Game Preparation – The Pregame Address in Australian Football

In 1968, I was in my second year as the coach of the Queensland state secondary schoolboys team competing in the All Australian National Football Championships in Melbourne. Our first game was played against Western Australia on the hallowed turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the home of our national game. It was a great thrill for the boys to play there and for me to be the coach.

Below are the notes I made to speak about or do prior for our first game in this National Football Carnival. Prior to the naming of the team and the pregame address, I talked to each team member and checked how they were feeling.

These are the points I made to the players. As a young coach, I now realise, that I most likely spoke for too long and said too many things. But, being from the football developing state of Queensland, we were in a teaching mode with our boys. We needed to continue to emphasise the basics of our game plan until they became second nature.

  • Play on whenever you can. Play tight; tough; in front; inside your man and move the ball wide in the backline.
  • Team work: remember to back up; keep talking; watch carefully when the football is two kicks away and keep shepherding.
  • Tackling must be hard/tough. Contest everything; smother the ball; and chase everyone.
  • Positional Play:

Forwards-flankers must play wide; look for crumbs; be steady in front of goals; keep talking and look for your full forward.

Backs- should be tight; shoulder to shoulder with their opponent; play inside your man; and used long driving kicks. With kick outs from fullbacks, rovers must be in front of the pack and wingers behind the pack.

  • Kicking-always use drop punts when passing or otherwise long driving kicks straight down the goal to goal line from the centre. Note the effects of the greasy ball and the wind and use them to your advantage.
  • Note that the oval has wide wings and pockets deep. Use north side of oval to attack.
  • Warming up: It is essential to do it well
  • Football will skid. So watch for the ball flying over the back of the pack in high marking contests. Keep the football in front of you always and soccer the ball when you don’t pick t up cleanly.
  • Umpiring-play the whistle.

I made this point strongly because in the same game in 1967 in Hobart Western Australia kicked two goals when a defender claimed to the umpire that he had touched the marked football twice. The Western Australian simply played on while this occurred to kick two goals

Some observations:

  1. There were not many experienced junior club or school coaches in Queensland in the 1960s. So we had to educate the players about the whys and wherefores of the game. Given that, the length of my team address might have been justified. This would not be the case in the 21st century as I write this.
  2. The team had a number of players in the team who were at their second All Australian Carnival. Their experience helped improve the performance of the team keeping it competitive for most of each game. Fitness and the skill levels let the team down as tiredness crept in late in each game.
  3. Players from the less successful junior clubs in our team learnt quickly from our training program and outperformed their top club rivals. Often we used these players in new positions to see them flourish.
  4. The players found the softer grounds in Melbourne difficult because they were used to the ball bouncing higher on the firmer grounds in Queensland.
  5. The players found the umpire’s interpretation of the rules different to what occurred back home.
  6. It is important for the reader to understand that the game has changed dramatically since these notes were used. Some may seem irrelevant in the 21st century.

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