15 Sep The Fundamentals of Rugby Goal Kicking
Goal kicking is a full body movement full of angles, balance, strength and timing.
Have you ever watched a game of professional rugby union and seen a goal kicker slot the ball through the post from anywhere on the field effortlessly?
No matter the size of the crowd, the noise, the weather, or pressure, you watch on as an elite kicker systematically goes through their routine and kicks the ball perfectly.
In rugby union, a goal kicker has the biggest responsibility on the field and cannot be underestimated. They are normally the difference between winning and losing and keep the scoreboard ticking over. This has become more evident for Australia in recent years, usually being the difference in the Wallabies success.
In fact, if you’re a rugby fan, you would’ve just witnessed how important having an established goal kicker in the team is within the sport.
We all are still on a high after watching comeback kid, Quade Cooper put in a near perfect performance wearing Wallaby gold last weekend in his first game back after being recalled into the team after a four-year exile.
Cooper sealed the win after the buzzer with a cool, calm and thumping kick from 45 meters out.
If he missed, the hype around him right now would be completely different.
There is a lot of baggage that comes with being the kicker; some succeed and thrive, others crumble in the moment.
With so much added pressure on a goal kicker in sport, how does an amateur prepare to transition into a seasoned kicker?
Here are a few things to remember when lining up for your next kick.
Where to start?
A lot of young kickers look up to their idols and try replicate their particular kicking style. While they are a great aim for perfection, don’t hold yourself to a similar standard.
Don’t start changing your kicking style every practice – it’s about what feels comfortable to you.
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF RUGBY GOAL KICKING
1. The Set Up
Every goal kicker will have their own unique set up which will suit their style and action. A good tip here is to line the ball up with the seam and valve facing away from you and towards the goal. Having the seam and valve away from you helps with consistency as the inside of the ball is different around the valve.
2. The Run Up
Every player also has a unique style before their run up and Quade Cooper is the perfect example.
Quade has changed his style a few times because he keeps finding new ways to make him feel more comfortable kicking.
No style of his has been more famous than the rotating “holding the rope” technique back in the glory days of 2011. Even consider how Jonny Wilkinson use to kick the ball.
Choose a style that works for you and not someone else.
3. Opposite Foot Placement
The opposite foot should always be placed directly alongside the ball about a half a foot out. The angle of this foot should always be pointing in the direction of the posts. Angled out it would go left and angled in it would go right. Having the foot placement too far forward will decrease your power, and having it too far back will make you kick further up the ball with less accuracy.
4. The Sweet Spot
The kicking leg should always connect with the same point on the ball. Where the sweet spot is depends on your set up and style.
5. Shoulder and Head
If the kicker was a right footer, his left shoulder and head should always be over the ball in a powerful position and his head down, eyes fixed on the strike. A good tip here is to imagine the ball is glass and as you are over the ball you should be able to look through it to see your foot strike.
6. The Follow Through
After the strike, every goal kicker needs to follow through the line of the ball. This helps accuracy, consistency and power. Some players, however, fall away to the side of the ball instead of in front of the ball. If you swing through the ball and finish in front, often you would achieve greater distance and a higher level of accuracy than those that fall away to the side.
Never skip leg day!
It should be common sense, but to be an accurate and great goal kicker, you must strengthen your lower limbs.
Lower limb strength will help correct muscle function and kicking technique. This allows kickers to create power, stability, accuracy and distance to their kicking game says Physical Performance Coach, Simon Price.
While you cannot go past the basics such as the squat or the dumbbell walking lunge, here are a few other exercises to do in the gym or weights room to help improve your kicking.
Exercises to incorporate into your program:
- Lunges (barbell or dumbbell) or Bulgarian split squats (barbell)
- Copenhagen exercises (groin strength)
- Uni-lateral and bi-lateral movements
- Trunk rotation
Tips for goal kickers wanting to improve:
- Strength is key! Don’t neglect your lower body in the gym.
- Monitor your kicking load.
- Practice your craft! You won’t improve without the extra work.
- Always incorporate a good warm up and warm down in your training sessions as it will help reduce the risk of injury.
Speak with a professional
Everyone has individual traits and abilities and if you’re new to exercise and sport it can be tough to know where to start safely.
Accredited exercise professionals are university-qualified who are equipped with the knowledge and skills to improve health, fitness, well-being, performance, and assist in the prevention of chronic conditions.
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Written by Exercise Right. We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series. The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.
Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.