AFL Switch Kick|Poor Decision?

April 8, 2015 — Leave a comment

A much used weapon in Australian Football (or AFL now to most), is the switch kick from defence that shifts the ball quickly to the fat side (open space) to the advantage of a team mate.

Executed well, this can be an extremely efficient way to move the ball from defensive traffic all the way to your attacking 50.

As with all attacking movements, they must begin (at training/strategy sessions etc) with everyone knowing they have role in such movements.

Off the ball it’s so important for players to either sprint to space (marking option) or take their opponent away from the space to get their match up.

The clip below is perhaps the exploration of a switch in play, rather than a switch kick as it stands. As you will see, the initial short pass from beside the behind post was technically the switch kick.

Done well, a movement usually starts with the ball carrier pushing hard back off the mark. Given they are usually executed around player traffic, most are performed off only a couple of steps and delivered the the outer side of the field very quickly.

It is a common observation of mine that many switch kicks are very nearly smothered, as in the case below. On the surface this appears that kicker is composed, but as a coach I’d worry about unnecessary turnover of possession.

In the clip (one minute) observe the following:

* The players beginning to fill the space as the Fremantle player (purple) in the goal square takes possession. Perhaps taking up valuable time?

* Great inside pressure from the Melbourne player (white) approaching the kicker. How close did he come to smothering the kick?

* The kick from the goal square appears rather speculative and very “airy”, giving the Melbourne players plenty of time to get numbers and create at least a contest.

* The player movement off the ball. Who has an opponent? Who is filling space?

* The kick was directed toward a 2v2 situation, no advantage to Freo.

* The whole move was performed at speed, but was the kick’s flight time too long?

Anatomy Of This Play:

1. The switch begins with short pass (not 15m) to a team mate in the goal square. Everyone, including the opposition knows what to expect next. This kick is a cue to the opposition and gives them time to shift bodies into the space they anticipate the ball will travel next.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 12.09.36 pm

2. The race is on into the space. This kick will need to be performed quickly to preserve any spatial advantage the passing option across field may have.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 12.09.52 pm

3. Players continue to fill the space on what was the fat side of the ground, including further upfield. Even if this pass was successful, there may not have been an uncontested option on the wing or further up forward.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 12.10.04 pm

4. Awareness is paramount. I’m all for not panicking down back, but a near smother in the last line of defence. Did this change the angle or flight of delivery? Did the Freo player re adjust based on this duress? Or just lucky he kicked it in time?

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 12.10.17 pm

5. A switch is for clean, sure possession and movement. The ‘flighty’ nature of the kick has given Melbourne time to track the ball and get numbers to the area to shut the movement down. Even just a contest would have been a good result for Melbourne.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 12.10.37 pm

6. A 2v2 situation plays out, and hard committed running to the space (against the flight of the ball) by Melbourne sees them win possession back. The ability for teams to identify cues and react quickly enables them to shut down rebounding via switch kicking.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 12.10.53 pm

Maybe a short, unmarked option would have been a better way out on this occasion, if only there were more options (or even decoys) within kicking distance. More activity off the ball in situations such as this will preserve valuable space and release players.

It is quite a responsibility to switch the point of attack, and good situational awareness by all is required. It simply cannot be an opportunist play.

Remember, even if a player out wide is calling for the ball, it may not be the best decision to switch.

Let it be said that many teams still practice these kicks (full field drills) against ‘fresh air’ at training. If no defence is present in training then this would surely have ‘looked good’, and no doubt eventually hitting the full forward lace out on the end of a strong lead.

You get tremendous perspective of kick quality when defenders are sniffing around.

And here’s another video example (20secs). Woops.

This player (and intended recipient!) surely needed to be aware of the situation. No point kicking blind anywhere on the ground, but it’s here you can get ‘hurt’.

Ok, so what does a good option look like?

The cleanest of switch kicks will hit a teammate, who can continue the movement without re adjustment or opposition pressure. Off the ball, particularly upfield, team mates must time their movements as they present themselves.

Remember, we don’t want to go into contact or contest when switching. Do what you can to provide continuity for the attack.

Here’s another good option for a switch movement:

Although by foot is the fastest way for a team to switch play, below is a clip (20secs) where the rebounding team chose initially to link up by hand, before successfully transitioning into attack:

Now it’s time to go work on your switch kicking…

By Stuart Lierich



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