Names of Australian rules football
The sport of Australian football has been called by a number of different names throughout its history; but since 1905, after the formation of the Australasian Football Council, the game has been officially called "Australian football"; and the name has been codified by the sport's governing body, the AFL Commission, as the game's official name, in the "Laws of Australian football". Historically, the sport has been called "Victorian rules" (referring to its origins in Melbourne), the "Victorian game", the "bouncing game", "Australasian rules", the "Australian game" and "national football", as well as several other names. Today, the common names for the sport are "Australian rules football" or "football", and common nicknames for the sport are "footy", "Aussie rules" or sometimes "AFL" (a genericised abbreviation of Australian Football League, the sport's largest competition and only fully professional league).
The first "Laws of Australian football" were established in Melbourne in 1859 by Tom Wills of the Melbourne Football Club. This led to the development of the terms "the Victorian Game" or "Victorian Rules", although in Victoria, the general term was just "football" as early as 1860. As late as 1954, the term "Melbourne Rules" was being used by newspapers in New South Wales and Queensland to differentiate the game from other football codes. Another term was "the bouncing game", used mostly in Western Australia in the 1880s and 1890s to differentiate from the other codes, where bouncing was not permitted.
The name "Australian football" was in use outside of Victoria by the late 19th century. A variant of this, acknowledging the popularity of the sport in New Zealand, was "Australasian football". The 1908 Jubilee Australasian Football Carnival featured a team from New Zealand, but the popularity of the sport declined there after World War I. In 1927, the Australasian Football Council changed its name to the Australian National Football Council, to acknowledge that the sport was no longer being played competitively in New Zealand. State leagues were encouraged to include the term "Australian National" in their title, with the South Australian Football League (SAFL) becoming the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) in 1927, the Tasmanian Football League (TFL) becoming the Tasmanian Australian National Football League (TANFL) in 1928, and the West Australian Football League (WAFL) becoming the Western Australian National Football League (WANFL) in 1931. It was proposed that the Victorian Football League (VFL) become the Victorian Australian National Football League; however, this did not occur.
Several distinctions were made in the three major footballing states regarding the quality of play across different leagues. In Victoria, the League football was considered superior to Association football (not to be confused with British association football, also known as soccer); and for a time in the 1930s and 1940s, the distinction between the two competitions was necessary because they had sufficiently significant differences in rules that they were considered to be separate codes, similar to the distinction between rugby league and rugby union. In Western Australia, this distinction was also made between the West Australian Football League and the West Australian Football Association (formerly the 1st Rate Juniors competition), though the latter integrated into the WAFL reserves in 1921. There was also a distinction made in WA between the "coastal" (WAFL) and "'fields" (Goldfields Football League) leagues, who played each other regularly in the state premiership. In the 19th century, there was also a distinction made in most leagues between "senior" and "junior" football; this was not to do with age, rather with quality of play.
In December 1948, a controversy occurred when Dame Enid Lyons, the Member for Darwin, referred to Australian football as "our national game" in Parliament. This was rebuffed by the Prime Minister at the time, Ben Chifley, a New South Welshman, who suggested Lyons was "treading on dangerous ground". The secretary of the ANFC, Percy Page, sent a telegram reading: "Congratulations on your stand. The Prime Minister's obvious lack of knowledge of Australian sport is most regrettable."
The most common nicknames for the sport are "footy" and "Aussie rules". For much of the middle part of the 20th century, particularly in Canberra, the latter was shortened further to simply "Rules", but this usage is now obsolete.
The term "AFL" (an abbreviation of Australian Football League) is sometimes used, particularly in areas where the game is not widely played and thus no one particular name for the sport is ingrained in the local population. The Australian Football League has encouraged competitions to include the term "AFL" in their name: the Queensland Football League changed its name to AFL Queensland in 1999, the New South Wales Australian Rules Football League changed its name to Sydney AFL in 1998, and the Australian Capital Territory Football League changed its name to AFL Canberra in 1999. Leagues outside of Australia also make use of this term. Most major newspapers in Australia use either "AFL" or "football" to refer to the sport.
- "About the AFL: Australian Football (Official title of the code)". Australian Football League. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
- "AFL Rules – Laws of the Game". Australian Football League. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
- Connolly, Rohan (22 March 2012). "Name of the game is up in the air in NSW". The Age. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
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