Before the commencement of a game, a coin toss decides which direction the teams will play towards. An umpire ( the officiant for the match) performs a ball-up which signals the beginning of a game. This involves bouncing the ball on the ground in the middle of the field, over which two players battle for as it descends again.
If there are disputes during play, the umpire may call for a ball-up at the point of conflict. The ball must remain in bounds during gameplay, if the ball is taken or moved out of bounds with deliberate action, the umpire will award a free-kick to the opposing team. If the fault is in contention, the umpire may return the ball to play with a throw-in, tossing the ball backwards overhead into the field from the sideline.
Ball Movement and Possession
Players can be positioned at any point on the field and use any body part to move the ball. The main methods include running with the ball, handballing, and kicking. Various styles of kicking have evolved particularly for this type of football including the drop, torpedo and checkside punts, and the “grubber”, a kick which directs the ball to bounce slowly along the ground. However, there are specific rules for how the ball may be controlled.
Players must not hold the ball, and throwing the ball is not permitted. If the player is running, they must periodically (every 15 metres) either touch the ball to the ground or bounce it on the ground. When a player catches the ball following a kick within particular requirements, they are granted possession, this is known as a mark.
Possession of the ball is in constant conflict, except when a mark or free-kick is awarded. AFL is a contact sport in which players can use their hand or whole bodies. Dangerous physical contact is mitigated through the awarding of free kicks and the issue of penalties or suspensions.