Is the game different to soccer and rugby? You bet.
No off-side for starters. Which means the game is a bit like basketball, but on a far larger arena than even soccer & rugby, and 18 a-side on the field at a time.
No cross bar. Does this make kicking goals easier. Well, yes, although the goals are narrower than soccer. And you actually have to kick them yourself, via your foot - and not be deflected off other people or goal posts.
Behinds - quite unique, or partially similar to the 'rouge' in some sports. Simple theory. Avoid drawn games. Soccer folk have thought about ways of avoiding a draw - and only lump us with penalty shoot outs in the 'big' games in tournaments. They could perhaps count corners (or only those derived within a certain distance of the goal....and then award a pt, make a 'fair' goal worth 6,....and away you go, less draws, more results....and maybe more often the best team might actually win).
Unlike soccer - all players can use their hands too....kinda cool, helps, especially youngsters, to develop the full range of co-ordination. The 'high' mark or 'speccie' is a very cool feature, and a bit more dignified than using ones head to propell the ball because the rules don't let you use your hands!! Hands also allow for picking the ball up and the feature known as 'hand-ball' or 'hand-pass'. This is a key feature in team work, especially under pressure to open up play. To achieve overlap, to create space. Y'see, the game is all about creating space, which is vitally important given that the oval shaped ground tapers inward at either end, meaning that the hardest place to find space is in the 'forward line', thus the absence of off-side is partially negated.
Australian Rules Football <> soccer
Australian Rules Football <> rugby
Australian Rules Football = Positively geared sport - seeking to attack one's own goal, to kick goals and to win games. Don't compare to the MElb Cup (handicap), compare to the Cox Plate, a weight for age free for all.
compared to soccer and rugby = negatively geared sports, seeking to defend one's own goal, and employing restrictive handling and movement rulings to limit the ability to 'win on merit' - effectively they are the 'handicap' events - even HARNESS RACING!!!