I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on the defining features of Australian Rules Football (AFL) in comparison to rugby, for example differences in scoring and rules.

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2 Answers 2


The major differences are in the shape of the pitch (oval vs rectangle), the methods of passing (any direction from the hand not just backwards), the number of players on a team (18 vs 15 or 13), the number of posts to score through (4 not 2, no crossbar) and the methods of scoring (through the posts, not touching down).

It would probably be easier to just say that the similarities are in that they have a similar shaped ball.

  • As somebody who watches neither sport (US here), how would one discern the difference based on appearances (e.g. uniforms, field shape/patterns). I see a bunch of GIFs of rugby/AFL plays but can never seem to figure out the difference without looking up the teams. Commented May 21, 2016 at 22:25
  • The AR field is oval with a square in the middle and arcs at each end. The RU/RL field is rectangular with several crossing lines and hashes, all of which are straight and perpendicular. When it comes t uniforms though, you'll just have to find the team, though AR tend to wear singlets/nonsleeved shirts while rugby teams wear short sleeves or long sleeves.
    – Nij
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 0:13

Yes, as Unsliced points out, it is more different that it is similar.

I think the main points of difference are:

- Method of scoring: In rugby, you can score by three ways, Try - the quivalent of a Touchdown (either earned naturally or awarded via a penalty), a penalty goal/drop goal, or a conversion (think of it as a PAT).

In Aussie rules, there are two types of score, a goal (6 pts.) and a behind(1 pt.). If the ball is kicked through the central goalposts this is a goal, whereas if the ball is kicked through the outer posts it is a behind. Goals can only be scored when the ball is kicked by a player from the attacking team. If the ball hits one of the central posts it is also a behind. If the ball has been moved over the goal-line by any defending players one point is awarded. If the ball hits one of the outer posts it is called as out of bounds.

- Playing direction: By this I mean it is 'traditional' in the sense that Rugby is generally left-side vs right-side. Whereas Aussie-rules is more fluid where players can pretty much run around where they choose.

They still have a specific end/side/goal to score, but it's more open in-between.

Another main difference is that the game is played in 20 minute quarters, not halves.

Also, AFL doesn't have an offside or knock on rule. The ball must be passed by either kicking it or handpassing (punching the ball) to a team mate

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