Is Australian Football a defensive or offensive game? Advice for junior players
Alan Jeans, a famous Hawthorne coach, had the idea of continuing to drum into his players. There are only two positions in the field. Both a defender or an attacker will come to mind. You can be an attacker regardless of where you are. This means you need to be in a position where you can get the ball. You can become a defender if the opponent has the ball or there is a dispute. You cover your opponent. This is how you protect your opponent.
If the football is not in dispute, or the game must be restarted at the centre square
Position yourself between your opponent’s ball and your own when the game starts over. To find your opponent’s position, place your hand on their chest. To push your opponent off the ground, place your hand on his/her chest.
Your team is on attack
Once your team has the ball you must become a loose player and be ready to receive the football. You should lead by running into space towards the football-carrying player. You should not crowd the area where your team mates might lead.
You can anticipate where the football will go and by watching the ball carrier you can predict when he will deliver it. This is the time to lead. Even if you don’t get the football, you should still lead. Keep your opponent’s attention on you, not the football. If you do not receive the football, don’t be afraid to support your team mates by running to the contest or taking the “crumbs” out of the contest.
Once you have the ball, you can run into space to escape your opponent. Before you kick the ball, run 15 metres. Continue running until you are balanced. Then kick the football towards a leader player. This allows you to run for up to 30 m per bounce. Keep the ball in front of your teammate and the leader on the other side. If the ball is lost in the marking contest, always follow your kick towards the contest. Run past the marked ball to get a handball.
If you are not clear, but the chaser is following you, weave to move the chaser behind you. The chaser is now in your control, and you can steer either direction. If he is directly behind you, he cannot reduce the distance to catch up to you.
You must push the ball in front of yourself until it bounces up.
If you are in defense mode:
If you have the ball and your opponent is chasing you, it’s a good idea to try running a line along the corridor side of your opponent. This forces your opponent to run towards the boundaries, making it more difficult for him/her to kick for the goal.
Always try to keep your opponent from running towards the ball. Once you have reached a distance of a few metres from the football, you can bump your opponent away to let you pick up the ball. Once you have the ball, move it towards the boundary. As a rule, you should defend towards the boundary.
To avoid being left behind in a marking contest, you can punch the ball away and chase it to take possession of the football. You will be able to see where the ball is going if you punch it. This gives you the advantage of knowing exactly where the football will go. You should aim for the boundary line.
You can chase your opponent even if you’re being beaten to the ball. The pressure of being chasing your opponent puts on him/her, and can often make his football delivery less accurate. If you catch him/her, tackle to either hold the ball in your tackle or to dispose of the player if your teammates are nearby and ready to attack.
A final note:
Understanding that the ball can be moved from one end to the other at any moment in the game means that you are fully involved and not just a spectator. This will ensure that you are always ready to grab the ball before your opponent. This will allow you to be more involved in the game, be more successful, and enjoy more from your contributions to the team.