Dropping the Ball

I went to kick the footy the other night with my daughter. She really wanted to do kick-to-kick with her brother, but he’s injured, and has been now for five years.


He’s never looked at the photo of the moment his shoulder popped from its joint, the picture snapped by the team photographer just before the siren sounded. An opposition player had slammed into him, running in the opposite direction. My kid swore–’fuck’–and went white. Time stopped as I ran towards him. In shock we walked from the field, his shoulder dislocated, and made our way to the club rooms.


In the cramped toilet block he said he thought he might vomit. He was so very, very white.


He has never played a game of club football again. 


So as we walk to the school oval, my girl says ‘I wish my brother could kick the footy with me. When he’s going to be able to kick the footy? By summer?’ Yes, maybe by summer we say.


We avoid the crowd at the school park and find some empty asphalt. I line up, drop the ball to my foot, and kick. Cue, from my partner, a phrase which stops me in my tracks: ‘that was the WORST ball drop I have ever seen!’


I’ve always thought I was not a bad kick. I can boot it long, and vaguely on target. Sure, sometimes it’s a fluke, and often it’s a miskick. But in that moment of being told how terrible my ball drop was, I felt a bit of what it was and is to play footy as a girl. Or to try to play footy as a girl.


I do not know a thing about ball drops. I had never been told how to drop the ball onto the boot. I had never had the chance to practise and learn in a team of any kind. I was just a girl, kicking a footy in the local park. Just a girl, trying to mark against the big boys. 


Now I was being called into line for not knowing about the physics, the geometry and the maths of playing football!


Want some figures, stats and angles? Thousands of girls now play club football. The AFLW Grand Final had 53,000 spectators. The Collingwood VFLW team won the premiership. And Tayla Harris’s kick–well there’s an angle–is now a statue set in bronze. Girls have Interleague pathways, Junior Football Academies, and opportunities to train with coaches in development squads now.


But back to my ball drop, and that line from my partner: ‘that was the WORST ball drop I have ever seen!’


I have a shit ball drop because I worked it out for myself, as best as I could, because I loved to kick the footy.  We couldn’t demand a place on the field, or on the team: there was no field or team for us then. That means when I kick, the ball still spins the wrong way; the flight of the ball in the air is all wrong.


But I can still play kick-to-kick with my daughter, who is kind enough once in a while to say ‘good job, mum’ or cheer me when I hold a mark. For her, when she kicks, the ball spins the right way. 


Despite being told I’m rubbish at technique, I still vaguely wonder if there is a place for me in a seniors women’s team somewhere. Even if I only ever play one game! And that’s all I want for my boy too, now that he’s had his shoulder reconstruction. Just a game on the footy field, carving along redrawn boundaries. Maybe next season. At least over summer he can have some little sessions of kick-to-kick with his sister. And I’ll keep practising my ball drop.


(c) Anna Sublet


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Pies fan, sharing black and white days at the footy with my family. Observer and writer, with hints of nostalgia.


  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Anna,
    wow that has evoked a hundred responses in me.

    Firstly, magnificent piece and I am glad you wrote it. I am also glad you kicked with your daughter. You had a go. You also haven’t written that you kicked your partner, so that’s a probable plus. What he said probably was how boys talk to each other, telling each other and laughing at crap kicks all the time. It’s just that it comes out differently when we haven’t been doing crap or other kicks our whole lives.

    Secondly, there are masters footy women who start from nothing, no experience, no ability, no earlier learning. If you message me on 0412030467 I will give you some contacts. Or look up AFLMasters Women and go from there. Either is good. These women have stories just like you. They just wanna have fun kicking a footy.

    Thirdly, I think you would love to read the Women’s Footy Almanac 2017 and 2018. Again, message me or lmail me and I will make sure copies get to you.

    Fourthly, continue to have fun with your daughter. Crap kicking is part of kick to kick. You do get better. And ask others who have done it, to show you. I asked the No 1 St Kilda draft pick Paddy McCartin to teach me in 2015, I can’t kick anymore cos I’m getting decrepit but I know how to drop it. I can’t do it, but I know how to drop it as he showed me. And he was magnificently sweet about it. Just went straight into teaching mode. So ask a footy person, whether male or female, to show you.

    Finally, thank you for your piece. Please keep telling us how you go. Footy is supposed to be fun. Just ask Richmond.

    Thankyou for writing, and letting me have my say


  2. Peter Fuller says

    I read your tale with a mix of admiration and empathy, as well as a desire to reinforce your determination. I feel for your son, as well as you.
    50 years on, I’m still smarting from an observation at a training night by a bloke who had played at Collingwood reserves before joining our club: “You’re an (expletive) of a kick, Peter”. It was made worse by the fact that his kicking was of a standard that made him entitled to express his derogatory opinion of my modest efforts. This runs in the family. My brother who was a far better footballer than me found his pretty good career limited by his disposal by foot. Both my sons who played at the same park-level as me would confess that their kicking is the weakest element of their game. For every Bernie Quinlan, there’s a Peter Fuller!
    Incidentally did you happen to notice that Tayla Harris outperformed most of the male participants in the (somewhat contrived) long-kicking competition at Birrarung Marr last week?
    I’m disappointed that your husband didn’t explain why your ball drop was the worst and failed to offer advice on the rudiments of ball drop; then, I’ve had a lifetime in education, so I treat even inappropriate opportunities as a learning/teaching moment.
    I’d urge you to press ahead with your ambition to play a game (or a season) of football. There are now club teams throughout the suburbs, any of which I’m confident would love to have an enthusiastic wannabe. I umpired some women’s football when it was in its infancy in the early nineties, and I was rapt to see some middle-aged women joining in, which I inferred reflected the fact that they had never been permitted to play by the combination of parental/cultural/practical prohibitions.
    Good luck to you and your children; the young fellow deserves a change of luck, and that keen girl sounds like she might have the makings of a future Erin Phillips.

  3. Kasey Symons says

    Beautiful piece Anna! And be sure you reach out to Yvette about AFL Masters! You definitely nee to give it a go! And let me know when you do as I’ll be there with a homemade sign to cheer you on xo

  4. Hey Yvette, thanks for your reading and encouragement. And I’ll definitely keep doing kick-to-kick with my daughter if invited, and even if not! My bloke was just stirring, but you’re right–it hits harder when you’ve not had the chance to learn skills. Still, can learn now. As for playing, I shall see how my rehab goes! (Yes, I have a copy of the 2017 Women’s Footy Almanac, but not 2018. )
    Peter, as an educator I see where you’re coming from, but my bloke did try to give me some tips, and was happy to help teach me. It was more that my reaction to one simple comment illustrated the historical situation. I did not write the whole story, just a pointed part of it. Sadly, he can’t kick at all himself any more after hamstring injuries sustained as a young Tassie ruck who never got enough physio/rehab. Just shows how we have to manage our bodies well. Thanks for your comments re the children–yes, he does deserve a break, and yes, she is following all the right junior pathways, so who knows. And YES, I saw Tayla’s kick on the GF day, and it was fabulous.
    Kasey, I hope to give it a try once I have fully recovered from surgery and regained some fitness! At the moment, a knock in the chest could be my undoing. Ouch. Thanks for your support, and hooray for homemade signs. Am I right in thinking you had a run?
    Cheers all, Anna

  5. John Butler says

    Anna, aesthetics are subjective. Enjoyment is much more tangible.

    If you enjoy it, then just do it. :)

    Loved the piece.

  6. Very enjoyable read, Anna.

    I have always subscribed to the theory that the ball-drop is the most important facet of the kick.
    Keep practising! And enjoying!

  7. Anna Sublet says

    Thanks Smokie, I guess I’d not thought too much about it, as a simple park-playing hack. But think I’ll watch a few tutorials on YouTube soon and just keep on kicking on. Cheers and glad you enjoyed the read. Anna

  8. John Butler, thanks for reading. I’m going to keep kicking, for sure. I don’t really mind which way the ball spins, but I do want to get more invitations to kick-to-kick with my daughter, and son, so need to work on my fitness! Then, next season, who knows!? Cheers.

  9. Kasey Symons says

    I did have a *run*, singular, haha, just did one training session at Melb Uni to get a taste… it was hard. Very hard! I think I’m better suited to being a fan in the stands!

  10. Frank Taylor says

    Lovely piece Anna
    As a bloke with 3 adult (30+ now) daughters, 2 of which are very good kicks (my eldest is a far better kick than I) all power to you. I have a grand daughter who can’t keep still and certainly her sporting/football opportunities are far broader than her mother’s. Keep up the writing and the kick-to-kick.

  11. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Anna really enjoyed this and girls kicking in general will improve massively as girls start playing from a young age and more importantly learn to protect themselves by turning instinctively it is the one area which scares me so many girls go in with no fear but recklessly that will come in time also.The standard of women’s footy will go from strength to strength all the best

  12. Thanks Frank. Good luck to your granddaughter and appreciate your reading and commenting. I will be keep doing both, for sure! Anna

  13. Malcolm, I agree with you that as the girls now grow up with it, they will develop the instincts. It’s useful as the game develops to have specialist physio advice too, I’d think. As the coaching expertise increases at junior level, some of the injury aspects can be addressed too in training sessions. Glad you enjoyed the read. Cheers.

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