One of the first skills I ever learnt – not just in sport but in life – was to kick a football. I still remember going to the oval near my house with dad to kick a ball around and him showing and telling me the different variations. Kicking and all its different types, are one of the many unique skills in Australian football and the most common and effective way of moving the ball.
When I played footy I made sure I trained hard on kicking, in all its different types. If you are no good at kicking you will struggle to make it at a high level. A player with a great kick is such a weapon, precisely stabbing holes through a zone with sharp foot passing or bombing the ball over to quick forwards; much to the excitement of the fans.
The common types of kicks in AFL are:
- Drop punt
- Check-side (also known as banana)
I’ve found though that the place kick and the drop kick aren’t typically as popular as the others – see below if you’re interested in more info.
In this guide to the AFL kicks I’ve looked at what each kick is; how to do that kick; and when it should be used. I’ve also included some videos of helpful explanations of the kick (some of the techniques are a bit hard for me to explain without showing you!).
A drop punt is an easy to execute kick where the ball is held evenly on each side then released for the kick. It is the easiest to execute kick which makes it more accurate, particularly over longer distances than other kicks. The nature of the ball spinning also makes it the easiest to catch.
The most common and effective way of kicking the ball in AFL is the drop punt. It’s accurate, and if you can get the ball spinning end over end in flight, it’s also easy to catch.
How to kick a drop punt
The ball is held evenly on each side, make a love heart motion with the hands over the top of the ball. The ball is then released to the foot and kicked.
I found this great video that gives some tips and good examples of the correct action of a drop punt:
When to use the drop punt
The drop punt can be used in almost any situation. Due to its easy technique it’s best used:
- When the player is on the run,
- When lining up a shot for goal, or
- When the target is straight on and no angle or manipulation of the ball is required.
The torpedo punt is a kick where the hands are placed each side of the ball with one hand slightly higher than the other. The ball is dropped on the foot slightly turned to give it a spiral effect in the air. A torpedo is effective at travelling long distances.
I’ve found the torpedo punt to have a loving following amongst footy fans. As a player, there was nothing like getting hold of a torpedo; as a spectator, there is nothing better than seeing a ball spin on its axis through the air like a well struck torpedo!
How to kick a torpedo
To kick a torpedo, place the hands on either side of the ball with one hand slightly higher than the other. Drop the ball onto the foot slightly turned to give it the spiral effect in the air.
Unlike the drop punt, the one hand is slightly higher than the other when holding the ball. Check out the video below, I found it to be really helpful in giving some tips and the right technique for kicking a torpedo:
When to use a torpedo
The torpedo can travel much greater distances than the other kicks. The torpedo can be used to kick over zonal defenses and score from long range.
Torpedo kicks are less used than the drop punt due to the drop punt having a simpler technique (drop punts – less errors; more accuracy). I’ve seen highly skilled players with great hand eye coordination time the ball well and be a damaging asset, using the torpedo to kick over the defenders and score from that long range out.
Defence positions can be confusing to wrap your head around. I wrote a whole guide on the different positions and strategies that teams use in defence, check it out here: anybodysfan.com/afl-defenders-guide
The check-side, also known as the banana kick, is used in tight angles around goals. In a check-side, the ball is dropped at a 45-degree angle, placing it across the boot. The name banana kick comes from the the way it spins sideways in the air.
I’ve seen the banana kick become a lot more popular in the last 20 years or so. Players at the professional and higher skill levels really seem to exploit it these days to kick around those tight angles.
How to kick a check-side
To kick a check-side:
- Angle the ball away from your kicking leg
- Aim the ball for the curve
- Allow the ball to fall at a 45-degree angle across the boot
Check out this video for a better explanation of the steps involved:
The check-side is hard to pull off. When I was a player I often spent hours before and after training trying to perfect it. Not easy!
When to use a check-side kick
The check-side kick can be used around goal and from a tight angle. It is often too risky to perform around the ground, the drop punt is usually safer.
More often than not the goal of the year goes to a well placed check-side kicked while under pressure near the boundary line.
The dribble kick is a relatively new type of kick used to move the ball along the ground, either to another player or into the goal at a narrow angle. The ball is kicked end-over-end so that it spins forward. It is often used under pressure to pass to another player, or to reach goal from an impossible angle.
I reckon the dribble kick is the most exciting skill in Australian football. Only in the last 30 years or so, almost singlehandedly created by Collingwood great Peter Daicos during the 80’s and 90’s, has the dribble kick come into practice.
How to kick dribble kick
To kick a dribble kick, grip the ball similarly to a banana kick and ensure the ball bounces off the ground soon after leaving the foot. Exact technique depends on whether the player is left footed or right footed, and whether they want the ball to go left or right.
I found this video to be a far better explanation of how to perform a dribble kick:
I reckon the dribble kick is the hardest kick to complete successfully. It requires a kind bounce from the unpredictable ball.
When to use a dribble kick
A dribble kick should be used around goal, usually when the angle is too tight even for a check-side kick. While dribble kicks can be seen all over the ground during a game, it is usually a mistake from the attacking player to use a dribble kick when they are under pressure or forced into it through lack of options.
Less well known and occasionally forgotten, the place kick and drop kick are still important parts of the game.
The place kick is where the ball is placed on the ground, standing up vertically on a mound, with the player kicking it off the ground rather than from the hands.
Due to the time taken to prepare the kick – creating the mound for the ball to stand on – the place kick was only used to shoot for goal and to restart play instead of the bound in the middle that we use today.
It was one of the first skills created and one of the first to be abandoned; the last place kick was in 1955 when Tony Ongarello kicked a goal for Fitzroy.
The drop kick, unlike the drop punt, goes from the hand to the ground with the player kicking the ball as it bounces up from the ground.
A victim of the increasing skills by players in the professional era, players became so adept at kicking the much simpler and more accurate drop punt that coaches banned the use of the drop kick altogether! It used to be that very skillful players with great timing could kick the drop kick mammoth distances, but that is now a thing of the past.
Kicking is footy’s most common skill. There are a lot of ways to kick the ball and it is not as simple or as easy as throwing your foot at the ball.
While the drop punt is the most common kick and can be used in just about any situation, there was nothing more satisfying or fun as a kid – learning the game – than to try all the freaky different kicks.
To be a good footy player at any level, it is important to learn to kick. As a junior player, the drop punt should be the building block and taught first. It’s important though to not forget the other kicks though and to try to make it fun while learning.
Games I played as a kid with friends, like who can kick a torpedo or drop kick the furthest, who could kick a banana from the tightest angle, or trying to get the perfect bounce on a dribble to kick to land in a bucket or a bin. Footy is fun and nothing is more satisfying than a great kick!
I had to look up a few things to make sure I have the latest info, if you’re interested in checking out my sources, I’ve listed them here: