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About the AFL

Did you know?

The first football fields were rectangular, large and often had trees spotted around the ground. Sometimes the trees were the goals.

The game was called footy in the 1850s. It became known as Victorian Rules when it spread to the other states in the 1870s. In the early twentieth century, with the formation of the Australasian Football Council as the national governing body, which at the time included New Zealand, it was officially called the Australasian Game of Football which evolved to Australian Football.

For several years the captains acted as umpires. Players wore caps and kicked a round ball. There was no set playing time. The first team to score two goals was declared the winner. Many early games ended when it got dark or because of quarrels. Sometimes the game stopped because the footy burst – footballs were way too expensive for spares to be kept on hand.

One of the first games to be reported was played on and after 7 August 1858 between Melbourne Grammar and Scotch College. It was played in the park outside where the Melbourne Cricket Ground is today, on a ground about 600 metres long. After four hours it grew dark, with the scores level at one goal each. The teams played for a total of a further eight hours over another two Saturdays, but no further goals were scored and the game was declared a draw.


The AFL Ladder

Each team receives four match points for a win and two match points for a tie.

POINTS FOR = total points scored by the team as an aggregate of its scores for the season

POINTS AGAINST = total points scored against the team as an aggregate of it's opponents' scores for the season

Determining of Ladder Positions

1. Total number of match points ( i.e. Wins & Ties)

2. Scoring Percentage: calculated as follows: (Points For divided by Points Against) x 100

Scoring Percentage simply expresses the team's proportion of points scored for every 100 points scored against it.


  P W L D For Against % Points
CARL 19 17 2 - 2022 1437 140.7 68
GEEL 19 14 5 - 2194 1647 133.2 56
ESS 19 13 4 2 2162 1632 132.5 56
RICH 19 13 5 1 1781 1642 108.5 54
WCE 19 12 7 - 1760 1454 121.0 48
NMFC 19 12 7 - 1891 1722 109.8 48
WB 19 10 8 1 1591 1696 93.8 42
MELB 19 9 10 - 1659 1565 106.0 36

For example: Geelong: 2194 points for divided by 1647 points against = 1.332119 x 100 = 133.2119%
i.e. for every 100 points scored against Geelong, the Cats have scored just over 133 points


Finishing Order

Another frequently asked question especially come September is who finishes where once the finals begin, eg) Adelaide finished on top but lost in the Preliminary Final do they finish 3rd or 4th. This has changed numerous times through history as you'll find in the following

How the Finishing Order of the Finalists is determined after the Season has been completed

Naturally, the loser of the Grand Final has always been declared second.

1897; 1924 - Round Robin System

A mini ladder, calculated in the traditional style, determined the finishing order after the three rounds of finals matches.


The Top Four was determined after the three rounds of sectional matches a club eliminated in the Semi Final were declared third.

1902-23; 1925-30

The losers of the Semi Finals were placed third and fourth according to their ladder ranking after the Home and Away series.


The loser of the First Semi Final and the Preliminary Final finished fourth and third respectively.


The loser of the Elimination Final finished fifth. The 1931-71 method was used for the remaining positions.


The losers of the two Elimination Finals were placed fifth and sixth according to their ladder ranking after the Home and Away series. The 1931-71 method was used for the remaining positions.


The losers of the two Elimination Finals were placed seventh and eighth according to their ladder ranking after the Home and Away series.
After Week One of the finals the clubs were re-ranked. The losers of the Qualifying Finals were deemed fifth and sixth, according to their ladder ranking after the Home and Away series. Similarly, the winners of the Elimination Finals were deemed third and fourth.
The clubs eliminated in the two Semi Finals finished the season fifth and sixth, according to their ranking from the week before.
Third and fourth spots were allotted to the losers of the Preliminary Finals, according to their Week Two ranking.


Using the Round 22 ladder ranking principle, clubs eliminated in Week One of the finals are declared seventh and eighth.

Those eliminated in Week two finish fifth and sixth.

The losers of the Preliminary Finals end the season in third and fourth place.


Using the Round 22 ladder ranking principle, clubs eliminated in Week One of the finals are declared seventh and eighth.

Those eliminated in Week two finish fifth and sixth.

The losers of the two Preliminary Finals are ranked in a similar method eg) Adelaide and Collingwood are eliminated from the two Preliminary Finals; Adelaide finished above Collingwood on the ladder after Round 22, therefore the Crows finish 3rd and the Magpies 4th.


List Size

For 2013, all clubs (*except Gold Coast and GWS Giants) now operate under the following list sizes.

Primary List Size Category A Rookies Category BRookies Total Rookies (Maximum) Total
38 (Minimum)
40 (Maximum)

* Gold Coast Suns: Primary List 42; Rookie List 9
* GWS Giants: Primary List 44-50; Rookie List 9


Anzac Day Matches

While in this modern era, AFL football on ANZAC Day isn't just a tradition, it has probably become the biggest day outside the Grand Final on the football calendar and easily the years biggest Home & Away game, but this was not always the case -

The first time Anzac Day matches occurred was in 1960. Prior to that, Government legislation did not allow matches at AFL level to take place on April 25.

In 1960 all Round Two matches scheduled to be played on Saturday, 23rd April were postponed due to wet weather. The Victorian Government granted special permission for two of the games to be played on the holiday Monday. The League agreed to donate a significant proportion of the proceeds to the RSL for distribution to Legacy, etc, and to not commence any game prior to 2:00pm.

The arrangement was highly successful and has continued, where possible ever since. In 1967 an exhibition match between the previous season's Victorian squad and the best of the remaining players was conducted at the MCG.

All the way up until 1995 if Anzac Day fell midweek, matches were not automatically fixtured for the day, until 1995 when on a Tuesday Collingwood played Essendon, 95,000 fans packed the MCG witnessing a stunning draw. Recognising the potential to establish a great tradition and footballs way of honouring such an important National day, no matter the day of the week, it is now yearly fixture, Essendon v Collingwood on Anzac Day.


Venues - From Cricket to Football

During the 1800's, playing fields, ovals were used for one thing only, cricket, so when Australian Football began to emerge as a new sport ironically invented to keep cricketers fit during winter, it was these cricket grounds that had to be changed for footballs use, but when constructed during the 19th Century, there were no actual standard dimensions. Some were larger than others, depending on the space available to the clubs &/or municipal councils, you could probably call this the very first indications that league venues could never be exactly the same everywhere, another unique trait of Australian Football, sizes of grounds have never been universal, some bigger, some smaller than others.

In the formative years, Australian football was played on rectangular fields simply marked out in parklands or paddocks because most cricket clubs would not permit other sports to be played on their grounds. They considered that football matches would result in surface damage, particularly in wet conditions.

Eventually, cricket clubs saw the potential revenue if they permitted football matches to be played on their fenced ovals as they could charge admission because football had become such a popular spectator sport.

Football authorities marked out the boundary lines close to fences to make maximum use of playing areas.

Though much has changed through the games history when it comes to playing venues, clubs moving from venue to venue, new stadiums being built, older grounds going by the wayside, even venues with a retractable roof allowing protection from the elements and perfect one thing remains as it was in Round 1, 1897, and part of AFL footballs unique attraction, no one venue is the same.


The evolution of Australian Football uniforms

Until organised competition began in the 1860s, players wore any form of clothing which identified them as team members. Proper uniforms were adopted during the 1870s.

At first, lace-up canvas guernseys, long trousers with socks and high leather boots were common. Gradually, the trousers became shorter and woollen guernseys complete with roll necks became fashionable. Later, some players wore sleeveless guernseys.

Boots were equipped with leather stops (studs) from the early days. During the late 1950s, plastic stops and soles were introduced. Soon after, some players began wearing low-cut style boots to allow extra speed.

From the early days the boots had hard toes, often strengthened with an inner metal cap, which made contact with other players dangerous. In the early 1970s soft-toed boots were introduced. These lighter boots made for even greater speed without detracting from kicking power.

About the same time, synthetic fabrics came into use for guernseys and shorts. Lace-up guernseys were again popular for a time in 1970s until they were banned because of the risk of finger injuries to opponents when tackling.


Guernsey Numbers

In today's game the Guernsey number is one of the more popular, interesting and talked about parts of the game, "will Geelong give the famous number 5 to a new player, which player will wear this number or that number, which number is the most famous etc.

But it took 14 seasons of football from the competitions beginning in 1897 until the 1911 Finals before numbers on the backs of players to be introduced.

The reason that Guernsey numbers were introduced late in the 1911 season was to make the identification of players easier for spectators and umpires & the first publication of a program or Football Record for spectators at the game.

From number 1 to number 65, over 10,000 league players have worn one or more Guernsey numbers, a famous part of the game, talking point of the game, historical part of the game that will continue on for years to come.


AFL Match Postponements

In today's football a game being postponed for any reason is very rare, with multi purpose venues, strict broadcasting schedules, breaks for players etc it's a virtual impossibility to postpone games at short notice, but there have been moments when this has happened, for very different reasons . . . . . . . . . .

On August 14, 1897 torrential down pours flooded grounds, forcing all matches to be delayed one week.

The four matches of Round 3, 1900 were originally scheduled for May 19. All were postponed due to heavy rain and played on the Saturday after Round 14 on August 18.

On May 9, 1903 Carlton was drawn to play Geelong at Corio Oval, but a snap railway strike made it impossible for the match to take place. It was decided to relocate the game to the Sydney Cricket Ground on the earliest available date - Monday, August 3!

When the death of King Edward VII was announced on May 7, 1910, out of respect all games were held over until the following week-end.

Very heavy rain on Semi-Final day on August 24, 1918 forced the South Melbourne-Carlton encounter to be held over until the following Saturday.

Five years later the scheduled October 13 Grand Final contested by Essendon and Fitzroy had to be placed on hold for a week because the MCG was waterlogged.

On July 4, 1936 and August 26, 1939 all encounters were delayed for the same reason.

Essendon was due to play Geelong at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground on Saturday, June 14, 1952 but very wet conditions forced two postponements (Saturday and Sunday). Finally the Premiership match became the first to be played under lights on the Monday night.

Once again, on April 23, 1960 torrential rain resulted in a postponement of Round Two. For the first time, permission was obtained for two of the matches to be played on Anzac Day. The remaining contests took place on the following Saturday.

The 1993 Pre Season competition began at Waverley Park, but sudden playing surface problems meant all games for the following round had to be moved around the country.

Due to the telecast of Princess Dianna's funeral, the 1997 Second Qualifying final between Adelaide and West Coast was delayed from the Saturday Night until the next afternoon (September 7).

Round 10, 1996, half way through the third quarter of a Saturday night St Kilda, Essendon game, the Waverley Park lights go out, when they don't come back on, the game is halted to the very second the lights failed. Both teams would return on the following Tuesday night to complete the last quarter & a half, the only time ever a league game has been completed over different days.

On Saturday night, June 10, 2000 Hawthorn was due to play St Kilda at Docklands Stadium. An unsafe playing surface resulted in the match being relocated to the MCG for the following afternoon.


Australian Football (Official title of the code)

Whether it is called Australian Football, Australian Rules Football, "Aussie Rules", the VFL, the AFL, Australia's only indigenous football code is officially entitled 'Australian football'. It has never been officially referred to as 'Australian rules football'. Such terminology has only ever appeared in the form of football journalism, coined by different writers.

AFL refers to the elite Australian football competition known as the Australian Football League.


Wooden Spoon

A booby prize consisting of a spoon made of wood.

Historically, the least successful of the honour men (i.e. of the Junior Optimes, in the Cambridge University) were bracketed together and referred to as the 'spoon bracket'. Such men were so-called because they were presented with a wooden spoon, while the high achievers received a silver or golden one. Spoons were the usual prizes in place of medals. The terminology is in common usage for sporting teams finishing at the bottom of a competition.