My favourite drop-kick: part 8


by Vin Maskell

The Australian Rules Drop-Kick Appreciation Society is delighted to announce that poet, mathematician and Fitzroy fan Tom Petsinis has been inducted into the society’s Hall of Fame (Literature).

Petsinis’ 2006 book Four Quarters includes the 12 verse, 48 line poem Drop Kick. It is a lovely ode to the lost art, a history lesson (with a reference to the place kick), an instruction manual and finally a gentle call for someone ‘to set plodding hearts somersaulting,/Just once again, before the season ends’.

Four Quarters is possibly the most complete, most self-contained book of poetry about Australian Rules football, giving A Kick of The Footy by Philip Hodgins a run for its money. (See My Favourite Drop-Kick, part 2)

The poems are, for the most part, the story of a migrant boy coveting a new game, learning about local culture via the oval ball and the oval ground.

That the ground is the Brunswick Street Oval in Fitzroy makes the poems all the more poignant.

I was lucky enough to hear Tom Petsinis read some of his poems in the Brunswick Street clubrooms a few years back. What struck me was that as a writer, Petsinis knows how to create space, to give the reader somewhere to lead to, somewhere to take the mark.

The poems have simple titles such as Full Forward, Full Back, On the Bench, Club Colours, Boots, Talent Scout. There’s a richness in the simplicity, though, as Petsinis evokes the past with carefully-crafted, finely tuned words and pauses.

One poem, Old Fitzroy, recalls the man at Brunswick Street oval who used to sell
‘ “Peanuts, shillin’ a bag” ‘. Three verses further into the poem Petsinis makes the observation that 30 years later ‘The Lions would leave for another den,/Returning with peanut-butter tans.’

My favourite verse of Drop Kick is:

In decades with more patience for craft
It was one of the game’s prized ornaments,
Like lacework on a terrace’s verandah,
Or the cursive script that might have written this.

Four Quarters by Tom Petsinis was published by Australian Scholarly Publishing in 2006. It includes illustrations and paintings by Jim Pavlidis (but none, alas, of a drop kick).

Tom Petsinis will be part of Talking Footy, a Victoria University event at the Whitten Oval on Thursday 26 May, from 6.30pm. John Harms will be ‘in conversation’ with the Western Bulldogs’ Daniel Giansiracusa. $10/$5

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.


  1. Jim Johnson says

    Hin Vin. I entered comments on some of your old “drop kick” entries.
    Here are some more up to date entries of “Actual History”. Not Credited Stuff. Thanks for your article. A good read. Regards Stab Punt Jim.

    You will notice there is some very early use of the Term “Stab Punt” that most people had never heard of before.

    “STAB PUNT” kick used in DYER SEES RED
    JACK DYER, Tiger coach, and captain. He uses the “STAB-PUNT” KICK,
    “Dick” Lee, famous Collingwood forward, used the same type of kick.

    DYER SEES RED. Jack Dyer interviewed by JIM BLAKE Sporting Globe March
    31 1948. Full copy hereunder. In this article Jack Dyer publishes he was not the first to kick the drop punt as a set kick.

    JACK DYER, Tiger coach, and captain, had a few hard words to say
    about forwards on Saturday. “They just won’t learn,” he declared. “You
    can tell then again and again. They do the right thing under
    instruction, but out they go and forget all about it in a match. “They
    don’t kick straight because they won’t concentrate on the right way to
    kick a ball at goal.” Dyer himself is a deadly kick from 40-50 yards
    out of goal. He uses the STAB-PUNT kick, dropping the ball point down
    and almost vertical, kicking it with the toe of his boot.
    “Dick” Lee, famous Collingwood forward, used the same type of kick.
    Dyer says he saw the value of the kick watching Collingwood, and
    learnt it from the Collier brothers. “But you can’t tell the forward
    today. He gets the ball well, then blazes away at goal without
    straightening up. “He swings his boot any- where — nine out of ten
    times he misses. But he can’t be told.” And he mooched away, still
    having his say.
    Comment. Dick Lee was perhaps the first to use THE SAME TYPE OF KICK?
    Also though the Collier Bros and Jack Dyer new the Colliers were using
    there drop punt as a short pass they are not recorded as kicking a
    real stab punt.

    Edited and Compiled by Hec de Lacy, was released on the 7th of June 1948.
    The term “Drop Punt” was first used in this 1948 book. Note the “Stab
    Punt”, of Dyer Sees Red, in a few weeks became “Dyers? Drop Punt”. I
    can find no records on trove of Dyer or anyone else using or even
    thinking of using Jim Johnson’s “Stab Punt” pre 1970.

    From close in (to goal) I DROPPED THE BALL END ON AND KICKED A PUNT
    FROM THE END OF THE BALL. Practice it in the back yard with a stick as
    a target. Once you get the hang of it the accuracy will surprise you.
    From Dick Lee speaks on Trove.
    Comment. Note the similarity of description in how to kick Lee’s “A
    TYPE OF DROP PUNT” and the STAB PUNT as in Dyer Sees Red

    “DROP STAB” Dick Lee 1921
    “One of the best things done this quarter was Lee’s “DROP STAB” used
    by Dick Lee of goodly distance to Rankin (a goal too). Lee kicked the
    leather into such a position ahead of Rankin that nobody but Rankin
    had a chance of getting at it”. ” Extract from Trove. The Great
    Football Carnival Westralian Worker Perth, Friday 12 August 1921 page
    (Comment.To this date this is the only reference Jim Johnson has
    discovered on trove referring to “Drop Stab” a field pass)

    “STAB PUNT” The term stab punt is “coined” in “The Science of Kicking” 2007
    THE SCIENCE OF KICKING published 2007.

    In the section headed THE STAB PUNT “The authors have COINED the term
    STAB PUNT because it describes perfectly the mechanics of
    this shorter-range and highly accurate pass. It should not be confused with
    the stab kick, a drop kick popularized by players like Bob Skilton (1960’s).
    While similar to a drop punt it never-the less has several defining
    characteristics that give it a distinctive flavour and purpose. It is not
    designed for maximum distance and accordingly the player uses a variation in
    drop punt technique with a limited backswing and minimal follow-through. It
    is a kick in which a rapid punching action is applied to the ball the aim
    being to pass the ball as quickly and as accurately as possible to a
    teammate. Page 64 & 65 of THE SCIENCE OF KICKING 1st Edition. Geoffrey
    Hosford. & Don Meikle published 2007 by B.I.P.E. Publications Pty Ltd.
    Forward by David Parkin.

    Comment. The term Stab Punt was in my opinion being “coined” because
    the kick was and is being used but not being called.

    The term “STAB PUNT” was coined 58 years after Jim, as 15 year kid, invented it.

    Notice how similar this kicking action above is to a stab kick. The
    section above is talking of a “drop punt to a stab punt” where as in
    May 1949 Jim Johnson went in a couple of weeks from a “stab kick to
    the perfection of his stab punt”. Time makes a difference?

    Just recently I traced the following 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 hand corner, on
    Thursday the 26th of July 1990.
    Comment! This ad appeared on the Sports Page on which there is an
    article by David Parkin, (who wrote “The Forward” for The Science of
    Kicking”), on how to kick the Torpedo Punt. So on the same page we
    have an article, by a legend, describing how to kick a Torpedo Punt
    and an advertisement inserted by Jim Johnson, “inventor” of The Stab
    Punt that was described as “A Delightfull Little Drop Punt Pass” and
    also from the same game was referred to by a second journalist as “No
    doubt about Jimmy Johnson: he definitely has found the lost art of
    stab passing”
    One journo believing correctly that Jim kicked the ball before it hit
    the ground and the other believed incorrectly that he kicked the ball
    after it hit the ground.
    It could be that there was a likeness in method of the kicking of the
    Dick Lee “A Type of Stab Punt kick” and the Jim Johnson “Delightful
    Little Drop Punt Pass.” Perhaps they both were very difficult to

    Lee’s acuracy was magnificent. The
    story has been told how in the amusement
    parlors at the Eastern Market
    where one test of skill was to kick a
    football through an almost impossible
    opening. Lee succeeded so often that
    they barred him. From Trove

    Have a “kick,” bawls a lusty voiced stallkeeper, whose stock in trade
    consists of a football, a stock of cigarettes and two parallel poles
    at the back of the stall.
    “Twelve kicks for a sprat,” he shouts, “and a packet er cigarettes
    every time you get er goal. From Trove 1907

    STAB PUNT. A Type Of “Stab Punt” as kicked by Dick Lee.
    He developed both the place-kick and a “type of stab-punt” in which he
    dropped the ball point-first and stabbed it like a shot arrow with
    hair-line accuracy. He says he always picked a spot in the crowd and
    took aim at it. Kicking, he says, is a lost art. Extract from Trove.
    Dick! Dick!-Dick-e-e-e by H.A. de Lacy Sporting Globe Saturday 21
    June 1941. Page 6

    To all! Please let me know any other new information on this old subject that
    you have found or any queries . I have spent hundreds of
    hours on this subject and have many extracts from trove covering names
    such as Dick Lee. Jack Dyer, Horrie Clover, Len Metherall. Jack
    Metherall, Geoge Goninon, Hugh Hinks, Thorold Merrett, Dick Reynalds,
    Peter Mckenna Etc. I have many original newspaper copies re Jim
    Johnson from 1949 to 1960.

    Kind Regards

    Jim Johnson. Melbourne High School 1st 18 football colours 1950.

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