Anthony's Footy Pages

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A Footy Glossary for North Americans

Originally Posted 2016-07-17 • Last Updated 2016-11-27

If you've read any of my other articles on Footy, perhaps you've started to watch games on TV or perhaps even live if the game is played in your area. You may have heard various terms and phrases bandied about, some of which you may have figured out by context, others that made you just shrug your shoulders and move on. This glossary is meant to help the new fan by relating some of the terms you hear to something equivalent or similar in North American sport. Many terms will be specific to the top pro league, the AFL.

The intent is to make this a useful reference, so feel free to make suggestions about additional terms or how to clarify/correct what is already there. (Twitter is probably the best way to reach me.)

Best and Fairest
N.A. Equivalent: MVP, MOP. There is no separate sportsmanship award, so your Most Valuable Player cannot flagrantly be unsporting to win the award. Usage example: The Brownlow Medal goes to the Best and Fairest player during the home-and-away season as voted by the umpires of each match.
Clearance, Clearances
N.A. Equivalent: Faceoffs won in hockey. In the Ruck contests (see Ruckman), the team that gains possession of the footy as a result of the contest is awarded a clearance for statistical purposes. Centre clearances are specifically the clearances won after a Goal is scored (like the Centre Ice faceoffs in hockey). Usage example: GWS has spent almost no time in their Forward 50 because they haven't been able to win the centre clearances.
N.A. Equivalent: Team. Usage example: He was drafted by the Club in 2011.
The Competition, The Comp
N.A. Equivalent: The League, specifically this year. If you are referring to a range of years, you are more likely to use the league's name (e.g., AFL). Usage example: Cyril Rioli is one of the smallest players in The Competition, but also one of the bravest.
A Corky, Corked Thigh
N.A. Equivalent: Charley Horse. A forceful blow to the thigh, causing pain and bruising. Usage example: He is hobbling around after that collision; looks like he's got a corky.
The Eight
N.A. Equivalent: Top 8. This is a specific reference to the fact that 8 teams qualify for Finals (playoffs) in the AFL. Commentators tend to talk about being in or out of The Eight. Usage example: North Melbourne needs a win today to secure a spot in The Eight.
N.A. Equivalent: none. Getting hit in the head or face with the ball. This term is uniquely Australian — you can read more about it on Wikipedia. Usage example: A Falcon can lead to concussion if the footy is travelling fast off the boot.
N.A. Equivalent: The Playoffs. See the next 5 entries for details on the four weeks of Finals play in the AFL, or just read the Wikipedia article. Usage example: Eight teams play in the Finals in the AFL each Premiership Season.
Elimination Final
N.A. Equivalent: Sudden Death/Single Knockout playoff game in the first round, 3-4 Page Playoff Game in Curling. In the AFL, they use a Page Playoff-type of system for Finals (similar to curling, except with 8 teams instead of 4). The Elimination Finals are 5th vs. 8th and 6th vs. 7th. Just like the 3-4 Page Playoff in curling, the loser is eliminated, with the winner going on to the next round. Usage example: With a strong performance in the second half, North Melbourne won the 1st Elimination Final in 2015.
Qualifying Final
N.A. Equivalent: 1-2 Page Playoff Game in Curling. In the AFL, if you finish in the Top 4, you participate in a Qualifying Final: 1st vs. 4th, 2nd vs. 3rd. The winners go directly to a Preliminary Final, the losers get a "second life" by playing in a Semi-Final (which, if they win that game, puts them in a Preliminary Final). Usage example: Hawthorn really want to win their Qualifying Final to get that extra week of rest.
N.A. Equivalent: Page Playoff Semi-Final; Single Elimination Quarter Final. In the AFL, the Semi-Finals are played between the losers of the Qualifying Finals and the winners of the Elimination Finals (3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5 if the higher ranked teams win during the first week of Finals). Losers of the semi-finals are eliminated. Winners play the winners of the Qualifying Finals from the previous week. Usage example: The winner of this Semi-Final will play Sydney in the 2nd Preliminary Final.
Preliminary Final
N.A. Equivalent: Single Elimination Semi-Final. In the AFL, the four teams remaining in the third week of Finals (playoffs) play a single elimination game, with the two winners playing in the Grand Final. Usage example: Can North Melbourne continue their Cinderella run and be the first 8th place team to win a Preliminary Final?
Grand Final
N.A. Equivalent: Championship Game/Final. Usage example: With few exceptions, the AFL Grand Final is held each year on the last Saturday in September.
N.A. Equivalent: Football (an abbreviation for both the sport and the ball). Usage example: Footy is my favourite Winter sport. I have a footy at home to prove it.
Forward 50, Defensive 50
N.A. Equivalent: Similar to the offensive/defensive zone in hockey or the area inside the 3-point arc in basketball. At both ends of the ground, there is an arc marked that is 50 metres out from goal. The area inside that arc is called the Forward 50 if you are on offence or the Defensive 50 if you are on defence. There are a number of statistics based on when the ball enters the Forward 50. Most goals will be scored from within the Forward 50. Usage example: Sydney is dominating this quarter; they have 10 entries into their Forward 50 compared with just 2 for Essendon.
N.A. Equivalent: Field. Usage example: Buddy Franklin was the best player on the ground for his club.
Guernsey, Jumper
N.A. Equivalent: Jersey, Uniform (top). These are very form-fitting and are most commonly sleeveless. Usage example: Hawkins got a tear in his jumper from that marking contest.
Home and Away, Home and Away games, Home-and-Away Season
N.A. Equivalent: The regular season. Usage example: There are only three more home-and-away rounds before the Finals.
The Ladder, Live Ladder
N.A. Equivalent: League Standings. The Live Ladder referred to in broadcasts is a "what if" scenario where standings are updated as if the score of the current match(es) was the final score. Usage example: If you take a look at the Live Ladder, Collingwood would be out of The Eight.
N.A. Equivalent: Rules, rulebook. Usage example: The AFL publishes the Laws of the Game every year.
N.A. Equivalent: Game, Match. Usage example: The upcoming match between Hawthorn and Sydney will be massive!
Minor Premiers, Minor Premiership
N.A. Equivalent: Regular Season Champion, President's Trophy in NHL Hockey. Usage example: They have been Minor Premiers but the flag seems to have eluded them.
Official, Officials
N.A. Equivalent: Team management or other officially affiliated person. In general, the umpiring crew are not referred to as officials like referees are in North America. Usage example: The Coach and other officials were talking to the umpires before the game.
Paid, Not Paid
N.A. Equivalent: Awarded or Called by the referee/umpire. (Not paid: No-call, non-call.) Refers to an umpire's call when judging whether or not a mark, free kick, or penalty should be awarded. Usage example: It looked like Franklin might have had his hands on the ball long enough, but the mark was not paid.
Pinged, Ping
N.A. Equivalent: Called, caught, nailed. The act of an umpire/referee calling an infraction against a player. Usage example: Hawkins got pinged for Holding the Ball.
The Pocket, Forward Pocket
N.A. Equivalent: None. The area of the ground reasonably close to goal but to either side of the behind (outside) posts, such that the angle to kick a goal is much more acute. Usage example: Eddie Betts has had such success scoring goals from the northeast pocket at Adelaide Oval that supporters call it Eddie's Pocket.
Premiers, Premiership, The Flag
N.A. Equivalent: Champions, Championship. Pronounced with a soft e in the first syllable, not a long e like Canadians would use when pronouncing Premier (as in the Premier of a Province). Usage example: Hawthorn has won three consecutive Premierships.
Ruckman, Ruck
N.A. Equivalent: Person who takes the faceoff in hockey or participates in the opening jump ball in basketball. The footy comes back in to play after going out of bounds or in a stalemated contest on the grounds by a ball up or boundary throw-in. In both cases, each team designates a player (their Ruckman) to be the primary participant in the contest for the ball. Much like in basketball or hockey, the rucks try to direct the ball to a teammate or generally to their advantage. A team usually has two ruckmen on their roster of 22 for the game, with one being the primary ruckman and the other taking over when the normal ruckman is off the ground. Usage example: Canadian Mike Pyke's ruck work in the 2012 Grand Final was an important factor in Sydney's Premiership that year.
N.A. Equivalent: Spalding, Wilson, etc.. A reference to the name of the manufacturer of Australian footballs, Sherrin. Usage example: He was dispossessed of the Sherrin before he could dispose of it.
Smothered, Smother
N.A. Equivalent: Blocked kick. Usage example: A great smother prevented an entry into the Forward 50.
N.A. Equivalent: Fans. Usage example: The Hawthorn supporters were booing Lance Franklin every time he touched the ball the year after he signed with Sydney.
Touched off the boot, Touched
N.A. Equivalent: Partially blocked kick, usually just a small deflection or touch. This is an important distinction in Footy, as a kick that was touched in flight in bounds cannot be marked by another player; players must Play On. It also means that a ball going towards the boundary line in the air is no longer out "on the full" and that a ball going towards goal can only be scored as a behind. Touches can happen at the beginning of the kick ("off the boot") or later (before being marked, going out of bounds, or through the goal or behind posts). Usage example: The umpire did not pay the mark because the ball was touched off the boot.