MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 28: A general view during the 2019 AFL Grand Final match between the Richmond Tigers and the Greater Western Sydney Giants at Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 28, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

The Super Bowl LV is set for February 7th, 2021 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, which will determine the league champion for the 2020 NFL season. 

The Super Bowl is considered to be the biggest and most revered USA sporting event of the year. But just how different is it from our equivalent, the AFL Grand Final?

Quick NFL History 

If we want to understand how the Super Bowl is different from the AFL Grand Final it is, we must consider the history of the last 50 years of the NFL.

The National Football League (NFL) was formed in 1920, but the Super Bowl has existed only since 1970. Why is that?

In 1960 another professional football league was formed, the American Football League (AFL). Six years later, it was agreed that the NFL and AFL would merge by 1970 and play a championship game. And a bit later this championship game was named the Super Bowl.

After the merger, each league was re-designated as a “conference”. Still today the NFL consists of the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC), remnants of the old NFL and AFL. Since 1970 the game has been played between the conference champions to determine the NFL’s league champion. The NFC and AFC are currently tied with 27 Super Bowl wins each.

This is the crucial difference with the AFL Grand Final. The Grand Final is a final game of a league, but the Super Bowl essentially still has the form of a match between the winners of two separate leagues. This is also why, unlike the Grand Final, the Super Bowl is played after the season has ended already, in February of the next year.

NFL vs AFL Rules

The NFL also has a set of different but relatively similar rules to the AFL. The most obvious difference is that in American football, the players wear helmets and pads, but in Aussie Football the players wear sleeveless shirts and shorts. 

The shape of the field is also quite different: American Football is played on a rectangular field while Australian Football is played on an oval field (being influenced by cricket). 

The gameplay itself also has some significant differences: while in the American version the players can hit and tackle each other from the neck down, in Aussie Rules the players still tackle hard, but it must be between the shoulder and the knees. 

Also, In the NFL, players can’t interfere with each other when the ball has been thrown, but in the AFL, players can jump to get a high ball – they can even climb on their opponent’s back to make the catch.

Every NFL team is made up of the offence, defence, and special team. The offence is responsible for driving the ball down the field and scoring, the defence is trying to stop the other team’s offence, while special teams are mostly used for kick returns, punting, and field goals.

When the offence gets the ball, they have four downs (plays) to get the ball 10 yards. If they make the 10 yards, the team is rewarded with another set of four downs. Teams continue to do this until they either score, turnover the ball, punt the ball away or run out of downs.

The play (“down”) ends when a player is tackled, runs out of bounds or a pass is incomplete. If a team is unsuccessful in making the 10 yards, they will usually punt the ball on fourth down to the opposing team, who take over on offence. Also, if a player loses the ball and it is recovered by the defence or intercepted, the ball must be handed over to the other team.

If this is a bit too much, you can just remember to cheer when “touchdown” appears on the screen.

The Spectacle

The thing that both the Super Bowl and the Grand Final have in common is that they are truly spectacular events. Although it is very hard to compare any sporting event with the Super Bowl in this regard.

The Super Bowl is known for its amazing half-time shows. Last time the main star was Jennifer Lopez.

She was joined on stage by three-time Grammy award-winning artist Shakira. In the previous years, famous artists such as Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, and Maroon 5 have all performed at half-time shows.

The TV viewers of the Super Bowl are traditionally entertained by amazing and hilarious commercials specially made for this event. A 30-second spot costs upwards of $5 million! This is the way to ensure that the advertising companies will bring their ‘A’ game.

Of course, we do it a bit differently, but no less spectacular. There is nothing non-spectacular about a sporting event being kicked off a day early by an amazing parade in Melbourne, during a public holiday, when fans take the streets to watch players, mascots, marching bands and other entertainers.

Day or Night?

One thing is still uncertain about the 2021 AFL Grand Final though. Will it be played under lights or not?

The traditional time slot for the event was 2.30 during the day but last year it was played at night. This has become a controversial question, but the officials still haven’t made the final decision.

AFL fixtures chief Travis Auld said: “I think it’s something that when we come back from Christmas, it’ll be on the agenda fairly quickly” and “It’s something the Commission talks about in March or April and I’m sure they’ll have that conversation again.

On the other hand, the public sentiment in Victoria remains strong that the Grand Final should revert to its traditional time-slot.