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    September 14, 2023 3 min read

    What are the AFL Ruck Rules?

    In the world of Australian Rules Football (AFL), the ruck contest is a crucial aspect of the game. It involves two opposing ruckmen competing for control of the ball when it is bounced or thrown into the air by the umpire. Understanding the intricacies of the AFL ruck rules is essential for appreciating the artistry and strategy behind this midfield battle.

    Why is the Ruck Contest Important?

    The ruck contest is a pivotal moment in every AFL game. It determines which team gains possession of the ball and sets the tone for the subsequent play. The ruckman's ability to tap the ball to advantage, direct it to their teammates, or disrupt the opposition's play can significantly impact the outcome of the game.

    How Does the Ruck Contest Work?

    During the ruck contest, the two rucks position themselves opposite each other, with their teammates spread out around them. When the ball is bounced or thrown into the air, the rucks aim to tap or palm the ball to their teammates, who then try to gain possession and advance the ball forward. Rucks can also take possession themselves.

    What is a Ruck defined by the AFL?

    The designated Player from each Team who engages in the initial contest of the football following a bounce, throw-up or boundary throw-in.

    Key AFL Ruck Rules

    Starting Position

    At the start of the quarter, or restart of play after a goal, each team should have four players in the centre square. Of these four players designated, one player from each team will be the Ruck and is positioned within the Ten Metre Circle in their defensive half.

    Contesting the centre bounce or throw-up

    1. The Ruck must start with both feet within the Ten Metre Circle, and may only enter the Team’s attacking half or exit the Ten Metre Circle after the football is bounced or thrown up by the Umpire.
    2. No other Player may enter the Ten Metre Circle until the football is bounced or thrown up
    3. Where a Player breaks rules above, the field Umpire shall award a Free Kick to the Ruck of the opposing Team

    Ruck Contest Rules:

    Spirit, Intention and Numbers: 

    The Ruck whose sole objective is to contest the football shall be permitted to do so. Each team must have only one ruck competing at any contest.

    Ruck Contest Free Kicks

    1. When a non-ruck contests a throw-up or boundary throw in
    2. When a player unduly pushes or bumps opposition ruck
    3. Blocks an opposition ruck
    4. Makes contact with an opposition Ruck prior to the football leaving the field or boundary Umpire’s hand
    5. If a Ruck, enters their attacking half or steps outside the Centre Circle prior to the field Umpire bouncing or throwing up the football
    6. If a Ruck hits the football Out of Bounds On the Full from a throw-up  or a throw-in
    7. From a Ruck contest, Rucks can't hit the football over the Goal Line or Behind Line on the full

    Can you take the ball out of the Ruck contest?

    As of 2018, players can now grab the ball out of the ruck and compete without being regarded as having prior opportunity. Previously a free kick would have been paid immediately after being tackled. 

    How not to compete in the Ruck. 

    Generally, you can't push, bump, hold or block an opposing ruck (though it happens). 

    Can you wear shin guards in the Ruck?

    Rucks are permitted to wear shin guards under the protective equipment rule. Most players at a professional level are wearing a Ruck Shin Guard under their sock. 

    Ruck wearing shin guard


    The AFL ruck rules add an element of sophistication and strategy to the game. Understanding the intricacies of the ruck contest allows fans to appreciate the skill and artistry involved in this midfield battle. So, the next time you watch an AFL game, pay close attention to the ruck contest and marvel at the elegance and exclusivity of this essential aspect of the sport.