AFL - The Kick Around the Corner

After two more rounds where the kick around the corner has been a traumatising blight on a player or team’s performance, you have to ask yourself why clubs keep persisting with the kick around the corner.

It should be a simple philosophy. The KISS technique we’re all familiar with, but with a twist; kick it simply stupid.

In Round 20, while more than half of the matches went down the wire, there were two games in particular that could have had a much different result if some players had followed the above advice.

The first one I’m speaking of was at the Gabba where Brisbane hosted North Melbourne. Brisbane have been a team on the rise, without actually getting many in the wins column. But last week they could’ve positively added to their 4-15 win/loss ratio had number one draft pick, Cam Rayner slotted through a goal with 30 seconds on the clock.

To say it was a tight angle would be a lie. On a 45 degree angle, 25 metres out you'd probably argue most players could kick it truly. Rayner however, chose to set up for a kick around the corner, and sprayed it far to the right, dashing the Lions chances of upsetting the Roos.

In the south of the country it was a similar scenario, this time with Port Adelaide's Ollie Wines. After taking a fantastic contested pack mark, Wines set up for a kick across the body 15 metres out on a 45 degree angle also. Wines seemed to be more interested in running around in his arc than kicking straight and true, and he hit the belly of the ball instead of the side. The kick ended up in the grandstand, well wide of even the far point post.

While the Power were up by 10 points with seven minutes to play, had Wines kicked a six-pointer, it would’ve all but crushed the spirits of the Adelaide Crows who instead went on to make a charge and won by three points in another Showdown thriller.

It poses a question that warrants as much attention as whether we should be changing the game; are we losing the art of a simple set shot?

Now I’m not saying that Rayner would’ve kicked a goal from a set shot. I’m not saying that Wines would’ve made a better connection on the ball. All I’m arguing is that kicking it straight at a target is a much better way of claiming a maximum score from a set position on the field.

Even post Round 21, it seemed as though no one learnt their lesson. There were still fans and commentators perplexed by the new style of kicking that has left us all scratching our heads.

In Friday night's clash between Essendon and St Kilda, on three separate occasions the Saints had an easy set shot at goal, but each individual player in this circumstance opted for the non-conventional method.

After kicking a goal to place the Saints in front early in the second quarter, Jade Gresham had another chance when he marked on the lead, 25 metres out from goal. He quickly played on and got too much curve on the ball, which hit the goal post closest to him.

In the third quarter, Jack Lonie marked 40 metres out on a tight angle. His lobbed kick around the corner didn’t make the distance and was marked on the far left goal line by Essendon’s Mark Baguley.

Jack Billings is another name that stands out for the wrong reasons from Friday night. He took a contested pack mark 10 metres out from goal. He took his time walking back to his line and thus, felt compelled to play on and kick around his body at what ended up being a 15 degree angle. He kicked the ball through the goals, but it was awarded a touched behind, at the time and confirmed as such by the score review.

On Saturday night at Etihad Stadium, Magpie Jordan De Goey had a shocker of a second term. It involved one kick around the body when he marked 20 metres out on a 30 degree angle. You could sense from the moment he marked it that he wanted to play on. Eventually he did. It swung too far wide and registered a behind.

Commentators have caught on to the new “method” and veteran Channel Seven commentator Bruce McAvaney called for a readjustment. His Friday night co-commentators chipped in with their own advice.

Brian Taylor blamed the goal kicking coaches for not focussing enough on drop punts. Wayne Carey took aim at the players who looked for excuses after they missed a kick around the corner due to the difficulty. He claimed they were “giving themselves an excuse” for missing. Cameron Ling had a swipe at players not having the confidence in skills practiced at training and bringing them to match days. They all agreed that players must take their time and take the responsibility of the kick.

It is true players aren’t giving themselves enough time. They have 30 seconds to use up, and should do so to get themselves into a good frame of mind to slot a goal. It’ll give the team, and most importantly the individual a boost of confidence to their game regardless of how far into the contest they are.

In the Jack Billings instance, he instantly played on despite a cluster of players in his vicinity - both teammates and opposition. Due to his surroundings and his compulsion to get the kick away, he rushed it and it was touched by someone on, or close to the mark. It’s all good to trick your man into chasing you by playing on when he’s chatting with the umpire, or if he’s kicking at the ground to identify where to stand on the mark, but too often the attacking player gets caught out playing on because of that pressure.

Pressure has become a dominant aspect of our game in recent years. As early as 2013, Fremantle rode a wave of frenetic pressure all the way to the Grand Final. Richmond won their way to their 2017 flag on the back of their intensity. In games where pressure is abundant, players shouldn’t add to that in periods where the game has effectively stopped for them to take a set shot.

Perhaps, since our game is becoming more fast-paced and congested, players are practicing short, sharp kicks off a step or two as opposed to 40 or 50 metre kicks, and therefore lack confidence to make the distance of a set shot inside 50. As elite athletes, when Rayner, Wines, Gresham and De Goey went to line up, distance shouldn’t have been a problem, especially for 127-gamer Wines who could’ve handballed it into the tenth row had he chosen to.

When Taylor criticised the coaches, I think he was well in his rights. Effective kicks lead to effective goals. However, if coaches are indeed instructing players to practice the kick around the corner from a slight angle, they should stop that right away. It’s only a matter of time until juniors are doing the same drills at training or in a proper match, if it isn’t happening already. It’s not what should be taught. Juniors should know their capabilities and have the backing of their coaches. If they can’t make the distance, or doubt their ability, then they should be coached to find a better option. For a team as a whole, it means knowing your teammates strengths and abilities.

In the above examples, we saw players already setting up for a kick around the corner and having no intention of using a traditional drop punt. Rayner did so and kicked from a few steps. The first-year player, in immediately setting up for the kick around the corner, did not give himself enough room to work in and reduced the space he was able to use to at least get a few steps across and run around. The three-step kick could’ve worked better if he allowed himself a bit more poise and precision. Had he at least feigned to line up for a drop punt he would’ve bought himself time and space.

Isn’t that what coaches are always after; time and space?

I hope that players and coaches will see the increased number of chances this routine steals from a team’s momentum, and more importantly the way it impacts (or doesn’t impact) the scoreboard. Head coaches get frustrated, and surely something needs to be said during the week. Fans want answers when we see top players not shirking accountability in the sport where they’ve reached the pinnacle.

It’s already costing teams games, and as Wayne Carey said on Friday night, “if the siren goes, you can’t play on.”

Kicks around the corner are beautiful when they come off, but ugly when they don’t. Throughout the last month of the 2018 campaign and the pre-season, players should be practicing their sharp shooting in a bid to prevent any abhorrent displays next year. Only they can restore set shots to their former glory.

Are we going to see a change in players mindsets towards their set shot routines, or keep believing the beautiful lie that kicks around the corner are a part of modern football?

 

Jason Irvine is new to the Mongrel Family, and we look forward to more of his contributions. You can give us a Like on our Facebook Page or a Follow on Twitter and help us spread the Mongrel love.