Training for six – Chapter 1: Training for one


Chapter 1: Training for One.

I love Malcolm Blight. He is an absolute hero of mine. Because he’s a corker bloke, first and foremost. Because his is smart. Because had what all good coaches need. Imagination.
It’s so up there in important coaching skills. Yet no-one pays it heed. Sometimes the people who pick or coach coaches are just as lacking in it. Malcolm once told me, “Don’t get me wrong, mostly, I’m very conventional, but you need that 5% out of the box.”
So you don’t have the numbers? So bloody what? Are you that pathetic as a coach, a leader and a person you just lay down? Are you only good at what you read in an AFL manual? The beauty of our game lies in the oval ball. It is unpredictable. Players often have to invent, so should you. Invent!

That hardest of all… Training for One.

There was a bloke at one of our clubs who was borderline seniors, but had no left foot. For two months, every Tuesday night he would duct tape a tennis ball to his right boot, forcing him to use is left all night. The morons gave him shit. By the end of that two months he was a senior player for the rest of his career, using both feet to kick on the wing. He didn’t read that, he invented it. So many of the great players do.
Bradman had his golf ball and cricket stump story. Barry Richardson would kick the ball onto the roof of wheat silos practicing marking high as it rolled off the roof. Ken Fraser used to mark over bushes, landing in them, Thorold Merritt would practice his kicking by leaving the cattle dog at home and rounding the cows by aiming at their moving arses with a footy… Malcolm told me of kids learning how to mark using balloons. Being alone is no excuse. Who cares what others think as they watch. If you are hungry, and you don’t just want to run, there are always ways. Who cares what others think.

Warm Up l
This is not running, this is football training. So touch the football. To warm up, take your ball and simply roll and pick up and hand-ball it along the ground and pick it up, and chip and scoop it up again as you jog up and down the middle of the ground and back a few times, rather than around it. It both warms up almost all muscles, not just the running ones, and gives you an extra 50 touches start to your night.

Warm Up ll.
Half pace, jog for ten metres, handball back over your head, turn, gather, stride for ten metres, handball back over your head, repeat until warm. Again, will warm up almost every muscle group.

Warm Up lll.

Now do your various stride throughs, squats, open the gates, groin lunges, sumos grapevine, hammies, etc… There is no point doing them cold. The body needs to be warm to stretch. You haven’t started yet and you have already touched the footy 60-70 times.
Drill one. Striding It Out.
Simply kick the ball 30-40 meters, giving it a bit of air, jog as it flies through the air, then, the second it hits the ground, run flat stick to gather it before it stops bouncing, gather it, taking those three hard steps, steady and kick. Jog and breath while it is in flight, and repeat. Do this for the length of an oval, each kick a bit to the left, a bit to the right, finishing with a goal. Then repeat back. Suck in air when you have gone up and back, then go again.
Football is not a marathon. You run hard, you ease up, you sprint again. This drill will get you football fit, as opposed to running fit.
Always imagine you are aiming for a bloke on the run. Pick a spot, hit it. See how close you get. That is all putting it out in front is doing. A straight kick to where the person is moving to.

Drill two. The Figure Eight.

Find an oval without a fence hugging it. On the run, kick from the boundary on the left, sprint, gather, turn and kick on the run from the boundary on the right, run, gather, kick from the boundary on the left… Do this for ten shots.
As you get tired the quality of the kicks often drops, so be very conscious of that. See if you can work up to eight out of ten shots.
If there is only an oval with close fences near you, make your own goals with clothing, on the fifty arch, using it as a boundary. Or, being summer, the cricket boundary is usually in from the fence a fair bit.

Drill Three. One, Two, Three.
Kick the ball straight up in the air, leap at it, taking it at it’s highest point, take off flat stick, running hard for three steps, deviating your path as you go, give those steps absolutely everything, steady, still running, handball into the ground on an angle, read the awkward bounce, gather, go hard for three steps, steady, kick the ball up in the air, repeat without stopping for five goes. You will be knackered.
Learning: acceleration while ball handling, reading the ball through the air. High gather and low gather/running onto bouncing ball.

Drill Four. The Wall.

Find a wall. Kick your footy at it. If your kick is straight, the ball will bounce back towards you, gather/mark, push backwards, as if pushing back from a mark, repeat. Try to do ten in a row. If your kick is not straight, you will have to do a lot of fetching. Work and reward. Your footy will wear out a bit quicker, but omelettes and eggs. Cricket sight screens are gold for this! (on grass and far softer than brick).

Drill Five. The Wall ll.

Then, get in close enough to do the same with handballs. Left hand and right. Start far out, and with each repetition of ten, move in a step.
Once in close, it’s straight reflexes. Do not even handball. Just practice throwing it at the wall, like a volleyball throw, and catching it crisp. I’m told Dermie used to do this before a game.

Drill Six. Agility.

Put a cone, or better yet, a bin, in the middle of the oval. Or have a pole in a park to aim for. Or even a shopping trolley. For thirty seconds constantly fire hard handballs into its side. As they ricochet off, you gather, spin, and fire again. Turning and aiming at speed. Constantly. If you are fit, have a spell and go again.

Drill Seven. Agility ll.

One of the things where imagination comes in is adding to drills. It is always good to practice kicking goals. Especially when you’re tired. It is a huge flaw in modern football – players who have great kicks yet are missing goals because they are knackered.

Do the Agility drill just 30 meters out from goal. Each time you have hit the cone/bin/trolley three times without missing, gather, steady and shoot for goal. Jog to get the ball/breath back, then go again.
If you want to get very fit, each time you do a handball do a roll when you pick it up, return to your feet and fire off the next handball. Never handball off the back foot. You should be charging towards where the ball is going as it is leaving your hand.
Drill Eight. All Angles.
Put some fake goals in the middle of the ground. Cones, jumpers, anything. No matter where the ball lands on Side B, run to get it and play on to shoot at goals from that side. It will go through or miss, but be on Side A now. Jog over, recovering, and have a set shot from wherever you pick it up. When it goes through to Side B, sprint and repeat. So, sprint for each shot onto Side B, practicing your running shots, jog and recover and have set shots from Side A. The nature of the bouncing ball is, you do this for ten minutes you will have had a shot from just about every angle and distance there is.
One of the big mistakes people make when practicing their goal kicking, they only put enough pepper on their kick to get it over the line, because they do not want to fetch it. Make the effort. Practice as you play. Kick real goals. Ones that would go over the fullback’s outstretched hands.
Sometimes you are stiff and sore, or your hammies are tight. Here is a good drill. Or a good warm-down drill, to do at half pace.


Drill Nine. Figure Eight Point One.
It’s Figure Eight goal-kicking, but with a twist. You shoot for goal from 30 out deep in the left pocket, no more. The ball will finish behind the goals on the right. You jog after it. When you gather it, you chip it back onto the field about thirty out, deep in the right forward pocket. You jog ten metres past it, turn, jog straight towards goal, gathering the ball, steady and shoot. It is all about straight lines. Again, gather ball, chip out to 30 out, deep in left pocket, run ten meters past it, turn, run straight at goals, gather ball, shoot, repeat according to fitness.
Warm Down.
Repeat Warm Up l.

Next, the easy bit. Training for Two.


  1. Follow these steps and you will be BOG lol

  2. Great stuff Matt, looking forward to the rest of the series. When I played footy in the US I lived in Savannah, GA, a short 4 hours drive from my club in Atlanta. I often did some one man drills like this, and when my girlfriend joined me at the Forsyth Park we had two person training with her mostly kicking it out for me to chase. During the year I managed to scout out a few Aussies living locally and some Americans interested with the aim of trying to put a team together the following year. Unfortunately I had to come back to Australia so it never happened.

  3. Crash, sorry i missed this comment until now. must have been so frustrating, and an adventure at the same time!!

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