AFL Then And Now: How The Sport Has Changed Over The Years

May 6, 2022

Australian rules football has been played in Australia since 1858. The sport was initially known as the Victorian Football League (VFL) as it was developed in the state of Victoria with the only teams being from the suburbs of Melbourne, the state’s capital. Some interstate teams were introduced in the 1980s but the game didn’t become the Australian Football League (AFL) as we know it today until 1990 when the name of the sport was formally changed.

Although it is still predominantly a Victorian game, there are several teams that have been added to the roster from different states such as the West Coast Eagles, Brisbane Lions (Formally the Brisbane Bears), and the Sydney Swans. The matches are played all around Australia with the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) usually hosting the Grand Final every September. Recent events have had venue changes though with the 2021 AFL Grand Final taking place at the Optus Stadium in Perth.

In the early 20th century, there was the VFL and the VFA (Victorian Football Association), but over time teams from the VFA joined the VFL and by 1945 only the VFL remained. When the VFL started in 1897 there were only eight teams from Victoria competing whereas now there are 18 teams in the AFL from all over Australia. So betting odds on the AFL have dramatically changed throughout the years due to the increase in viably competitive teams. No longer are a handful of teams superior or sure-fire winners as aspects such as player trades and team ownership have made the sport evenly balanced for all teams.


There have been many rule changes and additions since the sport began in Australia. For instance, tripping and pushing were originally allowed but this was changed since the game’s infancy and these actions are no longer allowed. Although it is considered a fairly tough game compared to other sports around the world it was even more brutal early on until the original rules were revised and implemented. Since the late 1800s no longer is a player allowed to grab another by the neck to take them down. Rule changes over the years have been carefully revised continually in order to ensure the safety of players due to the high contact nature of the game.


The uniforms as well as the clothing for all teams have drastically changed throughout the years. When the game first came to prominence, most players wore long sleeve guernseys with their team’s emblems and colors embellished on them. Over the years though most players have taken to wearing short-sleeved guernseys to minimize heat exhaustion, although some still wear long sleeves in exceptionally cold or wet weather. Emblem designs have also changed throughout the history of the AFL for a lot of teams with designs being updated to modern standards as the years progressed. A major example of this is the Brisbane Lions, when the Brisbane Bears merged with the Fitzroy Lions in 1996 and they kept the Brisbane colors of maroon and yellow, but removed the cartoonish bear and added in the more majestic lion to create a combination of the two teams with respect for each other’s history. Other teams have made color changes to their uniforms and changed their emblems several times throughout their history including the Collingwood Magpies, Essendon Bombers, and the Geelong Cats.

Though the sport has changed and adapted, one thing has remained which is the love that Australians have for their most popular national sport.

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