Summer is a quiet time for American football. Down Under, though, the “footy” season’s well underway—although “footy” could mean three different things, depending on who you ask! The action’s happening in three codes: the AFL–The Australian Football League, or “Aussie Rules” football; The Australian Rugby Union; and The Australian Rugby League. The latter two codes also field international teams, The Wallabies and The Kangaroos.
Wondering what’s what? For starters, American football and Aussie Rules football are quite different. With its focus on kicking the ball into a goal, many Americans would say that Aussie Rules bears a closer resemblance to soccer (though you wouldn’t want to call it that to an Aussie!). On the other hand, while they’re not exactly the same, tackle-heavy rugby can be likened to American football—though any rugger would surely remind you of two missing uniform parts: shoulder pads and helmets.
Differences among the three codes include pitch (field) shapes—oval for AFL; rectangle for rugby, and passing methods—football: any direction from the hand; rugby: backwards only. Then there’s the number of players on a team (18 for AFL, 15 for Union and 13 for League) and scoring methods (through the posts for football; touching down for rugby). And so on!
Fans tend to swear allegiance along geographic lines. Aussie Rules draws mostly from the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. Rugby League and Rugby Union loyalists are concentrated in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland. As you might imagine, rivalries are fierce. However, there’s one game day tradition on which everyone can agree: meat and beer. Grilled Australian Lamb chops are a tailgating must, and during the game it’s all about what you can hold while you watch. Meat pies, sausage rolls and chili are standard fare.