Almanac (Footy) Meditation: My Left Foot



2007 Footy Almanac




by Paul Kelly



I’ve been playing Australian Rules football for 47 years. I’m still working on my left foot which forever needs improvement. My fingers have been broken a couple of times over the years and I need them in my line of work so I haven’t played competitively since 1988. On Sundays and Wednesdays, when I’m at home in Melbourne, I do circle work in the park with a loose coalition of men and a few children. This anarcho-syndicalist collective has been going for 15 years. We have no leader nor official status, no president, treasurer nor secretary. We are builders, taxi drivers, comedians, opera singers, writers, teachers, anaesthetists, IT public servants and surveyors who love footy. Someone buys a new ball once in a while then collects money. We run, kick, carry, bounce, lead, mark, handball, call and banter for an hour or so until we stagger to a stop. There are no teams. We do not tackle or compete though, once in a while, a few fellas fly for a mark or someone tries to sell a dummy.


All that we are trying to do is to execute simple things perfectly; to drop the ball sweetly on the boot and watch it lob with pretty spin into the hands or chest of the leading man without him having to check his step; to be on the receiving end for the same result, running flat out for twenty or thirty metres to take the ball in outstretched hands and deliver a precise handpass to your mate who, timing his intersecting run to the dot, now demands the ball; to be cogs in a smooth machine, stringing a sequence of possessions together that feels like poetry, looping the leather round the oval  without touching the grass, once, twice, three times, never too long before the inevitable error but no matter, pick it up and start again.


Round and round we go in pure, purposeless pleasure, one ball and twenty odd men at physical prayer in their outdoor church making the thing that none of us can make on our own.


Being a travelling salesman means I’m away a lot, sometimes months at a time, but the ragtag crew, some of whom I only know by first name or nick-name, will always be there, more or less, in the park when I return.  I wake up in a motel room in Cairns, say, on a Sunday morning in July and think of my fellow parishioners, 3000km south, at their service, receiving their chilly communion. Later that day perhaps, after soundcheck when the heat of the day has dimmed a little, I take my scuffed old Sherrin out of the suitcase and seek out a sports ground or any piece of flat grass. If I can’t get one of the band to come with me I run a few laps, bouncing the ball and kicking it to myself.


These days I bounce the ball mostly with my left hand. The art of kicking is all about getting the drop of the ball right. My right hand does this instinctively. There is hardly any gap between where I let go of the ball and where it hits the boot. Not so on the left. I have to think about it more, about guiding the ball down. The drop always seems longer. And the longer the drop, the greater the margin for error. I’m running around an oval in Cairns trying not to think about how I release the ball from my left hand. When it goes right I’m not thinking about anything. My left foot will never quite catch up to my right but lately I’ve noticed some improvement.


Paul Kelly Sep 07



Read more about The Footy Almanac 2007 HERE

2007 Footy Almanac


  1. Kevin Densley says

    Still doing a bit of circle work, Paul?

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