Football The Scientific Way (1975)

Over forty years ago, Frank Pyke and Ross Smith boffined together to produce this landmark in Australian sport science.

Pyke was a premiership player with Perth in 1966 and Sandover Medal placegetter in 1962 and 1963, but that barely does justice to his sporting cv (this helps)

Ross Smith was no slouch either, his 1967 Brownlow following up his place in the Saints’ 1966 flag.

The table of contents shows the breadth of featured footy facets. Unlike the skinfolds of many players upon returning to preseason in February 1975, there was very little fat to be found. (Click on any picture to enlarge)


In the first chapter the authors prescribe the important footy factors thus:


Energy for Football introduces the concepts of “phosphate energy”, “lactic acid energy” and “oxygen energy” and their application to football described, augmented by several illuminating tables comparing the “nomadic” and “set positions”.




No chapter on 1970s Stamina would be complete without mentioning Fartlek running or treadmills.



Speed and Spring talked about the explosive movements that footy required.



The importance of Strength and Suppleness was supported by some classic photos of stretching exercises, notable for the players’ immaculate training kit.



My personal favourite is the Limitations to Performance chapter. The sections on Diet, Alcohol, Smoking and Night Life are worth a read, if only to indicate that nothing much has changed.




Skills acquisition featured an elaborate series of photos of some young Subiaco bloke called Fitzpatrick.



Psychology dealt with motivation and arousal and some of the available methods.



Game Analysis was becoming “more sophisticated” and this chapter foretold some of the future developments such as shepherds (1% ers), handball receives, player distance covered and videotape analysis.



Specialisation of drills was the key emphasis in the Team Practice topic.



The final chapter raised the notion of Individual Player Profiles.



This was truly Ground Zero for Footy sports science in Australia.


About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. Adrenaline Junkie says

    This is really interesting – thanks heaps for posting. Must have a decent read of the book itself.
    Of course as we now know, Frank Pyke’s son has already made a pretty handy contribution of his own to AFL.

  2. Fascinating stuff. Thanks Swish. The first organised process of footy moving from a game to a formal discipline. I suspect coaches like Norm and Len Smith and Foster Williams did similar things informally, but didn’t codify it.
    So much of the development of the science and tactics of Aussie Rules in the last 20 years seems to have come from studying European soccer and American football and adapting it back to our game. Richmond’s manic rush, small attackers and quantity not quality of entries looks a lot like aerial EPL to me.
    Footy is as globalised as the rest of our Google/Apple/Amazon/financial markets world.

  3. Dr Goatboat says

    The stretching is very graceful…….
    What was their view on: Never kick across goals and dont handball in the backline? Dictums that always served me well……what ever happened to the KISS principle?

  4. Brett 'BD' Dutschke says

    Nice one, Swish.

    I remember us school kids in Elizabeth in the 70s being taught the the mechanics of kicking straight by Greg Mutze and Sonny Morey. Run straight at your target and drop the ball to the middle of your foot – revolutionary, I thought.

    Frank Pyke’s other son was a fine exponent of the straight kick, helping St Anns College get a rare win over St Marks College (and of course helping Norwood beat Port).

    Where has the straight kick gone? It’s been lost to kicking around the corner.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says Dennis Lillee credits the late Frank Pyke for rescuing his career in 1973,Frank died of the dreaded,MND in 2011.BD I remember James winning that game for St Anne’s thanks Swish

  6. Dr Goatboat says

    Damian Nygaard, old Ignatian, was the alumni brought in to help First XVIII kick a straight droppy….to no avail……our coach felt it was more about personal character than mechanics….he was a man of the cloth..

  7. What a find!

  8. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    That’s a ripper Swish.
    Stretching photos are crackers. Footy Kama Sutra?

  9. Was this manual still in use come 1977 ?

    If so, Paul Van Der Haar clearly ignored it.


  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks all for your responses.

    My WA correspondents (via Tim Gossage) have informed me that a young Robert Wiley is the skinfoldee.

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    And thanks to Les Everett for the info that it is Wiley and Bryan Cousins doing the stretching

  12. Laurie Laffan says

    Cowboy Neale once told me the story how he failed the skin fold test when Ross Smith, then Captain Coach, introduced it at St Kilda. This was shortly before he came to Canberra to captain coach Ainslie in 1978.
    His classic response was ” no point passing the skin fold test if you can’t play footy”
    He went on to captain -coach Ainslie for six years, and kicked well over 100 goals in three of those seasons. He also kicked a bagful in the historic win by the ACT against the VFL’s so-called ‘second level’ rep team.He was Captain coach of the ACT.
    I met Ross many years later and repeated Cowboy’s comment.He laughed. I think he had Cowboy in mind as regards the do’s and dont’s of his booklet

  13. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Laurie – of course Cowboy is better known to me as yet another Centrals coach that couldn’t win a final

    And thanks to Rulebook, this comment from James Pyke

    “Yes cutting edge at time
    Mum helped the editing remember them picking the front cover
    Prob before it’s time really
    Cheers Pykey”

  14. Well done, old mate Swish.
    That is truly fascinating.
    I know little about sports science, but Smith and Pyke were surely before their time!

  15. Laurie Laffan says

    Thanks Swish,
    Another Cowboy Neale saying was”good cattle make good coaches.”

  16. Charlie brown says

    Frank was a really interesting and generous guy. Spoke with him when he was visiting Adelaide in 1978. I was thinking of moving to Perth to study Sports Science at the time but never did.

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