A beginner’s guide to the footy

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Football Fan in Sydney

Nothing beats watching the footy with your mates! Read up before attending your first match.

For many Aussies, Australian Football League – also known as AFL, Aussie rules and most commonly, 'the footy' – is nothing to be taken lightly. Fans support their teams with a loyalty and vigour that can be, well, terrifying to outsiders. 

Attending a footy match is a must for any tourist visiting Sydney, but the fast paced sport with its ever changing rules can leave first timers scratching their heads. Here's a quick overview of Australia's favourite past time before you make your way to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).

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History of the game

AFL was invented in 1857 as a way to keep cricketers fit during the off-season. It's no surprise – AFL is played on a massive oval and players are always on the move. Sydney's ANZ Stadium's oval dimensions are 160 metres x 118 metres – that's 50 metres (?) longer than your standard rugby pitch.

Melbourne Football Club was formed in 1858, and the foundation clubs were all based in Victoria. It took awhile for the rest of Australia to catch on to the game. It wasn't until 1987 that the West Coast Eagles and The Brisbane Bears – two of the Swans' rivals – got involved. 

Your first match

AFL has a lot of rules with many interpretations, which can be confusing if you haven't followed the sport for long. We break it down at its very simplest here.

Players score by kicking for the large posts at each end of the oval. But wait! There's four of them? Kicking the ball between the large posts equates to six points, teams earn one for hitting the large posts and one for kicking between the small and large posts. Hitting the small posts doesn't score any points. 

You'll also quickly notice that players move the ball using various body parts – kicking, hand balling and running with the ball are all permitted. If that wasn't confusing enough, they dribble too!

Opponents can tackle players to steal the ball and reverse the direction of play. Forcible tackling is not allowed and neither is holding the ball.

A full game consists of four quarters, each 20 minutes long. The clock stops ticking when a team scores, the ball goes out of bounds, or the umpire halts play.

Go Swans!

Melbourne, our rival city, did give us one great thing: the Sydney Swans. Formerly the South Melbourne Football Club, the Swans relocated to NSW.

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Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull might disagree in politics, but they both support the Swans. Sydneysiders love to turn up to the SCG clad in red and white to cheer the Swans – the 2005 Grand Final champs – to victory. 

The AFL season runs from March to September, so don't miss out if you're in Sydney during this time. 

If you want a quintessentially Australian holiday, start in Sydney, Australia's most famous city. Located near all the attractions including the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Macleay Hotel offers accommodation to suit any traveller's needs