Wowsers. What a collector’s item of sparkling goal kicking from Luke Walsh last night!
The Penrith halfback’s spotless 11 from 11 was a magnificent showcase of accuracy from sideline to sideline, not to mention a perfect accompaniment to the razzle dazzle being served up by the Panthers on the CUA turf against a porous Warriors defence.
But it wasn’t just the results of the metronomic slipper show that knocked my socks off. In my eyes, there was something else that stood out from Walsh’s marksman masterclass.
The whole thing packed minimal histrionics.
With every raise of the touchies’ flags, it affirmed the fact that there is still a place in the game for a dull dime-a-dozen kicking action.
In recent times, boring and undistinguished routines have been under attack by a wave of alternative converters and their intricately detailed approaches.
So why is the ‘Goalkicking for Dummies’ manual slowly becoming eroded as a reading choice by the sharp shooters across all codes?
Up until recently, capably kicking a dead ball used to be so simple.
Settle down, wipe away some sweat, secure your mouthguard in some disgusting pocket of your body, take some right-angled steps and slot the thing through to papa.
But somewhere along the timeline of kicking history, theatrics and contortions became de rigeur. Just punching the footy over and/or through a set of poles is no longer enough.
Nowadays, you need an abstract statue pose followed by an audition for the Bolshoi Ballet to be in the running for kicking tee duties.
Cast your mind back.
Remember the uproar when ‘around the corner’ kicking first came in to the codes? Traditionalists of the toe poke lost their shizen at the time at what was considered a totally ludicrous newfangled method!
Then fast forward to the emergence of Ian ‘Chook’ Herron.
This wacky winger was considered a rugby league outcast with his blend of neck twisting and hot-stepping. Nobody imagined that things were going to get any weirder than him.
Cue Jonny Wilkinson in the heavenly game with the first of the stone sculptured poses, and then the nutcase workings of Mark Riddell, who seemed to be placing some kind of mid-air blessing on the Steeden just before he gave it the boot.
This lead to the current golden era we find ourselves in.
There’s one of modern footy’s most bizarre and long-winded routines with Jamie Soward’s version of a sedated soldier whose compass is playing up, which is complimented by Quade Cooper’s regular reminder that his favourite comic hero is Superman.
James O’Connor jumped on board for a while with his own zany stylings before coming to his senses when he realised the robot dance went out of fashion for a reason.
Don’t forgot those who appear to be experiencing debilitating stomach cramps while they carefully hold a fragile baby chicken in cupped hands, that being Adam Reynolds, Berrick Barnes and Jarrod Croker.
And the insanity isn’t just confined to the rugby codes either.
What about in the AFL?
There are extra trimmings on the usual stale bread and butter provided by West Coast’s Josh Kennedy and St Kilda’s Ahmed Saad.
Kennedy’s attention-seeking feet take over the whole show and regale the crowd with their version of the stutter rap, while Saad somehow incorporates a lazy Sunday arvo stroll that seemingly stretches from Coogee to East Perth.
There’s no doubt about it. The modern kicking culture has evolved in to something weirder than that slouching windmill dance your uncle does at family functions.
Does anybody have an intelligent explanation to this?
I’m sure many would say that it’s another sign that the psychological aspect of professional sport is becoming further prevalent, and fair enough. But could it be more than this?
Are managers and marketers encouraging their charges to build a brand through individuality? Is it time wasting? Or loss of bets with long-term consequences?
Or are footy players convinced that pretending to pray in a state of semi-constipation is genuinely effective when piloting a leather pillow on a beeline?
Whatever the reason, long may it continue.
I acknowledge the successes of guys like Walsh and their staple routines. Good luck to them all.
But there’s no doubt there is something entertaining about watching athletes blindly devote to their boot-scooting security blankets.
For some kickers, it seems keeping it straight relies on being slightly twisted.
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