A spectacular mark (often called a specky, speckie or speccy for short, alternatively known as a screamer or a hanger) is a term for a type of mark in Australian rules football. The typical spectacular mark involves a player jumping up on the back of another player in order to take the mark, or catch.
The spectacular mark has become a much celebrated aspect of the sport. Many of the winners of the annual Mark of the Year competition could be considered 'speckies', and commentators will often call an individual specky "a contender" in reference to this competition and the mark's likeliness to win it.
The movement of other players beneath a marking can cause the flyer to lose balance in mid air and land or fall awkwardly, enhancing the spectacular nature of the mark. In the 1980s it became common for exponents of the spectacular mark to achieve extra elevation by levering or propping the hands or arms off the shoulders of opponents. According to the strict interpretation of the rules, this is in fact illegal interference. Sometimes umpires, however, may interpret in favour of spectacular play if the interference is minor and deemed to be part of the jumping action. The AFL Rules Committee in 2007 effectively disallowed this type of spectacular mark altogether with the advent of the controversial "hands on the back" rule.
Up until the 1870s, Australian football was typically played low to the ground in rugby-style packs, and as such marks were generally taken on the chest. Occasional high marks were recorded; as early as 1862 a Melbourne Football Club player was praised for leaping "wonderfully high into the air" to mark the ball. Spectacular marks became more common in the 1880s, a time in which the popularity of the sport was heightened. Charlie Pearson was one of the first high flyers. Albert Thurgood was a later exponent at the turn of the century. Dick Lee pulled down consistent high marks in the early 1900s.
It wasn't until the push in the back rule was introduced in 1897 that high flyers were protected from being pushed in mid air. This prevented potential serious injury. In 1904, "unintentional interference" paved the way for forwards to climb up opposition players' backs to take spectacular marks.
In popular culture
The specky has been widely celebrated in popular Australian culture. The phrase "The Big Men Fly" is invariably used to described speckies and ruckmen contesting a ball-up, and has even spawned a play of the same name. Alex Jesaulenko's specky gave rise to the catchphrase "Jesaulenko, You Beauty!". Songs such as "Up There Cazaly" also celebrate the popular spectator phenomenon.
There are also a series of football-related children's novels by ex-player Garry Lyon and children's author, Felice Arena named after their protagonist, "Specky Magee". This character is named after the slang term.
In 2011 Specky: Mark of the Year video game was launched for the iPhone, iPad and Android. After 1 week the game was in the top 10 on the iTunes Australian app store.
Some players have achieved fame for their role as stepledders of famous marks, such as Graeme "Jerker" Jenkins, who was the stepladder for Alex Jesaulenko's mark; Melbourne band TISM wrote the song "The Back Upon Which Jezza Jumped" about him.
Many VFL/AFL players have been known for their ability to frequently take "speckies" based on being recognised by the media, nominated or winning the Mark of the Year on multiple occasions.
|Player||Mark of the Year titles||Nominated (Year/Times)||Other Notes|
|Roy Cazaly||(of "Up there Cazaly" fame)|
|Gary Ablett, Sr.||1985, 1994|
|Tony Modra||1993, 1997, 2000|
|Peter Knights||1972, 1975, 1977|
|Alex Jesaulenko||1970, 1973|
|Brett Burton||2009||2009 (2)||Nicknamed "The Birdman" for his huge leap.|
|Liam Jurrah||2010||2009 (2); 2010; 2011|
|Jeremy Howe||2012||2011 (1); 2012 (7); 2013 (3)||Gained seven nominations in just his second year in the AFL.|
- Specky Mark of the Year iPhone Game
- AFL Mark of the Year Competition
- Video of Geelong's Brad Ottens taking a specky on YouTube
- Video of Gary Ablett's hanger in the 1989 VFL Semi Final Geelong V Melbourne
- Video of Gary Ablett taking a specky over Gary Pert
- Video of a specky by SANFL player Tim Inkster
- Photo Gallery "The Big Men Fly" at Full Points Footy