Laws of the game


A summary of the Laws of the Game are below. Click here for the full laws.

1.1 The Game

1.1.1 Length of game is 4 quarters of 20 minutes playing time. When play is unduly delayed, such as the ball going out of the playing area, time is added on to the playing time of the quarter. This is referred to as ‘time on’. (Game length used to be 4 quarters of 25 minutes, but was changed in 1994 to 20 minutes, with the allowance for additional time-on when the ball is out-of-bounds : see 1.6.6)

1.1.2 A maximum interval of 3 minutes is allowed between the first and second quarters for the teams to change ends.

1.1.3 The half-time interval is a maximum of 20 minutes with players being allowed to leave the ground for not more than 15 minutes.

1.1.4 A maximum interval of 5 minutes is allowed between the third and fourth quarters.

1.1.5 Teams change ends at the end of each quarter.

1.1.6 The team scoring the most point wins the game. The match is drawn if points are equal.

1.2 Playing Field and Equipment

AFL-Ground1.2.1 Playing area of oval shape. Between 135 and 185 metres in length and 110 and 155 metres in width. (NFC suggests ideal dimensions are 165m length by 135m width.)1.2.2 Boundary is marked with a white line.

1.2.3 Goal square (actually a rectangle) extending 9 metres in length from the goal posts, 6.4 metres in width.

1.2.4 Centre square at midway part of oval, 45 metres each side.

1.2.5 Centre circle at centre of oval, 3 metres in diameter, bisected by lateral line extending 2 metres either side of the diameter.

1.2.6 Goal and Behind posts. Cofiguration of 4 posts at the two opposing ends of the ground. Consisting of 2 goal posts, set 6.4 metres apart on the boundary line. Two behind posts each set 6.4 metres either side of the goal posts on the boundary line. Goal posts minimum height of 6 metres.Behind posts minimum height of 3 metres. All posts padded to a height of 2 metres.

1.2.7 The Ball. Made from leather, tan (day use) or yellow (night use) in colour. Length 270 – 280 mm. Diameter 167 – 173 mm. Circumference between 720 – 735 mm by 545 – 555 mm. Approximate weight: 450 – 500 grams (Dryweight inflated ball.)

1.3 The Players and Positions

1.3.1 A team consists of 18 players with three interchange players.

1.3.2 Players may be interchanged at any time during the match.

1.3.3 Although players have designated positions, they are free to move anywhere on the ground when play is in progress.

1.3.4 Player positions. There are 5 general areas of play, referred to as a ‘line’. Three players form each line and are usually designated as being in either the left, centre or right position in each line.

Full Forward:    L.Fwd.Pocket  Full-Forward  R.Fwd.Pocket

Half Forward:    L.Half.Fwd     C.Half.Fwd   R.Half.Fwd

Centre Line :    Left-Wing       Centre      Right-Wing

Half Back   :    L.Half.Back    C.Half.Back  R.Half.Back

Full Back   :    L.BackPocket   Full-Back    R.Back.Pocket

1.3.5 Purposes of player positions. All players should contest the ball when its within their vicinity (unless playing to alternative coaching instructions). Other general purposes of player positions according to line are:

Full Forward: Attack the goal Trap the ball in the area

Half Forward: Attack the goal Set up scoring shots Trap the ball further forward – then hold Trap the ball in the area

Centre Line: Attack the goal Set up scoring shots Recover the ball from the backline Trap the ball further forward – then hold Trap the ball in the area

Half Back: Hold the ball in the area Attack – clear ball forwards Recover ball from backline

Full back: Hold the ball in the area Attack – clear ball forwards

1.3.6 Player Uniforms: Team to wear guernseys of identical club colours and design. Exception, long sleeved versions of normal guernseys are permitted. Each guernsey bears a different number, allocated to a player for the season, or possibly career (numbers have no relationship to position or function.) Teams wear white coloured shorts when playing away from their home ground for easier identification. Full length socks in team colours. Standard design boot. No padding is worn. Mouthgards, protective head-gear (soft) and shin guards are allowable. Other protection requires prior approval. Jewellery is not permitted to be worn.

1.4 The Umpires

1.4.1 There are three central or field umpires, who have full control of the game. Major responsibilities of the field umpires are to start play, award marks and free kicks, and generally enforce the rules of the game. In carrying out their responsibilities, the field umpires each control roughly one third of the ground. The umpire in the third where the ball is currently being disputed is the umpire in charge at any one time, however either of the other field umpires may bring attention to infringements of the rules that occur ‘behind the play’.

1.4.2 The two boundary umpires judge when the ball is out of the playing area, and also return the ball to the center of the ground after a goal has been scored. The boundary umpires patrol one side of the ground each. They take positions at diagonally opposite corners of the centre square when the ball is bounced in the centre square at the start of each quarter or after a goal is scored. at the centre bounces, the boundary umpires are responsible for detecting players who enter the centre square illegally.

1.4.3 The two goal umpires judge, signal, and record all scores in a match. Two flags are waved to indicate a goal, and one flag is used to indicate a behind. The flags are waved to indicate to the other goal umpire the score. The goal umpire also indicates to the field umpire what the score is by indicating with one finger for a behind and two fingers (one out-stretched on each hand) for a goal. Before the goal umpire can indicate the score, the field umpire signals to him that no infingemants have occurred so that a score may be added. This is why the goal umpire looks around sometimes before signalling a score.

1.4.4 Changing of Decisions: Field umpires cannot alter a decision once it has been made, except by a further breach of the rules by a player or team official. Goal umpires can correct mistakes prior to restart of play. Goal umpires take precedence over boundary umpires in vicinity of the goal area.The goal umpire indicates this to the boundary umpire by tapping his chest with his hand.

1.5 Scoring

1.5.1 A ball kicked between the two larger goal posts without being touched is a goal and score six points.

1.5.2 If the ball passes between a goal post and a behind post then it is a behind, and it scores 1 point.

1.5.3 If the ball hits the goal post, a behind is scored. This is regardless of where the ball goes after hitting the goal post e.g back into the field of play, through the goals or whatever. Play stops as soon as the ball hits the goal post, and is restarted by a kick-in. See 1.6.5a.

1.5.4 If the ball is forced, or carried, but not kicked over the scoring line by the attacking team, anywhere between the goal posts, a behind is scored.

1.5.5 If the ball hits a behind post without bouncing it is deemed ‘out on the full’ and the opposing team takes a free kick from next to the behind post.If the ball bounces and hits the behind post then the ball is thrown into play again by the boundary umpire from next to the behind post. In both cases no points are scored.

1.5.6 If the ball is kicked or forced over the scoring line between the goal post and the behind post by any player, then a behind is scored.

1.6 Starting and Restarting Play

1.6.1 Teams determine the choice of goal by tossing a coin.

1.6.2 The field umpire starts play by blowing his whistle and bouncing the ball in the center circle so that it rebounds vertically to be contested by the players in the center square.

1.6.3 At the start of play, no player may enter the center circle, and only four players from each team are permitted in the center square until after the ball has been bounced.

1.6.4 After a goal is scored, play is restarted in the center of the ground in the manner described above.

1.6.5 The other common situations when play is restarted are:

(a) After a behind has scored. Any player of the defending team kicks the ball from within the kick-off ‘square’ in front of goal, but only after the goal umpire has finished waving his flags. The player must *kick* the ball out to restart play.

(b) After the ball has gone out of bounds (outside the boundary line).If the ball bounced, then the boundary umpire throws the ball into play by throwing it over his head towards the center of the ground.If the ball did not bounce and went over the boundary line as a result of a kick that was not touched, the opposing team receives a free-kick from the spot from where the ball went out. The closest player from the opposing team takes the free kick.

(c) When a pack of players prevents either team gaining clear possession.The umpire bounces the ball where play came to a halt.

1.6.6 Each quarter runs for 20 minutes of playing time when the ball is in play.The ball is deemed to be out of play in the following situations:

(a) A goal is scored. Time is stopped from when the goal umpire finishes waving his flags to when the ball is bounced.

(b) A behind is scored. Time is stopped from when the goal umpire finishes waving his flag to when the ball is kicked in.

(c) The ball goes out of bounds. Time is stopped from when the ball goes over the boundary line until the boundary umpire throws the ball back into play.

(d) Whenever the field umpire signals to the time-keeper that time is to be stopped by raising his arm and blowing his whistle.

1.6.7 Out of Bounds: A ball that has gone completely over the boundary line is considered out of bounds. If any portion of the ball is on or over the boundary line, the ball is still in play. A player can be over the boundary line and in possession of the ball without the ball being considered ‘out of bounds’ given part of the ball is still in play.

1.7 Possession and Disposal of the Ball

1.7.1 A player may hold the ball for unlimited time when he is not being held by an opponent.

1.7.2 A player lying on or over the ball is considered to be in possession.

1.7.3 A player running with the ball must bounce the ball or touch it on the ground once every 15 metres.

1.7.4 A player in possession of the ball and held by an opponent must dispose of the ball immediately by kicking or handballing the ball.

1.7.5 To handball correctly, a player must hold the ball in one hand and hit it with the clenched fist of the other hand. The hand holding must not move relative to the players body.

1.7.6 A mark is allowed when the ball is caught from a kick which has travelled a minimum distance of 10 meters, and the ball has travelled in the air without being touched by another player. The player taking the mark may play on immediately, or go back and kick over the position where he took the mark.

1.7.7 Shepherding. A player may retard the movement of an opposition player towards that of the ball, however it may only be done within 5 metres of the ball. Shepherding allows the opposition player to be pushed in the chest or side, or for the player to place his body between the opposition and the ball (when the player himself is not in posession of the ball.) cf. screens in basketball or blocking in American Football.

1.8 Free Kicks

1.8.1 Free kicks may be given against players either with or without the ball.A free kick is taken at the spot where the infringement occurred.(Exceptions see 1.8.6, 1.8.7)

1.8.2 A free kick is given against the player in possession of the of the ball for the following infringements of the rules:

(a) Not disposing of the ball within a reasonable time when held by an opponent.

(b) Not disposing of the ball correctly by using a handball or a kick.

(c) Kicking the ball over the boundary line without it bouncing first or being touched by another player.

(d) Deliberately forcing or taking the ball over the boundary line.

(e) Running more than 15 meters without bouncing the ball or touching the ball on the ground.

1.8.3 A free kick is given against any player who:

(a) Grabs the opponent with the ball above the shoulder or below the knees.

(b) Pushes an opponent in the back.

(c) Trips or attempts to trip an opponent.

(d) Charges an opponent.

(e) Interferes with an opponent attempting to mark in the air by punching or bumping.

(f) Shepherds an opponent when the ball is more than 5 meters away.

(g) Enters the center square before the ball is bounced at the restart of play.

1.8.4 Following a free kick or mark, a 50 meter penalty is given against a player standing on the mark who:

(a) Refuses to stand on the mark at the point indicated by the umpire.

(b) Deliberately wastes time in returning the ball to the player who is to take the kick.

(c) Holds the player who is to take the kick thereby preventing play continuing.

(d) Runs over the mark before or as the ball is kicked. (Any player in the opposing team can give this penalty)

1.8.5 Kick-in after behind: If a ball is kicked back into play from the goalsquare, following the scoring of a behind, and subsequently goes ‘out of bounds’ without being touched by a player of either team despite bouncing, it is treated as if having gone out of bounds on the full. The attacking team is awarded a free kick.

1.8.6 Play On: An umpire need not hold up play by awarding a free kick to a player who has been infringed. Where the player or a team-mate has possession and is in an advantageous position, the umpire calls ‘play-on’ and allows play to continue. This is referred to as ‘paying the advantage’.

1.8.7 Relayed Free Kicks: A player who is infringed upon, immediately following the disposal of the ball, may have a fellow team-mate take the free kick from the spot where the ball landed after being disposed of. This is at the umpires adjudication.

1.9 Role of the Coach and the Runner

The role of the coach in Aussie Rules is different compared to other sports in that the coach is only able to address his players before the game, and then during the quarter-time, half-time and three-quarter-time intervals. There are no time-outs in Australian Rules. The coach usually sits overlooking the ground, noticing tactical maneuvers and imbalances in the game. When a change in tactics or of players is desired during the actual game, the coach sends his orders to the club’s Runner. The Runner is allowed on the ground during play to communicate to players and relay the coaches instructions. The Runner is often on the ground for large amounts of time such that some Runners are also Assistant Coaches, helping with team decision making. When on the ground during play, the Runner must attempt to remain away from the area of where the ball is being contested.