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The Little Things of Australian Football

by Richard D Boyce

posted in Recreation and Sports

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The origins of these ideas are lost in time. I received my original list when I was working with schoolboy representative team from the then Queensland state director of coaching, Ron Spalding. Being a minor football state our players lacked much knowledge of our game. This list was an attempt to educate our players quickly.
Today, in modern Australian Football, these "little Things of Football" are called the "one percenters". They are highly prized by coaches and team mates because they are often the unnoticed actions in the background of the action that brings success to the team. Often, they are recorded on the "Stats" sheets and are commented on during a game review. In well prepared teams, these ideas are often part of a team's goals in a particular match especially when the team has been remiss in these areas of the game.
I list them below for the reader to consider them. I have reorganised Ron's list into three categories as you will see. As well, I have added some comments or additional words to add clarification where necessary. Please see my notes below.
The General "Little Things":
1. Be the eyes and ears of your team mate.
2. Talk, talk, and talk.
3. Praise and encourage every effort your team mate makes.
4. Be aware of your opponent's strengths and weaknesses.*
5. Don't argue with your team mates.
6. Don't 'niggle' the opposition's good players when they are "down".*
7. Flatten your hands on wet conditions (Especially in overhead marking attempts).
8. Don't pick up the ball and give it to the opposition when they have a free kick. (If you do have the ball, relay it directly back to the opposing player awarded the free kick to prevent a 50 metre penalty).
9. Don't pick up the ball and give it to the opposition when they have a free kick. (If you do have the ball, relay it directly back to the opposing player awarded the free kick to prevent a 50 metre penalty).
10. Don't pick the ball up and give the ball back to the umpire unless your team outnumber the opposition at the ball up.*
11. When your team has the ball, think like a forward. Don't just be defenders.
Defensive "Little Things":
12. Get in front of your opponent at the right time I. e. when the ball arrives.
13. Smoother the ball at all chances. (Watch the ball the whole time until you make contact with it).
14. Tackle; don't bump, when your opponent is in possession of the ball.
15. Be aware of the position of all opposition players at ball ups and throw ins.
16. Run down the ground with your opponent when he is trying to receive a handball or kick, or block your opponent carefully so he can't run down the ground.
17. Sneak over the mark, whenever possible, by running around and jumping up and down on the mark with your hand in the air.*
18. Punch from behind (especially when there is any doubt you can mark it).
19. Use the boundary line as in a defensive manner I. e. force the ball that way.
20. Backs should quickly get back into position after disposing of the ball I. e. pick up your opponent.
21. Block your opponent when your team mates are in position to mark.*
22. Shepherd for your team mates at all times.
Attacking "Little Things":
23. Centre the ball from the pockets on the forward line.
24. Push the ball goal wards anyway you can on wet days.
25. Keep the forward line open to give your forwards room to lead.
26. The forwards must be moving when the ball is coming into attack. So there are more options for the player with the ball.
27. Move up the ground when your team mate is under pressure ready for a shorter kick.
28. When your team mate get a free kick, throw it back to him quickly.
29. Run on when you deliver the ball to a team mate in support.
30. Don't change your choice of kick when moving in to shoot for goal.
31. Hit the ball towards the goals when you are in a difficult position to mark.
• The points marked with an * are ones better left until the players are older.
• I have reorganised the original of "Little Things of Football" into three groups. I did this because in Allan Jeans' Words there are only two positions on the field; attacker or defender. So dividing these ideas up in this way is an attempt to help the coach reading this to create two mindsets- an attacking or a defensive mindset.
• I have added extra phrases here and there to clarify further each item.
• I have added three of mine own I. e. numbers 1 to 3.
• As a coach you should create a time line for when to introduce them to your players. You might introduce one at a time in a game to stress as a goal for that game. You will need to give the team an assessment at the end of the game about the success of that strategy.
• It may be that some of the items may be lacking with certain players. So you may need to give them individual goals for each game.
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. He was always looking for ways to educate his players in our national game. With the resources on coaching he has gathered and based on 50 years of experience, he is writing book on coaching for teachers and junior coaches. It will be published soon on this web site, A history of Secondary Schools Australian Football in Queensland, "Flying for the Footy" is already on that site.
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