very funny video of ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt trying to figure out what is going on during one of his segments of “Bad Beats”. This video is also to prove that the sport has made it on the largest sporting network in America. Hopefully, that helps you make your final decision on whether or not to pay attention to the upcoming 2020 season.

Fun Fact!

If you have made it to this part of the story then I tip my hat to you. Thank you!

In 2016, Travis Wilson was informed that a professional AFL club (called Essendon) were interested in signing the former quarterback. Unfortunately, because Wilson would later sign with the Los Angeles Rams as a tight-end, the move to Australia never worked out.

I did, however, teach Wilson the basic kicking, catching and handballing techniques at the University of Utah Football Facility. Here is a video of that. Enjoy!

Tom Hackett is a Utah Football and Real Salt Lake Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the It’s Utah’s World Podcast (SUBSCRIBE)  Follow him on Twitter: @TomCantHackett. He is also Australian.