Let’s try and get to ten in a row without hitting the ground.  OK!  One. Two. Three.  Use your opposite side.  Guide the ball down with your left hand.  Head over the ball.  Better.  Six.  Seven.  Take the ball in your hands.  Nine. Ten.  Good! Keep going!

It’s Tuesday before Easter at Mum and Dad’s in Warrnambool.  It’s drizzling outside and Nephew Lukey and I are practising kick to kick in the garage.  Towels are drying on the line between the car spaces; shoes are stacked lazily on the old bookcase by the door to the house; Dad’s bowls case is beside the clothes dryer; and the old fridge in the corner is full of frozen fish, meat and grog. The house will be full of family by Good Friday.

Kick to kick is the only way to drag Lukey away from his Nintendo ds and it’s helping me avoid correcting Yr.12 essays.

We’re using his red and white Parkside Devils footy.  Lukey started in the Under 8s a few weeks ago.  He goes ok.  When chasing a kick, his arms and legs go up and down real quick.  However, the rest of his body takes a while to catch up.

We started with handball.  Up close.  Right, left, right.  Keep the hand that’s holding the ball still.  Good.  Lukey grows bored quickly and we push back a few yards for kicking practice.

We soon find a rhythm.  Lukey reaches me often enough with his right. However, he grubbers his left foot kicks under the car or they shoot along the cement floor and out into the light rain.  His Uncle Andrew’s bad habits resurface.

My mind drifts to past Easters.  Dad is kicking over his head in the paddock across the road.  I’ve never seen a ball sail so high.  He turns and giggles.  See that?  Did ya see that? Or we’re in Shepherd’s Court, Dingley, in Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs and Uncle Allan is saying again, kick it up! You’re not kicking through the ball!  He’s small, compact and balanced like Barry Cable and can hit me with a drop kick while his stubby rests safely on the gutter.  One year in Shepherd’s Court, a young Leigh Matthews visited relatives across the road.  He’s as wide as he is tall, Dad said.

Before long, my back aches and knee creaks.  Time to head inside, I say to Lukey.   Can we have another kick later? he asks.  Just like I used to beg Uncle Allan and Dad.  Of course.  Lukey kicks the ball into the dryer and revels at the loud clattering noise it makes.


  1. johnharms says

    A scene played out all overthe country, yet having its own Starkie flavour. We used to pester Dad for a kick – even when the drissle made it uncomfortable – on Saturdays when he was writing his sermon. I especially recall the patch of leather dirt-moisture on your jumper. And the scones that were ready when you went back inside.

  2. John Butler says

    Andrew, its been years since I had a kick.

    You’ve inspired me for Easter.


  3. Andrew Starkie says

    Quick, inside for The Big League.

    Fire cracking and spitting in the corner.

    Don’t drag the bloody mud through the house! Shoes off! Go wash your face and hands!

  4. Mum,

    a bird flew into the window and smashed it while you were at the hair dressers.

  5. God I love kick to kick. When a rhythm develops it can have have wonderful meditative qualities.

    There is nothing like hitting it sweetly and hearing that beautiful low ‘tooooonk’ as it sails in an arc so perfect the other kicker didn’t have to move. And the shorter higher pitched toonk as the return smacked your hands. All is good.

    I can’t wait until someone more literate than I writes a paean to the beauty of ‘Angles’

  6. After a game at the ‘Gabba in 2001, a friend and I concluded that Voss et all were in fact not that far removed from rocket scientists as they had the ability to compute the velocity of a ball and a team mate and adjust for the angles to have ball and player arrive at the same time. The conversation started with; “Vossy is a great footy player but he is no rocket scientist”. Analysis conclusively led us to believe if he could transfer his foot, eye, hand skills to paper, he might be able to cut it with NASA…

  7. johnharms says

    Took a brand new Sherrin to the Gabba one night. It lasted ONE kick. Had to do a Magnum PI chase, with six of us after the culprit to get it back. Patrick (or Mick) Dodson has a rule of life (revealed by M. Flanagan): elbows in while landing shark. Add to that: never take a new footy to the Gabba.

  8. Really cute :)
    i used to be the same and kick the footy with dad in the front yard as a kid, kinda miss it :(

  9. Adam Muyt says

    Halftime Grand Final kick-to-kicks in the street are something special I reckon. The pressure of 15 minutes max. multipled by beers downed, divided by consumption of fatty foods = ????
    And if you happen to be a follower of one of the teams then there’s another element to add to the pressure.

  10. Sean Gorman says

    Andrew nice one. there is also the issue of “waxing” at school when the kick to kick became serious stuff and sociologically where competition and display became the genesis for further football glory.

  11. #9 Adam – Love a quick half time kick, but my most memorable half time entertainment was the 2001 half time sprint.

    All BBQ attendees were wearing a motley assortment of footy jumpers.

    Rules were quickly discussed. Stubby had to be carried, with minimal spill.

    Started in the backyard, quick dash up the street, through the Torquay Hotel bottle-o, back down the street, through the pack of girlfriends, returning into the backyard again.

    15 blokes. And one very confused bottle shop attendant.

    From memory, I think Col won. Picked up a Carlton Draught polo shirt for his troubles.

    Good times…

  12. Hi Andrew

    It was great to catch up, on the train back from the G yesterday.

    This is a lovely, warm and generous piece. Like others responding, it triggers joyful memories. In Perth growing up, we lived directly across the road from a huge park where neighbourhood boys would gather after school day in and day out to play kick to kick until called in for dinner. In Drouin before our family moved to Perth we played kick to kick with the Abletts (and sadly, learnt nothin).

    This Greek Easter Sunday my son Jackson and I, along with other extended family members took time out from the festivities to play mini kick to kick in the small front yard of my wife’s aging Aunty. And so it goes.

  13. R. Kane, Now that’s a piece waiting to be written, and read – kick to kick with the Abletts.

  14. My friend Les Holmes and I took kick to kick very seriously. Our record, set one Easter, was 262. We were in the front yard of my place in Boulder kicking across the rockery… maybe 12m apart. Les, who incidentally married a woman named Lesley, became a very good player for Mines Rovers in the Goldfields Football League and later in Bunbury.I coulda been anything but decided to dedicate myself to study.

  15. Rick Kane says

    Hi JTH (#13) – I wish I could remember. I was younger than Andrew’s nephew, Lukey, at the time. We left Drouin in 1968 before I turned 6. Sadly, my old man passed away 16 years ago so I can’t call on him. They lived down the street, and, as Dad used to tell us, we’d either be kicking the footy in the cow paddock behind St Ita’s, or on the road. As a kid, living across the other side of the country, Geoff Ablett playing at Hawthorn was a source of pride for your hometown.

  16. Make something up Rick.

  17. Rick Kane says

    Uh, okay then … So a 5 year old Kaney and his 6 year old brother John challenge the rag tag kids across the road to a kicking competition. We set up a 44 gallon drum about 25 feet away in the middle of the paddock. We have 10 shots each. John lands it in 7 times and Kaney 5 times and the kids across the street can’t even get it near. We shake our heads and sigh and call little Gary Ablett to come and show ’em how it’s done. He has been watching the whole time. He turns his back to the drum, closes his eyes, ties one arm behind his back, submerges himself under water and lets rip. Bang, bang, bang. He kicks 10 golf balls into the drum, bare footed. A female reporter, in town to write up Drouin’s dairy produce swoons, a VFL scout chokes on his cream bun and the local priest heads for the betting shop. And it all happened just as I wanted to remember it.

  18. johnharms says

    I remember the article in the paper. Same day as he saved the calf by stopping the 4.21 from Kilcunda with his left forearm.

  19. Pamela Sherpa says

    Nice piece Andrew. It’s such a great ritual- whether two or twenty are kicking. #5 Love the way you describe the qualities of kick to kick.

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