Kick-to-kick is a pastime and well-known tradition of Australian rules football fans, and a recognised Australian term for kick and catch type games. In its "markers up" form, it is the usual casual version of Australian rules (similar to the relationship between backyard/beach cricket and the established forms of cricket).
Kick-to-kick is used as a warm-up exercise of many Australian rules football clubs and has been the beginnings of many clubs in far-flung places. It has long been a pitch invasion tradition in the breaks immediately after official Australian rules football matches, although as professionalism in the Australian Football League increased, the practice was discontinued at most of AFL venues.
The two players will space themselves about 15 metres or more apart and alternate kicking whilst the other marks. Sometimes players will run and/or bounce when returning a long ball and experiment with different kicking styles, such as the drop punt, torpedo punt or checkside punt. If goal posts are present, participants will often position themselves in front and behind the posts to practice scoring. Kick-to-kick is often a family pastime and many footballers learned their skills in games of backyard kick-to-kick. It has been suggested that informal kick-to-kick can assist in battling obesity in children.
More formal kick-to-kick can involve multiple players, usually grouped in two bunches at either end for easier return of the ball, resulting in similar informal games, such as force 'em backs. This type of play can include some play contesting, many Australian rules fans requiring a stepladder player to emulate the specky or spectacular mark seen on the football field, often also heard crying out famous names of spectacular mark proponents such as Jesaulenko, Ablett or Capper.
Probably the most long-standing more formal version of kick-to-kick has also often been referred to as "end-to-end footy". It could best be described as, "competitive kick to kick". It is basically a game of two groups of players – one group at each end. Each group alternates with the other in terms of kicking and contesting for possession of the ball. In essence, 'whoever gets' the ball at the receiving end wins that play and gets to kick the ball back to the other group. So, its aim is 'whoever gets'. As each person in the group contests individually against the other members of the group for the ball it is an 'every man for himself' activity.
It has become a most popular activity of Australian footballers and is often used by clubs – both VFL/AFL and local, particularly at the commencement of training sessions. It has long been played in schools, at local parks and within various organisations for many decades because it is very easy to access the Australian footy game in this form: one does not have to join a formal club, few people are needed to 'kick up' a ball amongst themselves and many fewer injuries result from playing it than in the formal game. In proper context, the formal Aussie Rules football match, by contrast, requires a field of 18 players per side plus interchange players [that is, there are 36 needed on the field at any one time to play the game properly]. Also, the size of the ground needed is cricket ground size. The beauty of regular kick-to-kick activity is that you only need a few 'players' to play it, and in school grounds, with one group playing at each end, players really only need about 50–70 metres by about 30 metres of space in which to engage the activity satisfactorily. More specifically, in most versions, a person from the group at one end kicks the ball impartially to the group of people at the other end, whereupon all those 'players' then contest for possession of the ball, as they attempt to outmark each other or gain the ball in some other 'legal' manner, suitable to the rules of regular Australian football, so that the rules that apply to gaining access on a football during a proper game of Australian football also apply to the usual kick-to-kick version. The key difference being that the contest for the ball stops as soon as someone cleanly has the ball in his/her possession. There are also usually no teams, as the spirit of the activity is that each person competes for themselves and kicks impartially to the group at the other end. This all means that shepherding, tackling, smothering and excessive bumping, etc. are not a part of the activity. Whoever wins the ball at his end wins the opportunity to "have a kick", and is then free to kick it to the group at the other end without opposition or interference. In turn, then, the individuals receiving the kick at the other end, then also compete for the ball. Thus activity alternates between ends: kicking and competing for the ball, back and forth between the groups.
Scoring is rarely a part of this kick-to-kick game – it is generally a more informal 'play' engagement in this sense, despite that play itself can become very competitive in kick-to-kick football. It can become so competitive at times, in fact, that some players (usually among those finding it hard to get a kick) will “wax” together to be able to get more kicks: that is, two or more people at the one end will agree to work or team together to get more overall possession of the ball, and players within this waxing unit will then take turns among themselves in kicking the ball to the other end when one of their members wins possession of the ball. On the other hand, the end-to-end activity can also become so informal as to also introduce more than one ball into the overall engagement, so that 2 or 3 balls can be in play simultaneously. Despite this informality, however, this does not always prevent the competitive spirit of the game, as some players trying to dominate will even try to win two or more balls upon one another to the point of carrying one or more under each arm.
Marks up, King of the pack and Points Up, Jack in the Pack, No Torps
In some versions, when there are three or more people playing, it could turn into a game called marks up, markers up, King of the Pack or Jack in the Pack where one person kicks into the pack (where the rest of the people are) and whoever marks it cleanly, like in a real aussie rules game, will swap with the person who kicked it. This is a popular game to play at parks or in schools at recess when there is not enough time to sort out teams and start a game.
A variation on the "Marks Up" game appeared around 5 years ago in schools, where Points Up was the common game being played. This was because most people didn't like being up, and preferred the challenge of being in a pack. Therefore, taking a mark would be rewarded with going up, which is not what people wanted. So, after people deliberately dropped marks because they didn't want to go up, Points Up was created. Now a player who makes a mistake (kicking a point) has to go up. Alternatively, the player who takes the mark (who would normally be "up") is then given the "power" to decide who he wants to be "up". This gives an added incentive to take the mark as with a big pack or even just a few people some are better kicks then others. An extra rule, First Kick, has been added so players can't go up immediately after someone else has.
Another variation is the "No Torps" rule where kickers are requested to only kick drop punts so that the pack has a better chance to mark the football. This rule is usually instigated soon after a few torpedo kicks have been attempted unsuccessfully by one or two kickers.
Origins of the pastime
The ancient indigenous Australian game of Marn Grook, which is believed by some to have influenced Australian rules football is similar in many ways to the modern varieties of the kick-to-kick pastime.
Author Sean Fagan claims that the kick-to-kick tradition originates with rugby football in England, citing books from 1856 which make reference to the term "punt about", however although the sources mention kicking practice they do not indicate other participants catching or marking the ball or kicking it back.
Kick-to-kick type practice in other sports
Rugby union and rugby league fans and players do not tend to participate in kick-to-kick as much as Australian rules football fans (primarily because kicking is a specialist technique in these sports; and because of variants of the codes that are playable on a small scale, such as touch football). Gaelic football and association football (soccer) fans also participate in a form of kick-to-kick with the round ball.
References in popular culture
Playing "Kick to kick football" is sometimes used by Australian rules fans as a derogatory term to describe uncontested, possession based style of play sometimes seen at the professional AFL level, which many fans find boring and compare to non-contact sports such as basketball, and netball. This is because kick-to-kick does not generally involve any of the contesting found in an official game of Australian rules football, such as tackling, bumping, smothering (known as a "charge down" in rugby league), spoiling and other one percenters which often result in more unpredictable change of possession.
The pastime inspired a short film named "Kick to Kick" by Tony McNamara in 2000.
Auskick in 2007 used the kick-to-kick tradition as part of their promotional television campaign, which shows kids from around the country kicking the football to each other to the tune of Gimme dat Thang.
- Golightly, Earnest (3 April 1987). "Footy gets heavy, but the kick to kick lives on". The Age. pp. 1 & 3. Retrieved 19 October 2009.
- AFL Auskick Manual; AFL.com.au, p168
- "Saturday Arvo Fever". Retrieved 3 January 2009.
It is only recently that crowds have been banned from running onto the field after a match for a game of kick-to-kick
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