See for yourself what makes footy the fastest, most skillful game on grass.
Learn the basic skills of footy by watching the videos below
How to play footy
18 Players per side
6 points for a goal
1 Point for a behind
four evenly timed quarters
The Field and Positions
Footy is played on a large oval field with four uprights at each end. At the professional level, each team has 18 players on the field – 6 forwards, 6 midfielders, and 6 backs.
There are no offsides and players may move the ball in any direction. Teams work together to kick the ball through the uprights. A goal is scored when the ball is kicked through the centre posts, worth 6 points. Play restarts at the center of the ground. A behind, worth 1 point, is scored if the ball goes through the outside posts, hits the post, or is touched by another player. A behind results in a turnover and a free kick from the goal square.
The positions, field, and rules can be modified depending on the number and skill of players. For example, some leagues play a 9-player version on a standard soccer field.
Footy is a fast-paced, high scoring game. The rules are designed to protect the players going for the ball and reward players for moving the ball quickly and effectively. Below are some frequently asked questions to help you better understand the game.
How do players move the ball?
There are two primary ways to move the ball – kicking or handpassing. Players may run with the ball, but cannot throw it. They must bounce the ball or pass it to a teammate before running more than 15 meters. Unlike rugby, players may move the ball in any direction.
How do you read the scoreboard?
The scoreboard is laid out to display goals (6 points), behinds (1 point), and total score for each team. A typical score may be displayed as
10 – 8 – 68, and is read as 10 goals, 8 behinds, for 68 total points.
How do you score?
A goal, worth 6 points, is scored if the ball is kicked through the opposing team’s centre uprights. If the ball goes through the outside posts, is handpassed instead of kicked, is touched before going through the goals, or is played through a team’s own goals, it is a behind and worth one point.
What is prior opportunity?
A player with the ball may be tackled by a member of the opposing team. If the player with the ball could have gotten rid of the ball before being tackled, known as prior opportunity, the tackling team is awarded a free kick. If, instead, the player is immediately tackled or had no chance to make a play before being tackled, the play is whistled dead and the umpire throws the ball up.
What is a legal tackle?
A player can only be tackled while in possession of the ball. The tackle must be made between the shoulders and knees and must not be directly from behind. Players may bump each other, known as shepherding, within 5 meters of the ball but must avoid contact with the head and back.
What is a mark?
A player who catches a kicked ball that has travelled more than 15 meters is awarded a mark. The player may take an unimpeded free kick from behind the spot of the mark, handpass to a teammate, or play on themselves.
Let’s Talk Footy
A goal is scored when the ball goes through the two taller, centre posts. It is worth 6 points.
A disposal is a handpass or kick. A player must dispose of the ball before being tackled.
Holding the Ball
If a player is tackled without properly disposing of the ball, they are penalized for “holding the ball” and the tackling team is awarded a free kick.
On The Full
A ball that travels out of bounds from a kick, without touching the ground or another player, is said to go out “on the full” and the opposing team is awarded a free kick.
A fifty-metre penalty, or fifty, is awarded for serious offenses. The team with the ball is advanced 50 metres from the spot of the foul and may take a free kick.
A behind is scored when the ball goes through the outside posts, is touched before going through, is handpassed through the goals, or is brought through by the defending team. It is worth 1 point.
A mark is given if the player catches a kick that has travelled over 15 meters from either team. The player may then take a free kick from behind the spot of the mark.
A player who has had prior opportunity to kick, handpass, or otherwise dispose of the ball before being tackled will be penalized for holding the ball.
When a free kick is awarded, a player on the offensive team may play on immediately and given “advantage”, similar to soccer. The play must not have stopped moving for advantage to be awarded.
A term used to describe the centre of the ground from goal to goal. Teams use “the corridor” when aggressively trying to score a goal.
The primary way of moving the ball. A ball is kicked if it is struck below the knee.
A legal tackle must be between the knees and shoulders and cannot drive the player into the ground from behind.
The umpire throws the ball up to be contested by two opposing players to restart play, similar to a ball up in basketball or face off in hockey.
Only 4 players from each team are allowed in the centre square during a centre bounce.
The ball is thrown up from the centre of the ground to begin each quarter or following a goal.
The Hot Spot
A term used to describe the area immediately in front of goals where players are most dangerous.
A handpass is similar to an underhand volleyball serve. A player must strike the ball with a closed fist and cannot throw or toss it before impact.
If a ball goes out of bounds, the umpire throws the ball back in over their head to restart play.
A player may block, or shepherd, an opposing player within 5 meters of the ball, as long as they do not come in contact with the head or back.
Full Laws of the Game
Click here to download the full copy of the Laws of the Game