[content_box_yellow width=”75%”]Warning: This post is mostly about AFL football. I know it’s not golf, but I think there’s an important lesson to be learned here. There are lessons for golfers (and vice versa) in all sports. If you’re not a fan of AFL then this may not be for you. There’s also a link below to an audio file that goes into my thoughts on AFL in more detail. Again, it may not be your thing. [/content_box_yellow]

A confession: I’m not much of a fan of Aussie Rules football. Used to be, but the game has lost something in recent times. It has become too clinical, over important and the media saturation hasn’t helped. Can’t say I’ve missed all the hype since I’ve left football crazy Melbourne.

This past weekend I was confined to barracks with baby sitting duties. While Clare was out and about I was at home on the couch with one eye on the TV and another on baby Jessica. I watched more football than all of last year combined. Not sure what got into me but there really wasn’t a lot on the box. While there was an exciting finish to the Essendon and Fremantle game, the matches have a sameness about them. I know this might offend those football aficionados, but each match seems like all the others:

– from the way the teams line up at the start
– the way the umpires bounce the ball (and the way they throw it back into play. In fact, the way the umpires carry on really annoys me)
– the stupid rules that nobody understands – the players, commentators and certainly not the umpires
– the way commentators waffle on about the game plan and who’s doing what. Blah blah blah
– dour defensive tactics that stifle the game
– the apparent over-coaching that goes on and every detail analysed to death
– the player’s routine when shooting at goal

There’s good stuff too. And most of that happens in general play when there’s less time to think and the players’ are acting on extinct. Quick handballs, dodging and weaving, tackling and those cool unrehearsed shots on goal. This is all great and to a certain degree makes up for all the artificial rubbish.

But something caught my eye, one play that stood out above all others and highlights that “playing the game” is still the most important fundamental – no matter how much it is ignored. Watch the video below:

This was brilliant. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a planned mode of attack – it just happened. And it happens when the players stop thinking and simply play the game. This is the kind of thing young kids do when playing footy in the park. When they get to the big leagues any creativity seems to be beaten out of them.

– The “torpedo” kick from full back caught all the defenders by surprise. Not sure why this kick isn’t used more – it goes longer and it adds some magic to the game. I know the coaches hate the unpredictability of it but this is what makes it so effective. Yep, the odd kick will result in an undesired result, but when it comes off look what happens.

– When Buddy received the hand pass he was acting purely on instinct. He ran out towards the left and kicked the ball with his favourite hook spin. This is something some experts are saying he needs to remove from his game. But why? This is all the proof one needs to see this is his natural kicking action. Why would anyone want to change it? If his life depended on it he would start the ball left and bring it back to the right. It’s his style and anything else will result in a compromise in performance.

This kind of “play” is almost impossible to stop from the opposition because there’s no game plan. It happens in the moment and when the defending team works out what is going on it’s too late. You can see the Collingwood players a metre or two behind the action, at this level this is all that’s required to dominate.

But it has a bigger effect. The lift the players get from a play like this can’t be measured. The confidence and enjoyment they receive motivates the entire team. From this moment in the match Hawthorn weren’t challenged. It’s easy to say this after the fact, but it was a classic “turning” point.

And perhaps the biggest benefit of these kinds of moments is the enthusiasm and thrill the fans receive. When the fans are happy and get real enjoyment you’ll get more of them. It has a snowball effect that can only help a team in a competitive commercial environment. I for one will now watch more of Hawthorn’s matches. There were other moments that showed me this team is being coached to truly play the game. They don’t seem hindered by overly strict team rules and are free to explore their way. And it definitely proves Jeff Kennett is a dud.

Goal Kicking

I’ve been interested in the woes of AFL goal kicking for a while now. This skill, for the most part, has gotten worse, not better. And all this despite full-time players/coaches and all the latest technology. Goal kicking issues seemed very similar to those golfers who are struggling with their putting so I set out to answer some questions. If you’re interested in AFL you’ll get a lot out of these two audios I created a few years back. There’s a nice blend of AFL and golf.

Download here (zip file: 35 mb)