Aussie Rules Commentary Terms (or how to explain AFL terminology to non-Australians)

It’s only a month or so until the 2015 N.A.B challenge competition begins. For most of us reading this site, this is good news. For our significant others, friends or family who aren’t ‘footy mad’, I have concocted a list of Aussie Rules terms that may help them follow what the hell it is you’re yelling about when watching Bruce and the gang on a Friday night.


This is a term that has started to sneak into football in the last year or so. Propagated by Mark Ricciuto. It’s a secondary term for a ‘mark’ which is when a player catches the ball. So, in all honesty, the action should have been named a catch 160-odd years ago when the game was invented. However it wasn’t, so its called a mark. You would think that Ricciuto wouldn’t have a problem with the term, would you… Mark?


Another term for a mark (confused yet?). This seems to be used for when a mark is taken in a pack (large contested group) of players. I seem to think its used more because the big boys in the commentary booth like the way it sounds. Clluuunnnk! Also an insult for a chunky Autobot.


Defense has been around forever in AFL circles and its fairly obvious what it means. Offense however is an Americanism that has crept into the game over the last few years. The term that was always used was ‘forward line’ or ‘forwards’. Not really anything funny to say about these ones, they just really annoy me – especially the way they’re pronounced by these numskulls; O-Fence and D-fence. You’re Australian, speak Straylin!


This is a nice way of saying that someone has really stuffed things up for their side. It is also an Americanism (See Offence and Defence). Used in much the same way as Americans prefer to use the term bathroom instead of toilet, dunny or dump house. Not sure what we called this before this term became fashionable? Maybe a Tambling. (Don’t worry if you don’t get that, it was a joke at Richmond’s expense)


This is used frequently – usually to describe a decision that the commentator did not agree with. Mainly used by ex-players who played in the seventies and eighties, when AFL was literally a blood sport. Leigh Matthews was actually charged by the police for an on field action in the early eighties, and then was named player of the century by the Herald Sun. He also snapped a point post in half just by running into it which is pretty rad actually.


Used to describe winning a game of football. I have no idea why.


A term used by play-by-play commentators to describe a player motioning one way when running at an opponent and then quickly moving in the opposite direction. ‘Sold the dummy’ is a term that has been used for ever and ultimately means the player made his opponent look like, well, a bit of a dummy.

Candy: Comes from Brian Taylor (who I left out of my worst commentators list last month, but was definitely in the honorable mentions) who uses the term sometimes. Also uses the term ‘foot candy’. Again, I don’t really know what he’s talking about, I’m just happy he’s not uttering the sentence; ‘Calder footy factory’.

Puppy: I heard Bruce McAvaney use this in a match between Melbourne and Brisbane… W.T.F?


A player who runs with one of the opposition’s best players (eg: Gary Ablett Jnr) to try and limit his effect on a game. Examples of these kind of players are Nick Lower from the Western Bulldogs, Kane Cornes from the Port Adelaide Power and the entire Fremantle Dockers football club. Zing! Take that Fremantle!


So there you have it! Now that you have these building blocks of your footy vocabulary in place, go out and mingle with those five or six old fat guys at your local pub that you’ve been dying to get in the clique with.

Good Luck with the rest of season, and happy footyballing!





Damian Gibson is one of the founding fathers of the AFL facebook community the Zanotti Files. He also is the host of Fifteen Minutes of Doom & FMOD podacsts A football (and Richmond) fanatic, he should not be approached while watching a game or playing Words with Friends on his phone.


  1. G’day Damian,

    As a Japanese footy fan, it’s interesting to read.

    Are you using soft free kick to describe free kicks awarded by umpires for softer contacts comparing the seventies and eightie?

    It’s sad to see even some footy words are Americanised. Was it what the big Andy wanted?

    You know, Ross Lyon has very defensive game plans that former St Kilda coach Grant Thomas criticised. Then Dockers are all taggers. I hope my boys (Saints) win over all taggers this season too! We have good records against Freo.



  2. Also missing:

    ‘Dukes extended’

    ‘Up and about’

    ‘Get around him’

    Yoshi: If I’ve understood what Damian’s getting at, a ‘soft free-kick’ is basically where an undeserved/unwarranted free kick is paid by an umpire.

    1) flat-out incorrect/bad decision from the umpire (there’s a history of Sam Mitchell getting pinged for horrid deliberate out of bounds calls and I’m sure fans of all 18 clubs could rattle off examples here)
    2) takes the letter of the law to its absolute maximum even though the ‘infringement’ has absolutely no impact on the contest (high contact/over the shoulder in a one-on-one marking duel)
    3) The player sucks the umpire in (Lindsay Thomas’ infamous dive in season 2014, and not numerous examples of where players punch or elbow their opponent, the opponent retaliates with a push, the initiator hits the deck in ‘agony’ and gets a free off the umpire.

  3. Neil Anderson says

    How quickly things change both in commentary and footballer’s careers. From ‘delicious’ to calling someone or something a ‘puppy’. Bruce wouldn’t be hip enough to call someone a sick puppy , would he?
    Re footballer’s careers, poor old Nick Lower was regarded as a great tagger in 2013 (ask Gary Ablett) but he was gone in 2014. Last year he was captain of the Footscray VFL side.

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says


    You must have been following my Saturday night tweets.

    I often follow up BT’s ‘hand candy’ exhortations with #handshandy

    I think Richmond sold Adelaide a Tambling.

  5. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your good explanation on soft free kick.

    Can I add another example about bad umpire decisions?

    At Round 12 in 2014, in the match between Geelong and Carlton at Docklands, a Geelong runner crossed over then Blue Mitch Robinson in the last minute. But Robinson was not awarded a free kick and the Cats won by 5 points.



  6. You’ve forgotten James Hird’s (and Bart Simpson’s) line:
    “I didn’t do it.”

  7. Dave Brown says

    If the roo says it’s a catch, then it’s a catch…

  8. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Damian, I love this stuff so much I wrote a tentative 48 page dictionary 9 years ago. Catch, clunk, offense/defense are terms devoid of any character.
    Footy language can be so rich,inclusive, exclusive and most of all, fun.
    you’ve bobbed up on the footy almanac like a ‘cork in the ocean’. If you can ‘kick it up the guts’, ‘find a target’ and avoid ‘hospital handpasses’ you’ll become an ‘ornament to the game’. ‘Stick to your structures’, ‘do the team thing’, ‘kick it to the fat side’ and ‘keep your head over it’. You don’t want to be ‘dragged’ and find yourself ‘kicking the dew’ with the ‘magoos’. There are enough ‘downhill skiers’ on this site. Cheers

  9. Don’t get me started on this. The one I hate the most is the “quarter back role”. And when ruck-rovers, rovers, the centreman, and wingmen started to be called midfielders I could cope with that, but now they’re simply “mids”. Sickening.

  10. G’day Phil,

    Thanks for describing what I have been doing and footy with footy languages. Well said mate.



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