| Bulletin 1
Kicking for goal – What approach would you use?
There has been much discussion over the years as to the type
of approach players should take in a set shot for goal. An observation
of elite Australian footballers demonstrates that the kicker
may choose between a straight approach, an oblique (curved) approach,
or a step across approach. Buddy Franklin for example uses a
step across and wide approach sometimes called a ‘round the corner’
kick. In addition there is the consideration of distance from
the goal and the angle to the goal.
Typically in Australian Football for shorter kicks of less than
30 metres, where accuracy rather than ball speed is required,
players will tend to use a straight approach and continue in
a straight line through the kicking action. For longer kicks,
even to the limit of their range, some players may use a straight
approach and step across into a side position during the final
kicking stride. Some players, however, will adopt an oblique
approach and continue it into the final stride for both long
and short kicks. Tony Lockett, arguably one of the finest kickers
the game has seen, used a short but straight approach of around
Good biomechanics would suggest that from a distance of around
40-50 metres, neither an extreme wide approach, sometimes called
a ‘round the corner’ kick, nor a straight approach, is the most
efficient way to execute a set kick. Rather, research indicates
that a short approach with a moderate curve is the most efficient
both in terms of accuracy and distance. It is no surprise that
every other football code uses an oblique approach to achieve
maximum accuracy and distance. Even American footballers have
adopted the oblique approach over the straight approach.
The energy transferred to a kick with an approach of 5-7 steps
is the same as that transferred with any greater number of steps.
Hence, it would appear there is no advantage to be gained with
an approach exceeding 7 steps. Approaches that are longer than
necessary serve no purpose and may possibly disturb the rhythm
and balance of the approach. Long approaches also increase the
amount of information the player’s central nervous system must
process, with a heightened possibility of errors interfering
with the approach. The expression ‘…he psyched himself out of
the kick…’ is often heard when the player takes too much time
to settle, or takes an excessively long approach.
When asked about the approach, many players will say they favour
the straight approach because it gives excellent alignment with
the target and is therefore more accurate. The assumption here,
albeit a seemingly logical one, is that in order to kick the
ball straight, the approach must be straight. This in turn implies
that in the final stride the body will be aligned so that the
kicking leg will ‘naturally’ follow a straight line to the target.
The design of the kicking leg however tells us something very
different. Its natural movement is not straight but rather rotational
and its tendency is to pull obliquely across the midline of the
body rather than pushing straight through to the target. Players
will report feelings of being off balance and awkward as they
try to maintain a straight approach through the final kicking
The powerful adductor muscles located on the inside of the thigh
are more powerful than the abductor muscles on the outside of
the thigh as they are larger and more numerous. They have the
tendency not only to drive the leg forward, but also to draw
it across the mid-line of the body. Long kicks using a straight
approach, are therefore generally pulled or drawn from right
to left. Game statistics confirm this, revealing that up to 30%
more kicks (by right foot kickers) miss the goal on the left
An oblique approach employing the natural action of the kicking
muscles compensates for this by placing the body in a more open
or side-on position. The natural muscular line of pull now brings
the leg into a straight alignment to the target. The result will
have the leg swinging along the line of a big imaginary arrow
and directly to the target. Hence, greater accuracy with the
oblique approach can be the expected result. It should be emphasized
that the oblique pathway need only be a moderate curve to achieve
the desired result and players should experiment to find the
pathway that best suits them.
The oblique approach also results in a stronger kicking action.
It is sufficient to note here that this approach places the body
in an advantageous open hip or side position during the final
stride permitting a greater range of movement and velocity in
the kicking leg.
Using the straight approach the foot contacts the ball in a
vertical orientation and along its centreline. To successfully
kick the ball between the goal posts from 40 metres, the ball
must be contacted within approximately 1 centimetre either side
of the ball’s vertical centreline. Contact any further away from
the centreline will result in serious inaccuracies. With such
low tolerance, little wonder so many kicks miss the goal.
Directional accuracy is more easily accomplished with an oblique
approach because the foot is angled slightly across the ball
at impact rather than being vertically aligned with its centreline.
This offers not only a greater surface area of the ball for contact,
but a more solid contact as well. In addition it permits contact
to be made on the hard platform of the foot, ‘the hump’, located
more to the inside of the foot. In so doing the ball is also
contacted on the ‘sweet spot’ of the foot platform, the impact
being full and ‘meaty’. This is why players report a curved side
approach as producing a well-balanced and solid impact.
Even players who adopt a straight approach to the target often
use a step across the mid line with their last stride to achieve
the same result. However, such last-instant adjustments may disrupt
the fluidity of an otherwise balanced approach.
Players in every other football code use an oblique approach
achieving maximum accuracy and distance. Even American footballers
have adopted the oblique approach over the straight approach.
It is perhaps time that Australian football also considered the
merits of such an approach and in so doing dispense with a rule
that declares ‘play-on’ when the first step in the approach is
to the side. Presently however, Franklin needs to adjust his
approach to a moderate curve in the name of efficiency, and if
he did so he would also accrue the benefit of not being subject
to the ‘play-on’ rule.