Geelong’s Stevie Johnson is an enigma of the competition.
A larrikin with bundles of talent, his highlight reel is unique and unlikely to be repeated again.
However, it is his unique approach to goal scoring on an angle that has the footy world talking.
Instead of opting for the banana or the drop punt, Johnson has pioneered a seemingly new approach by kicking across his body.
Johnson’s unorthodox approach has been so successful that his teammates and rivals are trying to emulate his trick.
Now it should be pointed out that the curve has been in the game since year dot.
Yet, its proliferation had been limited to shots generally exactly on the boundary where there was little leeway for a straight shot.
Thanks to Johnson, players are now resorting to the curve even if they are on the slightest of angles.
In many ways, they have resorted to the same technique their Irish cousins in Gaelic football have been perfecting for a good century.
Many of the great football experts are baffled as to why there has been a sudden change in player routine.
I although, no great expert of the game, was also intrigued as to why the ‘J Curve’ had become so popular.
After wasted hours studying video and replays, it took a couple of beers and a kick about at a local oval for me to find a potential answer.
Recently, I was at a local football game when I decided to have a kick at quarter time on the field.
While there is no video evidence of me kicking, (It’s rated R for it horror themes) I tried to imitate Stevie J just for a laugh.
What started out as a laugh amongst friends, turned into an answer to the ‘J Curve’ puzzle.
Imagine you take a mark 30 meters out from goal on a 40-degree angle.
Immediately, your room for error is diminished before the umpire sets you back on your mark, which also further restricts the room you have to play with.
With the angles so tight, your kick has to be accurate and that means you need to have extra control over where the ball is placed.
Traditionally players would attempt the drop punt or a banana; both are riddled with risk.
The drop punt gives players little ability to swing the ball towards goal, while the banana option relies on the player hitting the right part of the ball while getting it to swing towards goal rather than away from goal.
Together the drop punt and banana kick share one flaw; they both require you to drop the ball well in advance of it connecting with your foot.
The player therefore loses control of the where the ball is going in relation to their feet.
If you drop the ball incorrectly, the connection and follow through with the foot will also be faulty.
This is where the ‘J Curve’ comes in.
With the ‘J Curve’, the ball doesn’t leave the hands until the last second before connection with the foot.
This allows players to guide the ball onto their foot for a longer period, reducing the potential of outside forces affecting the direction of the ball.
Kicking across the body also allows the player to keep control of the ball direction throughout the kicking motion.
This is paramount as kicking on an angle for goal leaves player such little room for error. There’s an increased need for players to exert greater control over the course of the ball.
In short, the ‘J Curve’ is becoming popular because compared to a drop punt or banana, it reduces the risk when shooting for goal on an angle while giving players greater control over the ball and its direction.
Expect to see it more as AFL players look for that extra edge when shooting towards the big sticks.