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Sport in Australia
A Sporting Passion!
Australians are obsessed with sport and, despite our comparatively small population, we partake in and excel at a variety of sports. As a result of this talent and enthusiasm, as well as our first-class venues and our agreeable climate, we often play host to major international events. These include the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Australian Open Tennis, the 2003 Rugby World Cup, Cricket Tests, the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and many other notable sporting tournaments.
There are more than 100 national sporting organisations and over 30,000 local clubs representing every kind of sport imaginable. Common sports for both spectators and participants include Australian Rules Football, Cricket, Tennis, Soccer (Football), Rugby and Rugby League, Hockey, Athletics, and Netball.
Other fitness and leisure pursuits fostered by Australia's temperate to tropical climate are golf, swimming, rollerblading, cycling, bushwalking, and water activities including sailing and water skiing.
Australian Rules Football
In 1858, Tom Will and Henry Harrison wrote the first ten rules of Football, thus becoming the first people in the world to codify a kicking-ball game. These rules predate those of Rugby, Soccer and Gridiron and Gaelic Football. Football may have been inspired by the Aboriginal jumping/kicking game of Marn Grook. The Victorian Football Association kicked off in 1877, but several teams broke away in 1897 to form the Victorian Football League. This became the Australian Football League (AFL).
Now the game itself is most commonly referred to by the league's initials AFL, today a multi-million dollar business, with a pre-eminent National Competition. Interest in the game is generally at an all-time high within Australia and is the most popular spectator sport in Australia, with numerous leagues in all Australian states and territories. While it is a professional sport only in Australia, AFL is gradually growing in popularity in an expanding number of countries around the world including, the UK, USA, Japan, France, South Africa among many others.
The playing field
Around the world, football is played with a round ball, but in Australia, it is shaped more like an American Gridiron ball, but a bit larger with slightly more rounded ends. Technically speaking it is the shape of a prolate spheroid.
AFL, also known as Aussie rules, is played on a grassed field, elliptical in shape. There are four posts at either end; the outside two slightly shorter then the middle two.
To win a game of football, the aim is to score more points than the opposing team. To score points, you must kick the ball through the two central posts of the opposing team and score a goal (6 points), either along the ground or on the full without being touched by an opposing player. If the ball travels through either side of the tall central posts, but still between the shorter posts, then this is called a point (1 point).
A game is played over four quarters of 20 minutes each, including time on, or additional time, for when the ball is out of play and clock stops. Unlike many other football codes, there is no offside rule in Aussie rules and the ball can travel in any direction.
There are currently 16 sides in the AFL competition from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.
When a team takes to the field it consists of 18 players, with 4 reserve players.
There are four types of umpires in a game of Aussie Rules:
- Field umpire x3
- Boundary umpire x4
- Goal umpire x2
- Emergency umpire x1
Moving the ball in the field of play
The ball can be moved in the following ways:
- Kicking - the most typical style of kick is a 'drop punt' where the ball spins in reverse, end-over-end. Although not as popular in the modern game, the 'torpedo' is kicked on the side making it spiral and if done correctly, can result in gaining extra distance. It is also legal to kick the ball along the ground.
- Handball - players are not allowed to throw the ball during a game, but they can 'handball', where they balance the ball in one hand and punch it with the other to a team mate.
- Running - a player can carry the ball as far as they want, but must bounce the ball every 15 metres. If they exceed the 15 metre limit, the umpire will blow their whistle and the ball will be handed over to the opposition.
- Punching - the ball can be punched or slapped along in the field of play.
The Aussie Rules season runs from March to September every year for 22 home and away rounds, plus four weeks of finals for teams who finish in the top eight positions on the ladder. The Grand Final is the final game of the year and is played between the top two sides at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground).
The MCG is Australia's sporting colosseum - the largest in Australia. It is located in Melbourne, Victoria, and holds about 100,000 people. The 1956 Melbourne Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games were both held at the MCG and during the summer months, hosts cricket matches at both a state and international level.
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