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American Football vs. Aussie Rules

Football is one of the most popular sports in the United States, and its grand finale, the Super Bowl, is the highlight of the annual sporting calendar. Fans and non-fans alike have their eyes glued to their TVs during the Super Bowl, with many using the game as a social occasion, throwing parties and getting together with friends and family to watch.

While Americans love football, it is a sport that confuses many Europeans. What they call football, those in the U.S. call soccer, creating plenty of opportunities for misunderstanding. However, Australians suffer a similar plight. Australian rules football (often called Aussie rules) is a game that shares similarities to both American football and soccer, with some distinctions that help to separate them. 

Why so many footballs?

Football, soccer Aussie rules and a game called rugby are all relatives from the same family. They all date back to England in the 1800s, when a game was created that was similar to modern-day soccer. In 1863, the sport of rugby (officially called rugby football) began when a set of rules were created that diverged from the original “association football.” Rugby is much closer to American football and Aussie rules: players are allowed to carry the ball, and points are scored by placing the ball on the ground at the end of the pitch. 

In 1892, American football also diverged from soccer with similar rules to rugby. Over the next century, the rules were refined to create scrimmage and the downs system, while rugby evolved differently. Another rule divergence was the creation of Australian rules in 1852, when the first game was played in Melbourne. 

American vs. Australian

Americans play football on a rectangular pitch, just like in soccer and rugby. Australians, however, use a much bigger, oval-shaped pitch. Aussie rules has 18 players on the pitch, with several more waiting on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Americans have two separate teams for attack and defense.

Both games use egg-shaped balls, as opposed to the spherical balls used in soccer. American players are much more protected, with helmets and large amounts of body armor, whilst Aussie rules players are only permitted a gum shield and some light padding. Despite this lack of protection, Aussie players don’t seem to suffer more injuries than their American counterparts. Aussie rules also tends to be faster paced, with less stopping as compared to American football. 

An Australian Super Bowl?

photo by Flickerd

Just like the NFL has the Super Bowl, the Australian Football League has the Grand Final. This is an event that is held at the end of the season to decide who will be declared champion of that year. In 2019, the current favorite to win is Geelong, with Collingwood close behind. 

Overall, American football and Aussie rules are very similar games. The premise remains the same, with the differences being mostly around scoring, pitch sizes and player numbers. To someone who knew almost nothing about either sport, the two would look very similar, and this is to be expected given they share the same ancestors and branched off at roughly the same time.

Top photo by by Riley McCullough.

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