My favourite drop kick, part five

The latest in Vin Maskell’s occasional, indulgent series

The new edition of The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers once again records the careers of thousands of players, listing their vital statistics and describing their skills and style of play.

Of all those players, going back to 1897, only 57 are noted for their talent for the now anachronistic art of the drop kick. More players, probably many more, were capable of the drop kick but only this select group have their unique talent recorded for posterity.

This is not the place to wax lyrical about each and every one of the fabulous 57 but a few stats and a few stories would not go astray in this world of drop punts, drop punts and more drop punts (as well as zones, rotations, corridors, substitutions, processes and inside-outside midfielders).

Carlton (12 players) and Geelong (11) make up over a third of the players, while Footscray (0) has less than University (turn of the 20th century players Eric Woods and Martin Ratz, the latter described as ‘a magnificent place and drop kick’).

The Carlton players include 1945 premiership ruckman Ken Hands (‘one of the best drop kicks in the game’), 1947 premiership ruckman Jack ‘Chooka’ Howell (‘could regularly send a glorious drop kick 60 yards’) and 1907-08 premiership defender Martin Gotz (‘his driving drop kicks from defence launched many attacks’).

Amongst the Geelong players are 95 gamer Les Borrack (‘was noted for his extreme courage and superb drop kicks’), 1951-52 premiership captain Fred Flanagan (‘specialised in right foot drop kicks but could also fire a stab pass to his fellow forwards with ease’) and Flanagan’s dual premiership team-mate Peter Pianto (‘was an accurate running drop kick apart from the occasions when he erred when running too fast’).

Clearly, premierships and drop kicks go hand-in-hand. Indeed, 25 of the 57 were premiership players. Jack Carmody (‘a beautiful drop kick on the run’) was part of Collingwood’s 1935-36 premiership teams, while fellow Magpie Ronald Kingston (‘a masterly exponent of the drop kick’) was in the 1953 flag side.

Fitzroy’s champion full-back Fred Hughson captain-coached the Gorillas to the flag in 1944, the last Fitzroy premiership. The Encyclopedia also tells us that in 1943 Hughson ‘drop kicked a ball 76.18 metres in a contest against a US serviceman whose gridiron throw travelled 63.39 metres. His kick was said to be the longest drop kick at the time.’

Richmond’s five fine exponents include 1920-21 premiership full-back Vic Thorp (‘his drop kicking was without peer’) and 1932 and 1934 premiership full forward Jack Titus, whose 970 career goals presumably included many a drop kick (and many a place kick). There were also two drop kick maestros in the Tigers’ 1967 and 1969 premierships. Half-back flanker Geoff Strang’s ‘fine drop kicking was a feature of his game’, while ruckman John Ronaldson ‘will always be remembered for his long drop kick goal from the members’ wing in the 1967 grand final win over Geelong’.

The list of 57 includes:
• a full-back Brownlow Medallist
• a swashbuckling Test cricketer
• a professional sprinter
• a wingman who smoked a pipe at half-time time
• a player who used to hitch-hike to training
• ‘a wild, woolly and frequently spiteful ruckman’
• a high marking forward dubbed ‘The Aeroplane’ and
• a ruckman who once ‘toed’ a drop kick that ‘struck Jesaulenko a fearful blow to the groin as he stood on the mark’.

The list, like the whole Encyclopedia, is skewed towards players from the old VFL, so there are not many, if any, references to drop kick legends from the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. Robert Shearman (‘a strong half back flanker and one of the best drop kicks in the game’) played for Essendon from 1956 to 1960 and was later part of Sturt’s five consecutive flags.

(Drop kick stars from New South Wales and Queensland are, presumably, rugby rather than Australian Rules players.)

The list is also rooted, inevitably, in the past, with only three players from the 1970s, and none from beyond that decade.

The players have names such as Alfred, Bill, Bruce, Colin, Don, Eric, Frank, Fred, George, Gordon, Jack, Jim, Joe, Ken, Les, Mal, Ray, Ronald, Roy, Walter and Wilbur. You won’t find a Brodie, or a Jaxson or a Jarryd amongst them, nor a Tristan, a Christian, a Casey, a Kade, a Tobias or a Tyson.

The Drop Kick Hall of Fame

ANDERSON, FRANK (CARL)
BOHAN, JIM (HAW.)
BORRACK, LES (GEEL.)
CARMODY, JACK (COLL. AND HAW.)
COMBEN, R. BRUCE (CARL.)
DAVIS, BARRY (ESS. AND NORTH)
DONALDSON, GRAHAM (CARL.)
FLANAGAN, FRED (GEEL.)
FOUNTAIN, WALTER ROY (STK.)
FRANKS, ALBERT (SOUTH)
FURNESS, DON (FITZ.)
GNIEL, GEORGE ‘FIBBY’ (GEEL. AND CARL.)
GOLDSMITH, FRED (SOUTH)
GOTZ, MARTIN (CARL.)
HANDS, KEN (CARL.)
HAWKING, FRED (GEEL.)
HEANEY, THOMAS (RICH. AND FITZ.)
HOCKING, GORDON (COLL.)
HOWELL, JACK ‘CHOOKA’ (CARL.)
HUGHSON, FRED (FITZ.)
JENKIN, GRAEME L. ‘JERKER’ (COLL. AND ESS.)
JOHNSON, ROBERT ‘TASSIE’ (MELB.)
KELLY, HARVEY (SOUTH AND CARL.)
KELLY, JOE (CARL.)
KINGSTON, RONALD (COLL.)
LANCASTER, RALPH (GEEL.)
MASON, A. T. ‘HORRIE’ (STK.)
MILLER, KEITH R. (STK.)
MANTELLO, ALBERT J. (NORTH)
MOHR, WILBUR T. ‘BILL’ (STK.)
MOORING, JIM (CARL.)
MOYES, HAROLD M. (STK. AND MELB.)
NILSSON, RAY (MELB. AND SOUTH)
PASCOE, MAL (ESS.)
PEARSON, BILL J. (ESS.)
PECK, ERIC ROY (GEEL., MELB. AND STK.)
PIANTO, PETER (GEEL.)
POLINELLI, TONY (GEEL.)
RATZ, MARTIN (UNIV.)
RAWLE, KEITH (ESS.)
REID, JIM (SOUTH)
ROBERTS, KEVIN NEILSON ‘NOOFA’ (STK.)
ROBERTSON, KEITH (NORTH)
RONALDSON, JOHN ROBERT (RICH.)
SHARP, JAMES ‘JIM’ (FITZ. and COLL.)
SHEA, KEITH SYLVESTER (CARL. AND HAW.)
SHEARMAN, ROBERT (ESS.)
STEWART, JAMES FINLEY ‘JIM’ (STK. AND CARL.)
STRANG, GEOFF (RICH.)
THORP, VIC (RICH.)
TITUS, W. JACK ‘SKINNY’ (RICH.)
TUCKER, NEIL (GEEL. AND CARL.)
TULLY, COLIN (COLL.)
WATTS, JOHN (GEEL.)
WEST, ROY (GEEL.)
WILSON, ALFRED M. (MELB.)
WOODS, ERIC W. (UNIV.)

About Vin Maskell

Founder and editor of Stereo Stories, a partner site of The Footy Almanac. Likes a gentle kick of the footy on a Sunday morning, when his back's not playing up. Been known to take a more than keen interest in scoreboards - the older the better.

Comments

  1. Tony Robb says:

    Hi Vin, A personal contribution about my father Tim from an article Im writng
    “Dad, at a height of 5’7” was never going to play in a key position but his natural speed and ball skills lent themselves to the position of rover/forward pocket. It was a resting location that appealed to him as he amassed over 800 goals in his 25 yr playing career. He even kicked a couple as a “non-player”. He was fine exponent of the stab pass later being compared to the great Collingwood player, Thorold Merrett, in the execution of this lost skill of the game. I remember walking with Tim around the Albury Trade Fair in the mid 70’s. One of the local clubs had set up a handball target to raise a few dollars. When the bloke spotted dad he yelled out, “here’s Timmy Robb. He’ll have ago”. He tossed a footie to dad who calmly slotted a stab kick straight through the bullseye from about 6 metres without breaking stride.”

    Ive got some great old pics of him giving a clinic and executing a stab pass
    cheers
    TR

  2. Peter Flynn says:

    G’day Vin,

    Great list.

    Would like to have seen Paul Vinar appear though.

    FD Bobby Davis reckoned he was the best drop kick he’d ever laid eyes upon. He had the reputation of being the best droppie in the VFL.

    He won a couple WOS champion kick comps in the 1960’s and was once upon a time listed (I can’t prove this) in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest drop kick.

    I have personal experience as a kid chest marking the B Goggin stab pass. Superb.

    Cheers,

    PF

  3. I always thought Sid Jackson had a pretty good droppy.

  4. The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers says Paul Vinar ‘was one of the great kicks of his era regularly featuring prominently in World of Sport’s long kicking competitions’. No doubt many of those long kicks were drop kicks.

    Of Thorold Merrett, the Enyclopedia says ‘the Cobden youngster spent hours on the farm practising stab-passes through a tyre on a tree’. He probably roosted more than a few drop kicks right over the trees.

    The Encyclododia is wonderful resource but it’s not the be-all and end-all of drop kick history. For many great and not-so-great players the drop kick was just part of footy.

    ‘Til next time

    Vin

  5. johnharms says:

    G’day Vin, Of the many impressive elements of this story, the most impressive is that you have gone through the encyclopedia from cover to cover. Outstanding. I will try to dig out Philip Hodgins series of poems some time over the next few weeks.

  6. Hello John,

    I’d like to say I went through the encyclopedia from cover to cover – and maybe one year I will – but I’m not so dedicated to football, or drop kicks, as to read every word. Alas, I wrote to the publishers, they did a word-search for ‘drop kick’ and ‘drop-kick’ and sent me the list of 57. Research, of a kind. Sorry to disappoint.

  7. Ian Syson says:
  8. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Vin,

    in the 1967 Grand Final Roy West and Fred Swift put on a clinic in the art of drop kicking out from fullback. From what I saw in that game, I would also include Billy Goggin and Wayne Closter on the list. What a wonderful art the drop kick was when executed well.

  9. Thanks Ian, terrific stuff.

    Methinks I’d better put away all my childhood/lifelong/Victorian prejudices and actually go to a game of rugby.

  10. Peter Flynn says:

    Good call Phil D.

    Given your bowling at the recent cricket match, you must have been sad when you heard that F Titmus passed away (earlier this week).

  11. johnharms says:

    Ian, I used the first of the great drop-kicks on Offsiders on Sunday. please tell me it’s not a doctored piece! Although if it is, all the funnier. Thanks for sending it. You were acknowledged as ‘people in the rugby fraternity who are interested in the education of Younfg Barrie”. Cheers.

  12. Re Jim ,at 16 years old, Training at Richmond in 1950
    I had said “no” when asked if I would like to train at Richmond. I was again
    approached by, Mr. L Pratt, at Ringwood and he said it would only be for convenience as I was travelling to practice at Ringwood and then travelling home to Oakleigh. I thought that was a good idea. I attended training with the seconds and during circle work under “Lights” a ball was coming towards me. All I had to do was keep running looking back over my shoulder and I would mark it. Good except a “courageous” person came out of the darker centre of the ground, on my blind side, and took me out. I was not hurt as I saw the player in the last seconds and “went with it”. The Richmond secretary came over to me while I was changing after training, and suggested I come back when I was older. I was one-eyed Collingwood and walked away from the ground saying to myself “ I wouldn’t play here if you paid me.” Anyway they looked at my skills so closely that they did not see, on Jack Dyers home ground, the class disposal that was in front of their eyes. Granted it was in very ordinary light and that in bright sunlight others had difficulty seeing how I was kicking the ball. But on the so-called “Home” of the drop punt????? But then around the same year they turned away Thorold Merrett. Thorold Merrett; Stab kick expert. Collingwood 1950-60 is around one month younger than I. Thorold Merrett’s approaches to Richmond coach Jack Dyer, were rejected with a laugh. (The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers). At nine and a half stone he was one of the smallest players in the League. . (The Encyclopaedia of AFL Footballers).
    Jim Johnson’s Drop Kick to a Drop Punt field pass in 1948, and
    Stab Kick to Stab Punt in 1949, An Australian Rules football Development.
    THE STAB PUNT. The authors have “coined” the term “stab punt”.
    Page 64 & 65 THE SCIENCE OF KICKING 2007 Geoffrey Hosford. & Don Meikle. B.I.P.E.
    Publications. Forward DAVID PARKIN.
    The term STAB PUNT was” coined” 58 years after Jim invented it.

    In 1948 aged 14 Jim tried the Jack Dyer, “gets goals with the sillies looking kick in football history” page 49 and pictured page 50 in The Sporting Globe FOOTBALL Book 1948, and found it unsatisfactory. Jim revamped it into his format by kicking the ball close to the ground and definitely not dropping the ball vertically.
    The Stab kick discovered in Tasmania in 1902. So from 1902 no one did anything extra with the stab kick till Jim, a school kid, converted it into a stab punt in May.1949.

    Part of Face to Face Exhibition: “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives

    Muddy Conditions Countered. Johnson was outstanding in the mud with clever turning and accurate disposal. Ringwood Mail, 1951.
    In 1949 Mt Evelyn football ground’s surface was uneven and often very muddy. Studying Jack Dyer’s drop-punt, 14-year-old Mt Evelyn player Jim Johnson adapted it into a field pass in 1948. Then, at 15, Jim invented and used a low, fast punt kick known as a ‘stab-punt pass’ or Daisy Cutter. Journalists didn’t know what to call Jim’s techniques. Frank Casey wrote in The Post on 8 Sept 1960, ‘Johnson sent his delightful little drop punt pass direct to Mansfield’. The same day Davey Crocket reported in the Ringwood Mail, ‘Johnson should write a book on stab kicking. He has found the lost art.’ This story was researched by The Mt Evelyn History Group for
    The Yarra Ranges Regional Museum from 13 October to 13 November2011

  13. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Vin, in the process of doing some research for a country footy story I came across a snippett which I have sent down to Daff- about an aboriginal player at Gunbower, known only by his surname Atkinson , who took his boots off when it got too muddy but could still do a drop kick. Also my grandfather when he played ( in the 1930’s)was one of the districts last exponents of the place kick at which he apparently excelled.

  14. Rocket Nguyen says:

    Apparently rugby league changed the rules due to the uncanny ability of Australian football players to boot drop kick goals from all over the pitch particularly in the Riverina. Instead of 2 points for a goal it was reduced to 1 point, Not entirely sure of the veracity of this story but I heard it many times from league buffs.

    When I played rugby union at uni in Armidale in the 70s the skipper often used to hand me the ball when a penalty was awarded just our side of half-way to use a drop kick to kick for goal rather than a place kick. Not always successful but it amazed team-mates when I did kick one high enough, long enough and just over the black dot!

  15. Referance james johnson says:
    January 21, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Only yesterday(April 23rd) I traced this advertisement,
    STAB PUNT
    The Inventor of the Stab Punt (1949) is interested in hearing from anyone who used this kick pre 1970 Ph. 8743622,

    that I placed in the Age, page 26, bottom right corner, on Thursday the 26th of July, 1990. This ad appeared on he Sports Page which had an Article by David Parkin on the Torpedo Punt. This was one of several weekly articles on disposals in Australian Rules Football. So we have an article describing how to kick the football and an ad by someone who invented a kick in Australian Rules Footballon on the same page.

  16. Vin, Re the Drop Kick, muddy conditions and the film Valentines Day.

    I knew what it was like to play on the ground featured in this film. Mt Evelyn was the Ground on which I first kicked my STAB PUNT in the field of play.
    The Mount Evelyn Football Ground is where in 1949, at fifteen years of age, five foot two inches tall and weighing just over eight stone, I started playing open age First Eighteen Football. I won the Second Best and Fairest Trophy for the Second Eighteen with just the first three games of the football season. The rest of the season I played in the First Eighteen, winning the Umpires Vote as best player for Mount Evelyn on three occasions. It was as a fifteen-year-old school kid that I invented my STAB PUNT so I could kick the ball in all and any conditions on the uneven and often muddy Mount Evelyn football ground. “Valentine’s Day” was made many years after my one year of playing for Mount Evelyn. When I played at Mt Evelyn there was a small tin shed as changing rooms and a cold tap to wash the mud off at the end of the game. About half way through the 1949 football season my family moved from very primitive conditions of candle and kero lamp lighting and no services of any sort. We walked two and a half miles to and from the football ground and four miles to school at Lilydale. We had to go outside the house; such as it was, to obtain water from the tank. It was in these conditions that I perfected my Stab Punt. Half way through the football season my family moved from renting where we lived, two to four miles from any” Town”, to renting the bottom story of a mansion at Brighton Beach with a tennis court, billiard room and a telephone. What a difference. I continued to attend the Lilydale Higher Elementary School. I also kept on playing football in the Mt Evelyn First Eighteen. That’s right traveling by tram to St Kilda. Train to the city; train to Croydon, picked up by taxi to the Mount Evelyn Football ground, then if it was an away game bus to Marysville, Warburton, Healesville, Wandin, Milgrove, Yarra Junction, Poweltown. My elder brother Charlie was also playing with Mount Evelyn so there was always the two of us traveling most of the way together. Somewhere to sleep Saturday night, one way or another, was always found. Sunday was training coaching time so Charlie and I did not get home to Brighton until late afternoon on Sunday. The next year I played as first rover for the Ringwood Football Club in the Eastern Suburban Football League under Captain and Playing Coach, Brownlow Medalist Herb Matthews. I won the Bowling Average for the Ringwood First Eleven Cricket team. In 1950 I also won School First Eighteen Football colors at Melbourne High School. I also played for the School cricket team. That takes me through to sixteen years of age. See Mount Evelyn Football Club web sight under “Jim Johnson Stab Punt” for further info including a video interview with the President of the Mount Evelyn Football Club.

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