Wikipedia actually provides a good account, go figure, so I won't actually explain the game the way the Aussies see it, but rather share with you some thoughts I had while watching my first game.
It seems to be a combination of American football, soccer, and basketball, with a little volleyball thrown in for good measure.
- The tipoff is like in basketball
- Players can only pass the ball by punting it football style or underhand serving it a la volleyball style
- Time is measured like soccer
- Players have to touch the ball to the ground every [10, or 15, or something] meters like travelling rules in basketball
Oh, and no one gets penalties while the game is being played. Think about it. Last year some player decked another one, I think knocking him out, and the aggressor got to finish the game while the other guy got hauled out on a stretcher (perhaps that bit is exaggerated). Instead, at the end of each week, any player who did something wrong/morally questionable/just plain rude during a game has to appear before some footie trial board and get handed a punishment then. I think the guy who decked the other guy had to miss like seven games or something. It seems very weird to me.
But the best part is that if the person with the ball gets tackled, he has to get rid of the ball before he's taken down, or the ball becomes the property of the person who's doing the tackling. American football requires players to hold on to the ball no matter what so that the other team doesn't get it, and footie completely reverses this. So--when someone gets tackled, the ball often looks like it just pops out of their arms, because it all happens so fast, and if this happens a few times in succession, it begins to look like the footie players are chasing a greased up piglet at the county fair--they keep trying to hold on, but the little bugger just slips out. It's HILARIOUS*. though probably just to me...
*No, I do not condone piglet chasing in reality. It's just a fantastic image.