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April 5, 2023

NFL fans...I truly think you'd love the Australian Football League (AFL)

NFL fans...I truly think you'd love the Australian Football League (AFL)

NFL and College Football fans, 

I'm Craig Wessels and I'm an American sports fan.  I'm in my 7th decade of being a Cleveland sports fan.  I grew up in the era of 3,500 people showing up to watch the Indians at Municipal Stadium, yet not being able to stay for an entire game, as we needed to get out of the parking lot first.  Thanks Dad!  I got to experience seeing the great Leroy Kelly, the heartbreaks of the Drive and the Fumble, along with the Miracle at Richfield when Nate Thurmond turned back the clock after Jim Chones' foot injury.  

Over the last 8 years, my sporting horizons have grown.  I've become rather disenchanted with Major League baseball over the last 5 years, from the extraordinarily light punishment of the Astros players who cheated their way to a World Series title, to a lack of a salary cap (yet the Guardians keep on competing), to tinkering with the game drastically (including the new clocks, banning the shift (Congratulations, Joey Gallo....sorry Rod Carew), along with the new rules regarding the use of relief pitchers. 

I'll admit it.  I miss the baseball of my youth and early/mid adulthood.  One of the things I grew up loving was the opportunity for the broadcasters, whether they be the legendary Vin Scully, or Cleveland's own Tom Hamilton and Herb Score sharing stories during the course of a game.  I treasured my XM (now Sirius/XM) subscription, as I could now listen to these wonderful story tellers weave their wonderful tales into the action that was taking place on the diamond.

Now, the game seems to be rushed....almost to a point where we have to get it over with, ASAP.  They are trying to pound an untimed peg into a timed hole.  That, in my opinion, is sad.  The next generation of baseball fans (and I truly do hope they're out there) will miss out on so much of the legend and lore of this beautiful game.  

In 2016, my new journey in sports began as I started following Australian Rules Football.  I've been a high school teacher for 29 years, and a PA announcer at my school for 14 years.  I would get home from announcing a Friday night football game, and flip on the TV, finding this game that I vaguely remembered from my teens and early 20's as it appeared on the burgeoning ESPN.  This game has been around since the 1850's, and the roots of the game can be traced back even further to the indigenous culture in Australia in a game known as Marngrook.  

In 2019, I began my podcast, A Yank on the Footy.  In early April of this year, I published the 300th episode of the podcast.  In the podcast, I've had the pleasure of interviewing every day fans of the game, from all levels....from the AFL, down to the local footy clubs that are the hubs around which so many small Australian communities turn, to athletes who play the game here in the United States.  I've spoken with legendary players of the game, front office stalwarts of the game, one of which I think could be described as Australia's own Bill Veeck, along with people who simply have great footy stories to tell.  

Aussie Rules game is fast paced, with non-stop action, where you'll find many of the players running 6-8 miles per game, while leaping to make catches of the ball (marks) that would make the most acrobatic of wide receivers sit up and take notice, and bone crunching tackles that'd rival Mike Singletary coming downhill on an unsuspecting running back.  Couple those with goals being kicked from 50+ yards away, or dribbled through the goal with the deftness and skill that would rival any Premier League soccer player, and you've got an awesome spectacle.  The ground is oval shaped, and in comparison to an NFL field, is massive.  The ground averages (depending on the stadium), 180 yards from end to end, with the midfield being about 150 yards wide.  It is absolutely massive.

In 2017, I chose the club that I decided to support (which are the Geelong Cats, but this is not a blog to recruit new supporters to a specific club.  This is intended to be an invitation to take a look at what I believe to be the most dynamic, fast-paced team sport that I have ever come across.  If you become a fan of the game, then I'm sure we'll talk.  :) 

Just kidding, I absolutely want your relationship with your club to be an organic one. 

Each of the 18 clubs have diehard supporters, who are involved in an absolute love affair with their clubs.  The clubs in the AFL are, if I were to try and compare them to an NFL team, most closely related to the Green Bay Packers (without the QB controversey).  There are no primary "owners" of teams.  There's no Jerry Jones.  No Jimmy Haslem or Dan Snyder (thank goodness).  These clubs are supported by their membership, and some of the bigger clubs have well over 100,000 paid members.  

The AFL season begins in mid-March, and culminates with the Grand Final (Super Bowl) at the end of September.  If you're a disenchanted baseball fan like myself, the AFL fits fantastically in the void left by baseball.  I want to invite you to check out the game of Australian Rules Football.  The women's competition, the AFLW began playing several years ago, and has now settled into a season that begins shortly before the end of the AFL season, and lasts for about 14 weeks in total.  Each of the 18 clubs have a representative club in the AFLW.  With each subsequent year, the level of competition in the AFLW has improved as more and more young women reacclimate themselves to footy.  

In fact, if you are much younger than I, and have the interest, the game is played by almost 50 different clubs here in the United States, in the USAFL.  Most metropolitan areas have a club, with some having more than one.

Back to the Australian game, however.  Following the schedules located at, FS1 and FS2 typically carry 3-4 of the 9 games each week on their channels.  Now, that being said, these games are played at odd hours for Americans.  This is why I always suggest that interested people record the games on their DVR's and check them out at a later time.  If you happen to have Fox Soccer Plus, they also carry several other games during each round.  (If you fall in love with the game, you can always become an international member of your club, and with that get the "WatchAFL" app, which gives you access to all of the games live or on demand, along with all of the programming from FoxFooty.

Over the last couple of months, I did a half dozen different interviews (with more on the horizon).  These interviews were with American footy fans who are also NFL fans, along with Aussies who are NFL fans.  A couple of weeks ago, I released an interview with legendary San Diego Charger punter, Darren Bennett, who was also one of the top goal scorers for the Melbourne Demons of the AFL.  These discussions were all about why they strongly believed NFL fans would love the AFL, and what could the AFL do to further promote the game here in the United States.  Currently, the AFL (and FS1/FS2) do very little to let prospective viewers know that the games are actually being broadcast late in the evening and into the overnight hours.  

My thesis has long been that if the AFL could just capture the interest of 1% of the American population, that'd be around 10% of the entire Australian population.  An opportunity for a financial windfall for the league.  We, as Americans crave this type of action.  If we didn't, we would not see the continued attempts at the XFL and USFL.  

Below, I am going to list links to each of those 6 episodes of the podcast, along with a links that I have compiled, of a few youtube videos about the game of Australian Rules Football.  If you're at all curious about what I truly believe is the greatest game on the planet, I invite you to check some of these out.  

Podcast episode links

Ep. 223 - introducing my "Why NFL fans will love the AFL" series

Ep. 242 - Why NFL Fans will love the AFL, with NFL/AFL writer Adam Schultz

Ep. 243 - Why NFL fans would love the AFL w/Rick Shaibani of the L.A. Dragons (Explicit)

Ep. 244 - Why NFL fans will love the AFL with DAZ, of NFL Down Under Podcast and Daz Talks Footy on Youtube (Explicit)

Ep. 245 - Why NFL fans will love the AFL, with Dave Evans Smith, longtime Australian Cleveland Browns fan and member of Brownsbackers down under

Ep. 249 - Why NFL fans will love the AFL, with Thomas McMillan of Any Given Sunday Podcast

Ep. 251 - Why NFL fans will love the AFL, w/AFL + NFL star Darren Bennett of the Melbourne Demons and San Diego Chargers

If the game sounds interesting, I do invite you to check out a game or two on FS1/FS2.  There are a couple of other American footy related podcasts besides mine.  

Americans Watching the Footy These two brothers from the Bay area have taken the game by the horns and have dived deeply into their new found passion.


Donnie's Disposal Donnie Hess is also the Head Coach of the Des Moines Roosters of the USAFL.  He is a mad Sydney Swans supporter, and a huge and active advocate for the growth of the AFLW.

Both of these podcasts (and in the case of Donnie, also on Youtube) are passionate about the game that we all love, and would absolutely welcome any questions or thoughts that you might have about the game.

Please don't hesitate to reach out to me here on my website, or you can also email me at  This is a truly wonderful game, and the relationship between the clubs and their supporters (fans) is something that I think we could learn from here in the USA.

I invite you to check out this awesome game.  

Here are some links to some terrific AFL videos, which will help with checking out the game.

What is AFL(from 2013)

What is AFL updated(for 2022)

AFL here comes the boom remastered version..(Big Hits)

Best of 2022: Bumps, tackles and smothers | AFL

Best of 2022: Outstanding goals | AFL

Best of 2022: Spectacular marks | AFL(catches)

The 2022 AFL Finals Series

Top 100 Goals of 2022

Every Mark of the Year winner: 2001-2019 | AFL


Humourous look at the AFL rules


Women's AFL

AFANA- Australian Football Association of North America– United States Australian Rules Football League (almost 50 clubs across the country play this great game)

2014: Elimination Final Richmond v Port Adelaide- Game recommended by Adam Schultz in Ep 242

Craig Wessels

Sandusky, Ohio