My (not so) favourite drop-kick, part 7

Vin Maskell hears the ugly truth in part seven of his meandering series.

The train stuttered and stopped as it tried to pull out of the station.

“Passengers,” announced the driver, “we’ve had to stop because some drop-kick in a red cap is trying to force open the doors.”

You know the game is just about up when language is against you. You know it’s just about all over red rover when you’re just sitting in the train and you’re reminded again that was once sacred is now profane.

On Wednesday 29 March 2006 Kim Beazley apparently got up in Parliament and called someone a drop-kick. I couldn’t find the exact wording in Hansard but here’s a snippet from a chat the next day between Peter Costello, then the Treasurer, and 3AW’s Neil Mitchell:
Mitchell: Now, you are not the bloke Kim Beazley called ‘a complete drop-kick’, are you?
Costello: No, I am not. It was a bit of a colourful day but I managed to stay right out of the action yesterday, Neil.
Mitchell: Do you know what a drop-kick is?
Costello: Well, it is the kind of thing Billy Barrott used to do from the centre of the MCG.
But Kim Beazley wasn’t talking about the former Richmond (and briefly St Kilda) centreman. Beazley was using the term as a form of abuse, presumably with the protection of parliamentary privilege.
You know it’s nearly time to hang up your plastic Ron Barrasi boots when a term that once described an act of graceful athleticism is used to denigrate fine upstanding honest-to-God politicians.
I don’t blame the train-driver trying to pull out of the station. He’s probably never experienced the thrill of a real drop-kick. And I don’t blame the kid in the red cap, though I wouldn’t have minded aiming a drop-kick at him as he tried to open the train doors.
Who to blame, then? The passengers of life? The passengers of language?
Kim Beazley, for starters. You’d think he’d have known better. He must have seen more than few decent fair dinkum Sandgroper drop-kicks in Perth.
Language changes. Sport changes. That’s what makes them vibrant.
But, when and how and why did the term ‘drop-kick’ change meaning? About 30 years ago, probably, when the last of the elite level drop-kicks were being banished from the oval playing fields of Australia. That much we can figure out, but I needed an expert opinion.
Dr Ron Goodrich, a linguistics professor at Deakin University, Victoria, attributes the change in meaning to the demise of the kick itself and to rhyming slang.

“The loss of the skill of the drop-kick, and remnants of cockney rhyming slang (punt = c–t) seems to have lead to ‘drop-kick’ becoming a term of abuse. Where and by whom is still a matter of speculation.”

Call me innocent and naïve, but I was disappointed to learn that the modern ‘drop-kick’ is quite vulgar and sexist. Did Kim Beazley know this? Did the train driver? Or did they, like me and my 1985 Macquarie Dictionary, just think it meant ‘an obnoxious person, NZ colloquial’.

Dr Goodrich recommended a search on There I found variations on the theme, variations not suitable for publication in this august journal.

Do footy fans of the 21st century use ‘drop-kick’ in the modern way when commenting on umpires, opposition players and some of their own? If so, the game really is up.

Is ‘drop-kick’ the only antiquated footy phrase to become a term of abuse? Is it the rhyming slang that has condemned it to the gutter?

Phrases like ‘stab pass’, ‘place kick’ , ‘19th man’. ‘20th man’ and ‘utility’ are probably all safe behind the glass cabinets of history.

But ‘drop-kick’? No.

What was once a blessing is now, and has long been, a curse.

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. Mulcaster says

    Sadly, no one can pott them flike Francois Steyn

  2. Sacred to the profane – hmm.

    ‘Like a 19th man at a wedding’

    ‘Like a female cadet on the interchange bench at Duntroon’ (won’t mention the St Kilda version)

    ‘Honest politicians are as prolific as place kicks’

    As for redundant footy terms – there is no place any more for:
    Rover; Ruck Rover; Follower; Centreman (I think wingman still just has a little relevance)

  3. indogus says

    Given that I have no qualifications of the etymological origin of words, I believe I am perfectly qualified to reassure you here Vin.

    The term “drop-kick” in this context is a referral to the power of the drop-kick and the desire to transfer that to the rear end of the knucklehead (politician or otherwise) in question. WIth that in mind it becomes a celebration of the term and therefore is doing at least a little to keep it in the light.

  4. indogus says

    #1 Mulcaster, did you see the one last weekend (or maybe the one before) some SA bloke knocked one over from even further back and cleared the cross bar by about 10m. Sure it was at altitude, but impressive all the same…

  5. Mulcaster says

    #4 I missed that Field goal, it must have been a beauty.

Leave a Comment