Punt kick

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Nick Malceski (Australian rules footballer) executing a drop punt kick.

The punt kick is a common style of kicking in football games. It is a kick where the ball is dropped from the players' hands and kicked before the ball hits the ground. It is used in many football codes. It is the primary means of moving the ball around in Australian rules football and is also used tactically in American and Canadian football, rugby league and rugby union. Goalkeepers in association football also execute punt kicks as an option for playing the ball up-field.


Use in sport

Australian rules football

There are different styles of kicking depending on how the ball is held in the hand. The most common style of kicking seen in today's game, principally because of its superior accuracy, is the drop punt, where the ball is dropped from the hands down, almost to the ground, to be kicked so that the ball rotates in a reverse end over end motion as it travels through the air. Other commonly used kicks are the torpedo punt (also known as the spiral, barrel, or screw punt), where the ball is held flatter at an angle across the body, which makes the ball spin around its long axis in the air, resulting in extra distance (similar to a the traditional motion of an American football punt), and the checkside punt or "banana", kicked across the ball on the outside of the foot is used to curve the ball (towards the right if kicked off the right foot) towards targets that are on an angle. There is also the "snap", which is almost the same as a checkside punt, except that it is kicked off the inside of the foot and curves in the opposite direction. It is also possible to kick the ball so that it bounces along the ground. This is known as a "grubber". Grubbers can bounce in a straight line, or curve to the left or right.


In American and Canadian football, the ball can be punted downfield to the opposing team. This is typically done on the final down, when the team elects to give up its last chance at a first down in exchange for giving the receiving team a less advantageous field position. A punt play involves the kicking team lining up at the line of scrimmage with the kicker, or punter, lined up usually 15 yards behind the center (in American football, this distance is shortened if the ball near the end zone and kicker's normal position would be on or beyond the end line). The receiving team lines up with one or two players downfield to catch the ball. The center makes a long snap to the kicker who then drops the ball and kicks it before it hits the ground. The player who catches the ball is then entitled to attempt to advance the ball.

Rugby league

In rugby league if the player is caught with the ball on the last tackle it must be handed over. For this reason the punt is usually utilised in the last play of a set, although it can be used earlier as a surprise tactic. A set consists of six tackles andIf a team is close to the goal line, attacking kicks will be used in an attempt to score a try. If the team is a long way from the goal line the kicks will be longer with the primary aim of gaining ground.

Rugby union

A punt in Rugby union can be contrasted with a drop kick which is taken at a 22-meter dropout, kickoff, or drop-goal attempt. The main purpose of the punt is usually a bid to gain field position, where the ball is kicked by any player (but usually by back-line players such as scrum-half, fly-half or fullback) up the field and out of bounds (in touch), forcing a line-out contest. The lineout is usually taken in the same position where the ball went out of play, however, the ball must make contact with the ground before leaving the field or the lineout is taken from the position of the ball when it was kicked instead, unless the kicker was inside his own 22-meter line, or the kick was taken from a penalty where the ball is allowed to leave play without bouncing. The other main type of punt is known as the up and under kick and launches the ball high into the air, but without traveling far along the field of play. The purpose of this kind of kick is to disrupt the defensive line (who will scramble in attempt to retrieve the ball) while attempting to retrieve the ball for one's own team. However, the up and under is used sparingly because of the risk of losing possession without gaining field position.

In rugby union, a team can elect one of four ways to take a penalty, being to run with the ball, take a scrum, kick at goal, or punt the ball. Where the team chooses to punt the ball, the punter may kick the ball out of bounds without making contact with the ground first, and the throw at the lineout is awarded to the non-infringing team.

Types of punt kicks

In a typical punt kick the kicker points the ball in the direction in which he wants the kick to go holding it at a 45° angle to the axis of the foot. In flight, the punted football will remain flat with the longer axis roughly parallel to the ground. A poorly executed punt kick, known in Australian rules football as a helicopter punt (or sometimes mongrel punt), may gyrate flatly in the air.

Drop punt

In a drop punt the ball is held vertically, and dropped and kicked before it hits the ground, resulting in the ball spinning backwards end over end. It is the primary method of disposing the ball by foot in Australian rules football. It is considered more accurate and easier to mark than a regular punt kick, which is held flat and does not spin in the air.

In Gridiron football it is referred to as a pooch punt or quick kick, a kick used by punters when the team is too far out for a field goal and too close to kick a normal punt because the ball will probably go into the end zone, losing field position in the resulting touchback. The kick has gradually replaced the less effective "coffin-corner kick", which was similar to rugby football's "kicking for touch" where the object was to put the ball out of bounds near the opposition goal. Like Australian rules football drop punts, the pooch punt requires the punter to control the distance and former Australian footballers like Darren Bennett and Ben Graham are generally credited with increasing the popularity of this kick in the National Football League.

Jack Dyer is credited with inventing the drop punt during his playing days with the Richmond Football Club.[citation needed]

Torpedo punt

The torpedo punt (also known as screw punt or spiral punt) is the longest type of punt kick. In flight, the ball spins about its long axis, instead of end over end (like a drop punt) or not at all (like a regular punt kick). This makes the flight of the ball more aerodynamic, but more difficult to catch (or mark in some football codes).

The pointier ends make the ball easier to catch in American Football. With extra distance, this type of kick is also more difficult to accurately judge depth.

In rugby codes, the skill is used as a clearing kick from a team's own territory.

In Australian rules football, the kick has become less common since the 1980s, as modern tactics have meant that accuracy has become typically more important than distance in field kicking; coaches now prefer the use of the drop punt in general field play. The kick may still be seen when a player needs additional distance. If kicked correctly, an Australian football can travel over 100 metres, while a normal punt will travel slightly less distance. Australian rules footballer Gordon Rattray, who played his football with the Fitzroy Football Club between 1917 and 1928, is credited as the first player to use the torpedo punt.[1]

Checkside punt

Also known as a 'banana kick', the checkside punt is a kicking style used in Australian rules football, rugby league amd rugby union. When kicked, it bends away from the body. For the true checkside, the ball is held with ends pointing to 2 and 8 o-clock (for a right footed kick) and is kicked more off the outside of the boot with the ball spinning at an opposite direction to the swing of the leg. This enables the ball to have a greater curving effect thus opening up the face of the goals to give a larger goal face.

In the early 1890s, Allen Burns[1], who played Australian rules with the (then) Victorian Football Association club South Melbourne, was renowned for what seems to be an early version of the banana kick. The following is taken from newspaper reports of the match between Fitzroy and South Melbourne on Saturday 23 June 1894, that was played in showers of rain, on a very wet and slippery ground, with a very heavy and very wet leather football:

      A mistake by the Fitzroy backs gave Allan [sic] Burns a chance at such an angle the a goal seemed impossible, and his team were urging him not to try; but he took the shot — a forty-yards one — with the posts almost in a line, and, to everyone's amazement and the South's delight, scored a wonderful goal … [2]
      In obtaining goals at difficult angles Burns has few rivals on the football field. He has the power of screwing the ball similar to a billiard player. His second goal on Saturday was one of the impossible shots in which it was almost a certainty that the ball would go right past, and the peculiar twist he appeared to get on as the ball darted through is one of those tricks of the game which a man should be able to patent … [3]

Use of the kick was first popularised in South Australia in the 1960s by the Sturt Football Club coached by Jack Oatey. He himself was an exponent of the kick decades earlier in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL). As SANFL players began to be recruited to the Victorian Football League in large numbers, the kick took on more widespread use at the top level by players such as Craig Bradley. It is now one of the most common techniques for goal-kicking from a narrow angle, and more recently has been used in field kicking with deadly accuracy by players like James Hird, but was most famously used by Peter Daicos. It is usually used when a set shot for goal is lined up on a narrow angle.

In rugby league, Newcastle Knights half-back Andrew Johns began to pioneer its use mid way through his career, where it was used to confuse the defensive side. He popularised it and became the banana kick's best exponent in the code. The banana kick has also been utilised in rugby union, most notably by Carlos Spencer.

See also