Well, the lack of rugby last weekend gives the opportunity to focus on a particular aspect of the game. A little reflection you might call it. It really was most frustrating last Saturday. Nobody's fault; the weather just took control. On arrival at the home of Keighley Cougars Rugby League Club where Bradford & Bingley Rugby Union Club were to play their 'home' game against West Park Leeds, it was quickly apparent that the pitch was still frozen; too hard for safe play. A shame as the Bees had experienced huge bad luck over Christmas with the loss of their home ground through flooding. A quick drive over to Ilkley, only to discover that their home game had been postponed, also due to the pitch being frozen. Thankfully the forecast is good for the coming weekend which will bring a feast of rugby for ickledot and also, dear reader, you. More of that in upcoming posts but for now we're turning our attention to: kickers.
Now, this isn't intended to be an in-depth analysis of the differing styles of those who kick the extra points following a try, or take the penalties. It's a visual thing more than anything else. It's a bit irksome and disrespectful to kickers that television coverage often neglects to show the conversion in its haste to analyse a preceding try by replaying it several times over from a variety of angles. Of course, when a kick affects the balance of a scoreline towards the end of a game it will be shown but the less vital ones are often glossed over and that's a shame. ickledot always likes to get at least one series of shots showing the kicker during each game and it's interesting how different players can look when basically doing the same thing. Not talking here about the preparation to kick; the various bits of looking up, looking down, throwing grass to gauge wind direction, sidestepping and such. Not the more extreme elements of preparation as exemplified by the antics of Wales' kicker, Dan Biggar. No, this is merely the act of addressing the ball, stepping forward and kicking it.
Two great examples of how the approach can differ were on show the weekend before last in the game between Otley and Huddersfield. Otley's Stephen Depledge looks to use himself as a kind of human catapult or slingshot as the upper and lower parts of his body seem to be at right angles to each other at the kick. His upper body is low and bent forward. Here he is in the Huddersfield game.
See what I mean? There's perhaps a better example, closer and from the other side, in Otley's game against Hull last season.
It's great to see that the moves are consistent over two games across two seasons, coming from many hours of practice in order to achieve perfection. One can also see the leverage and balance gained from the arms.
As a contrast, Huddersfield's Chris Bell has a more upright action. This perhaps comes from him being a bit taller and therefore not having to channel so much of his upper body into powering the kick. ickledot was at the wrong end of the pitch to photograph his kicks in the Otley game but here he is playing for Yorkshire U20s against Lancashire last season.
Maybe the differences are subtle but at the point of impact Chris seems to be leaning back, bending forwards once the ball has gone. Whatever the differences, each variation is equally effective and suits the particular individual. Just as a final observation of kicking, it was great to see Yorkshire Women's U18 kicker having a great day against Cheshire just before Christmas. To be fair to the other two kickers, most of hers were virtually under the posts (Yorkshire's backs making the extra effort to get below them in scoring almost all their tries) but it was her relaxed, easy style that was so delightful to see. Like a forward approaching a diving goalkeeper, she put no more than necessary power into her kicks and each time chipped the ball just over the bar. Maybe her action changes for longer distances but this one was certainly effective on that afternoon.
Not long to wait til the weekend now. Have a good one!