The AFL is the premier competition of Australian (Rules) Football and has 18 teams across Australia playing out of the major cities. The AFL developed out of the VFL competition as it was the strongest Australian (Rules) Football competition at that time and many teams play out of Melbourne . Similarly the NRL is the premier rugby league football competition and has 16 teams on the east coast of Australia and one team in new Zealand. The NRL developed out of the NSWRL competition as it was the strongest competition at that time and many teams play out of Sydney.
The differences between AFL and NRL then come down to the games of football that they play. Australian (Rules) Football is extremely popular across Australia. It has over 1 million members in a country of 25 million. The AFL attracts the 4th highest average crowds in the world and is the most popular football code in the world on a per head of population basis. Well over 7 million will attend AFL games this season. The NRL is a popular sport when compared to sports other than the AFL. It’s average and aggregate attendances are well under half those of the AFL. The NRL popularity is confined to the east coast which is well populated.
The AFL is about Australian (Rules) Football which is a free-flowing spectacular game with maximum involvement and with minimum restrictions. The NRL is about rugby league which broke away from the English game of rugby union in 1908 and which is loosely based on the concept of two adversities facing off at war. In contrast Australian (Rules) Football was created by Australians in the 1850s and is Australia’s indigenous game.
We’re talking soaring flames and team colours smeared on the faces of children. There are very few people as passionate as an NRL fan whose entire family has supported the same team for generations.
Go sit in Souths Corner for a game and dare tell us these folk don’t have a serious talent for building hype and tension, especially after a cheeky half-time snack break. And don’t even get us started on State of Origin – the hype is real.
But we had to literally check that NRL teams even have club songs, that’s how much of a non-event they are in league. In AFL on the other hand, they are a storied tradition – played at the ground as each team runs out ahead of the first bounce, played when the team is victorious for all the fans in the stands to sing and then shouted uproariously in the sheds by the winning boys with absolutely no tone or melody whatsoever. It’s a beautiful, often deafening thing.
The scoring system.
It takes skill to boot a Sherrin through the two big sticks, especially on crazy angles or in gravity-defying displays of over-the-shoulder bicycle kick greatness. In NRL, some would say all they do is throw themselves onto the ground on top of a ball while Ray Warren shouts “It’s a troooiiyyy”.
Six points for a goal in the middle, one point for a behind through the side posts. The point tallies are higher, so games with points in the hundreds aren’t uncommon.
However there’s something pretty magical about the anticipation of seeing that big screen swirl around before deciding if an NRL play has been given TRY or NO TRY. People are hanging off the edge of their seats, jaws on the floor.
There’s still plenty of kicking going on, and some bold fans even go so far as to remind you that NRL players don’t have to rely on “you tried” single points to get ahead – you score or you don’t. Pressure’s on.
Sure, some will call the game scrappy, and in recent years the AFL field has become a lot more congested around the ball. But what we like about it is how the flow of play can change at any moment. One second Team A has it and are moving at lightning speed down the field, then BAM! Team B has pulled off a spectacular intercept mark and now those blokes are tearing off towards their goal square.
But the action is more concentrated in NRL, making it a more enjoyable game for newcomers to watch. Plus it’s far easier as a total newbie to keep track of everything that’s going on when you’re watching on TV, cause AFL has more off-the-ball play.
No need to complicate things with NRL. Team A has the ball and has six attempts to make it to the other end of the field for a try, while Team B attempt to tackle them into oblivion. Aaand swap.
So if you’re sitting at home in charge of the remote while sitting besides a fan of a different code, stuck in the fresh hell that is flicking through channels to watch two games at once, the pressure is on and there’s nothing to prevent you from copping a sneaky side-eye from your mates when you linger on the one game for too long.
But if you’re still not sure whether you’re a deadset NRL supporter or an AFL fan to the bone, just chuck on a multi with Ladbrokes* and you can basically support both. Who said sitting on the fence was such a terrible thing anyway?