Who used to play handball (aka four-square) back in school?

Power King

Brownlow Medallist
Jul 11, 2007
AFL Club
Port Adelaide
I was just randomly thinking about this game a moment ago, and decided to do a wikipedia search on it.

This game was the absolute sh*t back in yr 8 and part of yr 9, before we started to play cricket in summer and soccer in winter. I think I played it as well in primary school, but it became a phenomenon in yrs 8 and 9.

We'd play it every recess and lunch, and time would literally pass in an instant. Absolutely fun as anything you could do back in school.

We used to have a rule where a max of 5 or 6 players could wait in line, so most of the time there'd be numerous courts filled up.

I think rules probably slightly varied from school to school, but would've been pretty much the same.

After looking at the wikipedia article though, the rules (and even ball type used) in other countries are completely different to the Australian rules, and so because I'm biased, I think the overseas rules suck.

We'd always use a tennis ball. Positions would be known as King, Queen, Jack and Dunce. If King ****ed up, he wouldn't be automatically out, but rather get a second chance and go to dunce. Sometimes we'd play the rule where queen would be given the second chance also. I remember we all used to compete for who has the best slice (really low and fast shot that would move very close to the ground), and often rallies would ensue. Sometimes you'd add spin to your shots as well.

Anyway, after reading the wikipedia article, there was a bunch of rules/aspects to the game that I had forgotten, which I shall paste in the post immediately below.

Nostalgia :thumbsu::thumbsu::thumbsu:

Can't find any youtube clips of the Australian handball though. Mostly American rules, where they used some large-ass ball, and play with 'lobb' rules, where your shot must first bounce into your opponent's square first, rather than your own:rolleyes:

Power King

Brownlow Medallist
Jul 11, 2007
AFL Club
Port Adelaide

Australian regional rules

(For the general rules and descriptions, refer to the main page).

* A tennis ball is the primary ball used for gameplay.

* Four Square is played with four squares of (generally) equal size. Games can be played with more than 4 squares in a 2xN configuration. If there are more players than squares a line is formed behind the furthest square from the King position.

* Squares are given the titles of King, Queen, Jack and Dunce (some variants use Ace as the highest position and continue with King, Queen and Jack or Dunce). When a player is called "out" (for whatever following reason) in any position, they move immediately to the back of the waiting line. In some variants however, the King may move to Dunce and everyone remaining in moves up a square. If this does happen, the person who was in the King square can call an "Old King", which means that they have to have the ball served to them, and they override all other "service" calls.

* Each player is required to hit the ball into their own square before bouncing in another, failure to do so is called a "full" or "straight over" and the player is out. Some variants use a "full-played" rule, if after a player hits a full, another player continues play hitting the ball into another square, it can be caught and "full-played" is declared, in this case the player who continued the game is declared out whilst the original full is not out. Additionally, if the player continues on after a "full-played", a "full forgotten" is declared, and no one is out.

* Play often becomes so low that when hit, the ball rolls along the ground instead of bouncing. Here a "rolls" is called, and the player is immediately out. On occasion, a "jumps" (see below) is called as an alternative. Some games require a call of either "rolls re" or "rolls rack". Whichever one is called first takes preference. A rolls re results in the game simply being restarted, and a rolls rack means the player who last touched the ball is out. The term "pix" is also used, and saying this results in the same action being taken if a "rolls re" was called, ie. the game continues.

* Due to the fast-paced nature of the game, it is often unsure in which square the ball was bounced, with it landing on the line. This is called a "liner" or "lines", and King usually re-serves. However, a "jumps" is sometimes called, and a player (usually Queen) bounces the ball in the middle of the court. Players then jump and compete to tap it into another square, similar to the ruck in Australian Rules Football. Incidentally, this is the only occasion a player is permitted to hit the ball into an opposing square on the full.

* Often, players incorporate an alliance play aspect into the game. These teams are not locked, and as a result betrayals often, and commonly occur. When betrayals occur often players will use the slang term "Biggest Dog" or "Dog Act".

* When the ball is touched by a player waiting in line, or any other unintended target, an "interference" is called and King re-serves or a "jumps" takes place.

* "Headsies" and "Footsies", otherwise known as "body fulls" are permitted in some variants depending on the rules the participants decide upon.

* In some cases, the game is played according to the English rules.

* In some cases, the rule "Two and Up" can be brought into play, this is where the ball bounces twice in your own square or out of court and you hit it upwards into an opponents square, you cannot use a "Two and Up" if the ball bounces once into your own square and once into another players square.

* When an argument about a call comes up and there is no other way to deal with it, the two players can call for a death match between the two arguing players.

* "Rally" can be declared in some variants by the King or sometimes any player, in which the declarer and the person who receives the ball must only return the ball to each other, and if returned to a different player's square, the person in the rally is out. "Break" can be called by the declarer, after which the play continues like normal. "Rally to the Death" is a variant on rallies in which no break can be called. "Around the World" can be declared in some games in which the players must play the ball in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction to the next player.

* Special serving techniques can be called before the King serves the ball. "Overhead" is a call made when there are more than 4 players and the server wishes to serve to a square not adjacent to themselves, if the serve does not land in an overhead square, then the server is out, but if an adjacent square touches the ball, they are declared out. "Out of Square" may be called in which the server can serve from outside their square, but must still bounce the ball in their square before any others. A "replay" may be called by a player receiving a serve if the ball's bounce is determined "indecent", forcing the round to start over. Additionally, any player can make the call of "service" and the King must serve to them. If more than one person calls a "service", the King serves to the first one that called out.

* If a player walks out of their square, thinking they are out, they are deemed to have "walked" and are now out, despite the fact they had not violated any rules during the point.

* In recent times the 2xN version of the game has grown significantly, often being referred to as "jockball". This version often incorporates the rule of no body fulls, and death matches are used to decide all "liners", instead of the traditional centre bounce method.

Power King

Brownlow Medallist
Jul 11, 2007
AFL Club
Port Adelaide
^From the above rules, this is how it used to be where I went to school:

When King screwed up and went to dunce, the ball would be served to him (benefit of having made king)

"Fulls" ... we actually called them "lobbs" like in tennis, and if you did one you wer out, regardless of whether any of your opponents played them on. I think playing on is crap. I also think if you play on an error and the person who played on then gets out, that this is also a crap rule.

"Rolls" would cause you to be out.

Never heard of "pix".

We played with liners, so if the two players whose line the ball touched went uncontested, then we'd have a jump, similar to the AFL ruck contest, and the queen would be the one who bounced the ball at the intersection of lines.

Never had "two and up".

Never had "death matches".

If there was an interference, then King would reserve - no jumps.

I remember a few people trying to incorporate "footsies", which was a piece of sh*t aspect. Luckily that was short-lived.

Never had "two and up".

We did have "rallies" but people generally didn't do them.

We allowed one fault, and if the server/king made a double fault then he'd go to dunce.

We had replays if a play was too contentious.

We allowed the call of 'service' sometimes, meaning whoever said it first could have the ball served to them.

Never had "walked"... seems like a crap rule.

Only ever played four-square... sometimes two-square (eg one person vs one person).


So what rules did you guys play with, or not play with?

And I'm curious as to how long this game has been around for. When abouts did you used to play it? For me it was around the turn of the millennium.

--- And screw you if you didn't like handball :)


Brownlow Medallist
May 9, 2003
AFL Club
Other Teams
Seattle Mariners and Seahawks
Ah the memories..........at primary school, our playground was on a high and the 'seniors' played in the top section of the playground. We always had to chase the ball as it would run down the hill and we lost it a number of times. Memo: never play handball on an uneven surface!

Dont be a lemon

Brownlow Medallist
Jun 2, 2006
Party time all the time
AFL Club
We also played four square (which was what we called it) in primary school (years 1-7 here in WA). Once we reached high school though it never seemed to get played again, possibly because the high school didn't have any four square markings :p

We didn't use a tennis ball, we used children's sized basketballs. We also had that "King goes back to dunce" rule.

I can't remember if we had to bounce it in your own square or into someone else's square.

We also of course used to kick around footballs and soccer balls in terms 2 & 3 and play cricket in terms 1 & 4.

Ah primary school recess and lunch, such a simpler time...

Now I'm on a nostalgia trip :eek:

The Passenger

Freak Power
Mar 25, 2003
AFL Club
West Coast
i loved handball, and i would hazard a guess it's probably one of my best sports (i don't know if that's a good or bad thing).... we had a competition in year 12 and about 50 (200 people total in my final year) people entered and i made it to the semi finals :D

we played on and off from year 8 all the way through to year 12, but it was massive in year 10 and 11.... we had a few variations at school because every year had different areas in the school so we had to adapt.

in year 11 there were 2 different areas - one had a beam holding up a roof which was right in the centre of the court so that would create rebounds and various intricacies that would take getting used to.

also another area had unequally sized squares because of the way the coloured bricks were layed out

it looked like this:

¦ D ¦  King   ¦
¦   ¦         ¦
¦   ¦    Q    ¦
¦ J ¦    u    ¦
¦ a ¦    e    ¦
¦ c ¦    e    ¦
¦ k ¦    n    ¦
¦   ¦         ¦
playing queen was pretty hard because of the huge amount of ground to cover.

the nostalgia is brilliant. my nephew is getting big into his handball so i am loving it at the moment.

one of the worlds great sports.


Persona Non Grata
Jan 9, 2008
AFL Club
Other Teams
Dandenong Rangers, Man United
We played it a lot in year 7 and 8

I guess the biggest game was when we had 18 people play. It was an absolute epic game.

We played survivor (where once you go out, that's it)

It's played a lot down at Little Athletics these days and helps pass tme during event breaks for the kids


Club Legend
Aug 25, 2008
AFL Club
Other Teams
Storm, Rebels, Victory
We used to call if four-square but we played it using our feet only and a soccer ball. Plenty of variations including a game on a basketball court divided into quarters with 2 players for each square. Goodtimes


Winner of 2x Tittybong Cups.
Apr 10, 2005
AFL Club
Other Teams
Grade 4, 5 and 6 we played it at my school. Although I dont think we got into it as hardcore as you guys. We'd play it for a week straight but then we might not have played it for a month, then play it for two weeks etc.

We usually used a basketball though because our four square 'courts' were right next to the basketball courts, and if we got bored we'd go play basketball.


6x Super Bowl Champion
Oct 4, 2005
AFL Club
Port Adelaide
Other Teams
New England Patriots M.C.F.C
What about at the end of lunch time when the bell rang. Would you have one last rally, and if so would you run through grab the ball and ditch it as far as you could if your best mate was in King and you didn't want him to lose to the redhead loser kid no one liked in queen.


Norm Smith Medallist
Aug 12, 2008
AFL Club
Other Teams
Melbourne Victory
We called it down-ball, if King got out they would go to Dunce and same with Queen and Jack but if Dunce got out they had to go to the back of the line

Brad Goodman

His name isn't important
Oct 7, 2002
AFL Club
Almost as good as bat tennis.
My grade 6 teacher was a mad tennis fan so we had a bat tennis tournament during classroom hours, 2 or 3 days per week we would just play bat tennis after lunch, with the occasional game of 40-40 thrown in. Good times.


Club Legend
Apr 15, 2007
AFL Club
Port Adelaide
Other Teams
We had a rule where if you left your square for some reason (to collect the ball or get a drink etc.) without saying 'dead-square' somebody, whether they be in the game or waiting could jump into your square and 'conquer' it.

Also had a rule where the king could call 'lobicles' when they served, which meant instead of bouncing it in your square first, everyone had to lob the ball.

Service granted is another one, where the king could 'grant' a serve to another player. Often used in larger games where a player in alliance with the king is in a low position so they could work their way up.

2-square battles were common, where one player would hit the ball into another players sqaure and call '2-square battle'. The other player has the option of 'accepting' or 'regecting' this offer. Only the enforcer of the battle can 'end-battle' and if the lower ranked player beats the higher-ranked player, they swap positions.

4-square battles were the same except they involved 4-squares, so if the king and queen were having a 4-square battle, the jack and dunce would vacate their squares to allow play.

Players were allowed to serve the ball from outside their square, but only if they called out 'sausage'.

Just some of the rules we followed. Great game that took up many hours in the yard.


Premiership Player
Jul 2, 2007
AFL Club
West Coast
Other Teams
Force,WAWarriors,SA Spurs
yea 4 square was great i remember that was thing that pushed you to go to school in the morning it got really competitive.

Did anyone play dodge ball like the dodge ball of the movie that was the king of all games at school.??


Brownlow Medallist
Oct 26, 2006
Walton Breck Rd
AFL Club
Other Teams
Liverpool, Ricciardo
"Fulls" ... we actually called them "lobbs" like in tennis, and if you did one you wer out, regardless of whether any of your opponents played them on. I think playing on is crap. I also think if you play on an error and the person who played on then gets out, that this is also a crap rule.
The sh*t thing about when we played in year 8, they would play it on forever even if it bounced 20 times. They'd just pick it up and throw it again. Of course they were best mates, so we couldn't stop them.

I hated the game, but it was just so addictive.

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