Australian Rules Football isn't American Football played in Australia with a few rules changed, nor is it Football aka Soccer, nor is it Rugby. If you know what Gaelic Football is, then its similar to that, but this similarity is purely coincidental. Australian Rules Football is a game devised entirely in Australia and has been played for more than one hundred years there.
To give an impression of the game, picture a free-flowing game of American Football (no time outs, no set plays, no commercials), only we don't wear protective padding apart from a mouth-guard, which is optional actually. Then, think of 18 players on a side, playing on a 180 yard by 150 yard oval shaped ground. These players compete for possession of a ball which is more round and larger than an American Football. Once they get the ball, the opposition tries to tackle this player, or bump anyone who's standing nearby (trying to protect the player with the ball usually) out of the way to get to him and the ball. A player can legally dispose of the ball using a hand-ball or by kicking it (usually a punt on the run, not a set kick by any means). A hand-ball is where a player cradles the ball in the cup of one hand and then, making a fist and turning it sideways to the ball, paddles the ball (often quite smartly and with "vigour") as much as thirty feet to another player (hopefully, one who's on his side).
The game is free-flowing, with the ball being rapidly passed between players and generally going all over the ground wherever the play and tackles take it. Since the ball can be kicked (the Australian game still holds the world record for the longest kick of any football code) and hand-passed it's often flying about in the air. Which brings about one of the more spectacular and artistic aspects of the game: the “mark”. This is essentially, a player lunging skywards and grabbing the ball (two key requirements are: that it can't be touched by another player, and it can't touch the ground prior to ending up safely in a players grasp). Typically, a player never attempts a mark alone. In fact as many as there are in the vicinity usually have a go at getting the ball. This often includes players jumping up on the backs of the other players, and sometimes also, the shoulders and heads of the opposition. Players attempting to counter, or foil another's mark will often resort to fisting or punching the ball or try to put the player off by legally using his body and strength to off-balance the marking player.
The tackling aspect of the game is another exciting and rough element of the game. Legal tackles may only be performed in the region above the knee and below the neck of any player who has the ball. They can be made from all angles and can consist of full head on clashes, to grabbing a player's guernsey and swinging them into the ground with a pivotal action and a resulting thump (hopefully).
Enough said. Hopefully that piques your curiosity. If you truly want to appreciate the game you need to see it live or on T.V. Sadly, its hard to see it on television in New England, unless you actively search the channels and the programme guides for it. My suggestion is that you come down and see a genuine Boston Demons match in New England. See the Game Schedule page for details on our upcoming games. We look forward to seeing and meeting anyone who turns up to a game (we've met some of our best mates this way).