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The Cardinal Sins of Australian Football

by Richard D Boyce

posted in Recreation and Sports

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As with all sport, there are cardinal sins made by players that give their opponents in the game a chance to score. Australian football is no different. Today, in modern football, they are called "clangers" and appear in the statistics compiled during the game. These often result in what is called a "turnover", more often than not in senior football, it results in a goal. This happens because the attacking team is rushing forward to give the player with the ball many options for continuing the attack on the goals, leaving their opponents free and in space. When the clanger occurs, the opposition player getting the ball has many of his team free between him and the goal making scoring easier than normal.
Below is my version of the cardinal sins of Australian Football for a coach who works with school and junior club teams. I'm sure these could be ones that apply to all footballers to some or all extent. In some cases, I offer further explanations.
1. Kicking into the man on the mark.
This is perhaps the biggest clanger of all for a junior player. Often, the player is too close to the mark when he kicks allowing the man on the mark to smoother the kick. He is embarrassed and loses concentration allowing the opposition to swoop on the ball and take it away.
2. No talking.
Australian Football is a 360 degree game. The player with the ball can be tackled from behind if his teammate is not telling him of the danger lurking behind him.
3. Not backing up to protect your mate after a hand ball.
In junior football particularly, the skill of the players are not always developed to a fine degree. So skill errors are made. So it is important the player delivering the ball follows it to assist and protect his mate while retrieving the ball. By backing up, the player is providing another attacking option.
4. Not looking up before you kick the ball.
If the player doesn't look up, he will not spot the best option let alone any option. Not looking up often results in a turnover.
5. Being goal hungry; Not centring the ball to the goal square but kicking for goal from the boundary.
It is difficult to score goals from the boundary. The best option is to kick the ball to the front of the goal square where a kick for goal will almost always result in a major score. Players other than forwards or midfielders, wanting to kick a goal, simply clog up the forward line and leave their opponent unmarked and therefore an attacking option for the opposition.
6. Stepping over the kick out line at fullback when kicking out after a behind is scored.
This creates a ball up on the front edge of the goal square giving the opposition a great chance to score. This "clanger" often occurs because the fullback has been given no leading options by his team and is forced to kick out under pressure.
7. Not marking your opponent when the opposition has the ball.
By not marking your opponent when they have the ball you are creating the "man over" situation for the opposition. This is what every team wants. It is the secret to success in Australian Football.
8. Playing from behind.
The man in front has the first opportunity to get the ball. Thus, he has control of the situation. Most free kicks are given against the man playing from behind.
9. Failing to spoil in a marking contest when you are behind.
The result of this is obvious. You Opponent marks the ball and continues his team's attack.
10. Not following the team plan.
It is a team sport. If players don't follow the team plan, confusion reigns, players lose confidence and begin to play for themselves.
11. Disputing the umpire's decisions.
This gets the umpire offside. Remember he is human, too and can make mistakes. It breaks the players' concentration and leads to the team thinking about umpire's decisions rather than the game.
12. Giving away a 50 metre penalty.
This is caused by going over the mark before the umpire calls "play on" or by violently disputing umpire's decisions. This often results in an opposition score.
13. Getting reported.
You are a loss to the team, particularly if you are an important, skilful member of the team.
Most, if not all these issues are caused by lack of self-discipline often by good players. It is important that the coach step in and discipline players who display a lack of self-discipline. Talent and skill are of no consequence if the player allows a lack of self-discipline affect his ability to add to the team's performance.
About the Author: Our Author, Richard (Rick) Boyce, began playing Australian Football at school as a nine year old. For the next fifty years, he played, umpired and coached local junior club teams and high school teams at school, district, regional and state level. He coached the Queensland State Secondary Schoolboys in the National Championships five times. Recently, the author wrote a History of Secondary Schools Australian Football in Queensland called "Flying for the Footy". This was written for 150th year celebration of Australian Football in Queensland in 2016. Go to for a copy of this book. His present project is a book on coaching for teachers and junior coaches. It will be published on the above web site.
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