Australian rules football, officially known as Australian football, also called football, footy or Aussie rules (and in some regions is marketed as AFL, after the Australian Football League, the only fully professional Australian football league) is a sport played between two teams of 18 players on the field on either an Australian Football ground, a modified cricket field or similar sized sports venue.
The game's objective is to move the ball downfield and kick the ball through the team's goal. The main way to score points is by kicking the ball between the two tall goal posts. The team with the higher total score at the end of the match wins unless either a draw is declared or a tie-break is used.
During general play, players may position themselves anywhere on the field and use any part of their bodies to move the ball. The primary methods are kicking, handballing and running with the ball. There are rules on how the ball can be handled: for example, players running with the ball must intermittently bounce or touch it on the ground. Throwing the ball is not allowed and players must not get caught holding the ball. Possession of the ball is in dispute at all times except when a free kick or mark is paid. A distinctive feature of the game is the mark, where players anywhere on the field who catch a ball from a kick (with specific conditions) are awarded possession. Australian Football is a contact sport, in which players can tackle using their hands or use their whole body to obstruct opponents. Dangerous physical contact (such as pushing an opponent in the back), interference when marking and deliberately slowing the play are discouraged with free kicks, distance penalties or suspension for a certain number of matches, depending on the seriousness of the infringement. Frequent physical contests, spectacular marking, fast movement of both players and the ball and high scoring are the game's main attributes.
Details of the game's origins in Australia are obscure and still the subject of much debate. Australian football became organised in Melbourne in May 1859, when the first laws of the game were published by the Melbourne Football Club.
Australian football is the major participation and spectator sport in Australia. The sport is also played at amateur level in several countries and in several variations.
The most prestigious competition is the Australian Football League (AFL), culminating in the annual AFL Grand Final, currently the highest attended club championship event in the world. The rules of Australian football are governed by the AFL Commission with the advice of the AFL's Laws of the Game Committee.
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