Flick Schtick

The Flick Pass

The legality of the flick pass has varied throughout the history of the game (of Aussie Rules): it began to gain prominence in the early 1920s, before the Australian National Football Council (ANFC) voted to abolish it before the 1925 season, making the handpass with a clenched fist (sometimes termed a punch pass to distinguish it from the flick pass) the only legal form of handpass. This was not widely popular, as the style of punch pass used at the time a much more cumbersome disposal than a flick pass, and it resulted in the game being played at a slower pace. The flick pass was re-instated before the 1934 season.  In the late 1950s and early 1960s it re-emerged as a common technique to achieve centre square clearances from scrimmages, particularly at VFL club Fitzroy. Of the 88 handballs executed during the 1961 VFL Grand Final, 18 were flick passes.



Captains Differ on Alterations to Rules


League Skippers Criticise Effect


New football rules adopted by the Australasian Football Council when in Hobart will come in for a great deal of criticism from footballers. Several league captains in Adelaide consider the handball used in this State cannot be improved upon. The rule which states that ‘a free kick must be given when a player forces the ball out of bounds has also been criticised. Captains, however, commend the rule which states that only. ‘one player should stand an opponent’s mark.

When the Football Council sat for its deliberations this year in Hobart there were many important matters to be dealt with by members. Chief of the new rules which were adopted are those relating to handball, forcing the ball of out bounds, and the standing of an opponent’s mark. Footballers are almost unanimous in their condemnation of the new rule which states that if any player kicks or forces the ball out of bounds the umpire shall give a free kick to the nearest player on the opposing side, or if in doubt shall bounce the ball. The other two rules have some points to commend them. The punching of the ball deliberately instead of the open handed “flicking” now allowable in Adelaide is thought to be a good idea by Caust, captain of South Adelaide. The new rule that only one player be allowed to stand on the mark when a player is kicking for goal from a free kick or mark is commended by several of the captains, who were approached this week for their opinions on the three subjects.

News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), Thursday 21 August 1924, page 9



Carlton Coach Perplexed

Even after last night’s conference on the new handball rule between members of the Umpires’ Board, coaches of League clubs, and the Umpire’s confusion as to how far a player can go in making the pass, without risking being penalised by the umpire.

DAN MINOGUE, Carlton’s coach, who demonstrated to the conference last night what he called the “old Collingwood hand-pass,” and which he considers is legitimate hand-ball, according to the new rule, is in a quandary as to whether to teach this pass to Carlton players or not. Last night Mr Norden approved of the passes mode by Minogue, but the chairman of the Permit and Umpire Committee (Mrs. Ramsay) expressed the opinion that some were on the “danger line”. The doubt thus created will probably not be cleared up until coaches attend the umpires’ class on April 19 and 26. Meanwhile, Dan Minogue will consult members of the Carlton committee before instructing his charges in the “flick-pass” “OLD COLLINGWOOD PASS”. “What I called the old Collingwood hand-pass,” said Minogue today, “was not really peculiar to Collingwood. It was practised by all, or nearly all, League clubs, until the hand-ball rule was altered some years ago. But Collingwood, somehow, seemed to do that pass a little better than other clubs.


To make the pass Minogue explained, the ball must be held firmly in one hand (usually the left), and then knocked or smacked with a “heel and finger” action by the other hand. There must be the distinct sound of a smack, otherwise it may be a “scoop,” “sweep,” or throw.


Minogue added that he first learned what he later knew as “the Collingwood pass” 2000 ft. below the surface in a Bendigo mine. It was demonstrated with a rag “ball” during “crib-time” by a miner named “Jumbo” McDonald, a Long Gully footballer. When Minogue came to Melbourne in 1911 he found the same pass in operation in the League. Mr Alex Eason, a former Geelong player and an expert at handball, said today that much confusion would arise when the pass was put into practice. “As far as I am aware,” said Mr. Eason, the Australian National Football Council intended that the pre-war handball rule should be brought into operation when they decided to revert to the old hand pass. At last night’s meeting one of the coaches was told by Mr Norden that pre-war handball would not be allowed.

I would advise coaches to instruct their players to use the punch instead of half-crippled handball and they will then find that there would be no confusion.

Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), Thursday 12 April 1934, page 3



Official Interpretation Of Flick Pass – By ROVER

Footballers — and not a few umpires, too—have some doubt as to the exact interpretation to be given to the new flick pass rule. Some declare it is not a complete return to the hand pass of 10 or more years ago, and it is apparent that few players, even in League football, have a clear conception of what is required of them when employing the flick pass. To dispel any doubt on the point, the umpires’ coach (Mr. J. J. Quinn) teas approached, and he .made the following announcement as a direction to umpires and players; — It is not intended that the hand holding the ball shall be held rigid, as some people apparently believe. It can be moved upwards, downwards or sideways into the most advantageous position for the other hand to knock the ball in the direction desired. On no account, however, must the hand holding the ball be permitted to propel it. The free hand, which propels the ball, must not push it, but must clearly knock it. A ball dispatched by both hands moving simultaneously, without the free hand clearly tapping or knocking the ball, would constitute a throw. The umpires have been instructed to give a very broad interpretation of the rule, but on no account must a throw be allowed. It must not be thrown into the air before being knocked. Every assistance is to be given to the player to enable him to dispose of the ball quickly.

Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), Friday 18 May 1934, page 12



Will Flick Pass Increase Pace?

SIGNS of the approach of another football season are in the air.

As was the case last year, a reversion will be made to an old rule. Last year it was the out-of-bounds provision which might have been a bigger success if it had been wholly reverted to, while this season the old flick-pass, will come into operation once more. Since the flick-pass was wiped out some years ago. it was claimed that the majority of accidents in football were caused by crushes in which a player was unable to get rid of the ball quickly. The new method will test that theory. The decision of the Australian National Council to reintroduce the flick-pass met with the approbation of players, officials and supporters who desired to see the game speeded up. There is a danger however, that its value will be lost unless a proper interpretation is given by umpires.

The rule states:—

Handball is where the ball is clearly held in one band and knocked off with the other.

The discretion of umpires will be tested to the limit. Some years ago umpires were only too ready to allow a “pass” of 20 yards, but tests have proved that if the ball is not propelled by both hands, it is impossible to send it more than ten yards from a real flick.

Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 – 1954), Wednesday 17 January 1934, page 10



“Flick” Pass to Operate – DIFFICULTIES AHEAD –  By Forward

Back In 1923 and 1924 when Essendon and Fitzroy, then the all-powerful sides of the Victorian League, staged some of the fiercest football witnessed in Melbourne for years, the old cry of “throwIng the ball” was one of the stock phrases of the irate barrackers. In those days the “flick” pass, again to be introduced Into the game throughout Australia this year, caused umpire after umpire to become the butt for ridicule and contempt, and there were many adjudicators who fell by the wayside because of their lack of ability to define a “throw” from a “flick.” Eventually the Australian National Football Council decided that the rule urgently needed alteration. The law at that period read: — Handball Is when the ball Is clearly held in one hand and knocked with the other hand. After discussion at the 1924 Hobart carnival conference the National council decided to add one word to the old rule. Tills word “clenched” was tacked on behind “hand,” and the new rule then read:— Handball IB when tho ball Is clearly held In one hand and knocked with the other hand clenched.-This addition of ‘one word made a tremendous difference to the game; the cry of “throwing the ball” was no longer heard, and the umpires had their task greatly simplified. At the 1927 meeting of the National Council in Melbourne the definition of handball Was set out to read:

Handball is where the ball is clearly held in one hand and punched with the closed flat of the other hand

By 1927, however, the new law, which specified that the ball should be held stationary, as shown, by S. Coventry, Collingwood’s captain, in the picture above, and punched with the closed fist, had its opponents in South Australia and elsewhere, who declared that it closed up the game, slowed down play, and led to congestion and unnecessary rough play, particularly in front of goal. A motion for the return of the 1923 law, supported by South Australia and others, was defeated, the Victorian delegate, Mr. A. Manzie, declaring at that time that the V.F.L. and players were delighted with the amended law.

Two years later — in 1929 — Victorias new delegate to the council (Mr. I. More) strongly pressed at the council meeting on behalf of Victoria for the return of the 1923 law. He argued that it would speed up the game, and that It was impossible for a player to punch the ball correctly. South Australia supported Victoria, but Tasmania declared the old rule “an abortion,” and backed by other States, prevented the return of the old rule. At the council meeting in Sydney last year, however, the Victorian delegate (Mr. More), despite renewed opposition from Tasmania and West Australia, secured the necessary voting power in favour of the old law, and thus from 5th May onwards the much-abused “flick” pass of the 1923-24 period once again comes into operation at the various grounds.

Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), Wednesday 21 March 1934, page 6



‘The Telegraph’ Flick Pass Series No.1

Easy and Accurate But Not a Lawful Handball Pass

IN a series of illustrated descriptions, “The Telegraph” will explain some of the forms of flick pass—lawful and otherwise— that were used in the days of open-hand passes in Australian Rules football.

The flick pass illustrated above (by showing three successive positions of the movement) was always unlawful, but nevertheless was employed freely in the days of passes with the open hand. The ball is really thrown with the holding hand (the right), and the supposed striking hand (the left) only “tickles” the ball as it goes by, affecting neither the direction nor the speed to any material extent. In the rush of the play It is easily imagined that the right hand has simply brought the ball smartly into position, and that the propulsion has come from a blow with the open left hand. The advantage of this unlawful hand-pass was the ease and accuracy with which it could be affected. It will very likely be resurrected this year. A direction to the umpires from the League that the holding hand must be at rest in relation to the body at the moment when the ball is struck would do a lot to block the possibility of the movement, but it would block at the same time other types of hand-pass which were regarded in the past as perfectly fair.

The new rule reads:—

Handball is where the ball is clearly held In one hand and knocked with the other hand

The rule in force last year read:—

Handball la where the ball is clearly held in one hand and punched with the closed flat of the other hand.

Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), Friday 20 April 1934, page 19



‘The Telegraph’ Flick Pass Series No.2

OUT OF A TIGHT CORNER – Lawful in the Old Days, but Perhaps Not Now

IN a series of illustrated descriptions, “The Telegraph” is explaining in Australian rules football, lawful and otherwise — that were used in the days of open hand passessome of ihe forms of flick pass—

The flick pass Illustrated above (by showing three successive positions of the movement) was lawful in the days of open-hand passes, and accords with the spirit of the new rule. A strict interpretation may, however, block It. The ball is lifted smartly with the holding hand -(the right) , and just as it reaches the extreme position with the arm fully upstretched, it is tapped off sharply with the striking hand (the left) , the whole action resembling a tennis serve. Being struck on its under half, the ball goes up-ward as well as forward, tfnd at the same time does a back spin which keeps It steady in the air. As the Angers of the hand are used rather than the palm, the ball goes forward only a comparatively short distance, say, 15 feet. This “tap over” pass was used very effectively for sending the ball In a gentle loop directly over the head of an opponent to a waiting comrade on the other side, and let many a player out of a tight corner. The helplessness of many players In possession of the ball under the closed flst rule, when closely surrounded by opponents, has been a feature of the play of recent years. It will be noted that In .this pass all the propulsion, or, at least, all the forward part of the propulsion, comes from the striking hand. The ball, however, Is not being held at rest in relation to the body at the moment of striking, so that if this be made a necessary condition, then the “tap over” pass described here is ruled out. A modified form, In which the ball was held definitely at rest for a moment before striking, would probably not be very effective, and, in any case, presents difficulties of execution. In the first position of the illustration above, the distance of the holding hand out from the body is exaggerated. The new rule reads: “Handball Is where the ball Is clearly held in one hand and knocked with the other hand.” The rule In force last year read: “Handball Is where the ball Is clearly held in one hand and punched with the closed fist .of the other hand.” …

Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), Friday 27 April 1934, page 18


New Rule An Abomination Says Coach


The flick pass, beloved of another generation of footballers, and South Australians in particular, is making a reappearance in Australian Rules football. A peaceful penetration — so to speak — with here and there an unadulterated throw to enliven the proceedings. The new holding-the-ball rule, which stands condemned on every ground, is forcing the change. Meanwhile the League, not knowing how to instruct umpires on handball, is making another belated attempt to repeal the holding rule by means of another rotary vote.

LEAGUE teams are in full practice swing. Naturally they are testing out the new rules adopted by the Australian National Football Council in November. The old throw-in from the boundary they have taken in their stride. They like it. They understand it. But the new holding-the-ball rule has players, coaches and umpires completely bushed. The rule is clear enough. A player when tackled must either hand pass the ball or kick it. If he drops it, as in other years, he will be free-kicked. WHERE THE DIFFICULTY OCCURS IS TO DEFINE WHAT WILL BE ALLOWED, AND WHAT WILL NOT BE ALLOWED, UNDER THE DEFINITION OF A HAND-PASS.

Joe Kelly, Footscray coach, instructed his charges on Saturday to use the flick pass and take the chances. After the practice he said, regarding the new holding-the-ball rule:— “It isn’t a rule. It’s an abomination. If it isn’t squashed before we start the season footballers should clear their consciences by joining the waiters’ union. That’s all the best of them will be—the shrewd ones—just waiters on the fellows who are foolish enough to pick up the ball, get themselves grabbed and free-kicked.

If the man with the ball is within reach of an opponent he is doomed, hand on his arm or chest, and he is forced to drop the ball. Punch it or kick it, he can’t. How can he, with a man pushing or pulling at him to unbalance him? I’ve told our fellows to get rid of the ball. They might as well be free-kicked for the flick-pass, or something near it as to be free-kicked for dropping it The best type of footballer, the man who goes in and gets the ball—makes the ball his objective—won’t stand a chance.

Joe Kelly made no bones about it.

Chancing The Flick

I noticed that St. Kilda were practising the flick pass, so I asked Dave McNamara, St Kilda’s president whether the flick would be allowed. “I don’t know,” he replied, “but it would be impossible to punch it away. We’re chancing the flick. Nobody seems to be sure about what will be allowed and what penalised.” Ansell Clarke, the St Kilda coach, told me that he had instructed the men to get rid of the ball as quickly as they could. Players could not punch it so they had to get rid of the ball as best they could.


The truth is that the nearer the hand pass allowed approximates to the throw-pass of the Association the better the rule will operate.


Naturally there is a rule covering hand-passing. It says that the ball must be rested on the palm of one hand and struck with the other clear of the hand. There are some who say that this interpretation of hand-passing was meant to re-establish the flick pass.

An Argument Recalled

However, in Victoria and Western Australia the authorities said that the ball must be struck with the clenched fist. South Australia allowed the flick pass and did not hesitate to mix in an occasional throw or two. At the last Australian National football carnival at Perth the South Australians were umpired out of the championship because Victorian and Western Australian umpires penalised any form of hand-passing other than that with the clenched fist. In short the punch pass was the recognised hand-pass. League delegates returning from Perth are disgusted with the flick passing of the South Australians. Last year, when the Victorian party arrived in Adelaide for the interstate match against South Australia, the, arguments were renewed. These largely rose out of the Association throw pass and then drifted to handball in general.

The South Australians had previously tried to introduce throwing into the code. Their experience in Perth had been a bitter one. They argued that the flick pass was still allowed under the rules. The Victorians ridiculed the suggestion and in effect said:

You watch our punch passing tomorrow

In that interstate clash the Victorians rather aided by a weak South Australian side, played the punch pass so effectively that they convinced the South Australian people that the punch pass was the right and fitting band pass.

The League now, however, has turned still another somersault. Delegates are not so sure that the punch pass, taken in conjunction with the new holding-the-ball rule, is the right pass. It might prove too severe, too great a handicap. League delegates expressed these sentiments when the South Australians, wanting to do the right thing, introduced a rotary vote to make the punch pass the only legal hand pass. Was there ever such a football dilemma? First when the Victorian League discussed this new holding-the-ball rule it voted it out. Then it later decided to support it at the Australian council. After it became law and mainly because the Victorians voted for it, rotary vote for its repeal found the League wavering again. This time it wouldn’t have the rule. Now showing its first trace of consistency since the discussion on the new holding-the-ball rule was mooted, the League has instituted still another rotary for repeal. It is hoist with its own petard.


It will be the nastiest dose of oil the League has had to swallow if it is forced to admit to the South Australians the punch pass cant be played if the holding-the-ball rule is retained. With the South Australian rotary vote on the punch pass hanging over its head like a two edged sword, the League can’t hedge. The League, the strongest supporter of the punch pass previously, will have to indicate by the way it casts its vote; whether it supports the _ South Australian request for the punch pass solely, or whether it rejects the proposal to legalise the punch as the official mode of handball. The League, when it starts to discuss the rules, at once shows its limitations. Meanwhile it seems that players and coaches have taken the position into their own hands in an endeavor lo straighten out the tangle. They are flick passing the ball in an attempt to keep the name from ridicule. They realise that the rule will be a farce unless the umpires show the greatest latitude—which means the flick pass, mixed with a more than occasional throw.


When it comes to straightening out rules, give me the logical methods of the Association. The Association is still wrong — ask Harrison House. But nevertheless the Association has a stabilised and successful code of rules. Some day, maybe, the Council and the League will understand.

Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 – 1954), Wednesday 22 March 1939, page 1


No Flick Pass In 1945 Football – By ROVER

The Football League has decided to instruct umpires to permit only the punch-pass in League football next year. Any attempt at flick-passing will be penalised. The consequent elimination of any doubt on tbe legality of hand passes will be welcomed by the umpires, players and the public.

Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), Thursday 21 December 1944, page 7


League Coaches Favor Freer Hand Pass Rule

More Flicking Than Kicking

Strongly opposed to the abolition of the punch pass stipulation is Ken Farmer, former North Adelaide champion goal-kicker, now coach of that side.

The punch pass is more direct, more certain and leaves no doubt in the minds of umpires, players and spectators that the pass was legitimate, he said. To permit the use of the open hand, he continued, would leave room for the use of the old flick pass, and then you’d get more flicking then kicking.

Tomorrow night, the league’s permit committee, which com-prises one delegate from each club, will receive copies of the umpires’ coach’s reply to the question asked him by the league. This was that he should in-form the league whether he was instructing the umpires to interpret the hand pass rule ac-cording to the punch pass instruction by the league several years ago, or according to the rule as it stands today. It already has been made clear, however, that, whatever Mr. Read’s answer is, there will be no material change in umpiring on Saturday, for the matter is in abeyance until the league considers his reply, probably on May 15.

Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), Thursday 4 May 1950, page 8


Some confusion on hand pass

Recent issues of a Victorian paper have devoted a deal of space to handball, and in each instance, emphasis was laid on the fact that the use of the open hand in knocking the ball was permissible. There was also some implied criticism of the lack of knowledge or misinterpretation common in other States. This latter view-point is contrary to the Probably it is nearer the truth to say that South Australia, in particular, had long seen the virtues of the open-handed pass. And in the 1920’s proficiency in the flick pass, which, when correctly made. was an open-hand knock, was at its peak. Yet South Australian teams were penalised so frequently for a hand-pass breach that they were forced to use the punch pass. Nor is there any doubt that Victorian teams used the punch pass exclusively and did so for many years. In fact, the Victorian influence was so strong that. SA in self-defence adopted the punch pass. What law says. The wording of the hand-ball rule has remained the same for many years, but in the last few years the interpretation of the word “knocked” was a concern to football authorities in all States. There was consensus that the word “knocked” did not exclude the use of the open hand. Consequently there was a revival in this type of hand pass. It is true that SA did unsuccessfully attempt, at the 1951 ANFC meeting at Canberra to amend the handball law so that only a clenched fist was to be used in a hand pass. The reasons for the amendment were not that SA was wedded to the punch pass, as much as from genuine desires to have an Australia-wide interpretation. This object has been achieved.

Advice given

All this, then, seems to have evoked several inquiries from readers who, in general, want to know what is demanded of players in the interpretation of the handball rule. The following is the substance of the advice given to umpires on how to apply the law which reads:

A player may handball by holding the ball in one hand and knocking it with the other hand. If the ball is not hand-balled fairly a free kick shall be given to the nearest opponent.

  1. The hand holding the ball need not be stationary. A player is making a hand pass is frequently moving at speed when movement. of the arms is natural. Thus a movement of the hand “clearly holding the ball” to the left or right in the direction of the hand pass is permissible. Similarly, a slight movement forwards or backwards, upwards, or downwards, is permissible.
  2. The action of throw-ing the ball up or letting it drop before it is knocked is not “clearly holding the ball in the hand” and should there-fore be penalised.
  3. An exaggerated movement of the hand holding the ball and the knocking-hand-that is a “pitch-fork action” should be penalised. In this latter action it is most likely, that the hand holding the ball does the propulsion and the “hand pass” becomes a two-handed throw.

Scoop action

This is also true in the “scoop action,” in which an umpire is unable to see daylight between the knocking hand and the ball. The guiding principle, then, is on the means of propulsion. The ball may be punched with the clenched fist or knocked with the open hand. Of course, as in the awarding of any free kick, the umpire should give decisions only on what he can clearly see. His view being obscured, he should never give a decision as a result of an involuntary cry of ‘Throw’ from players or spectators. He has also to be deaf to the premeditated cry of ‘Throw.’

News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), Wednesday 14 May 1952, page 22


In the 1960s, the Footscray and Fitzroy clubs especially became expert in the flick-pass and Mr. Football, Teddy Whitten was one of its finest exponents. It has been said that Footscray reached the 1961 Grand Final mainly due to its flick passing abilities. By the ‘other clubs’ Teddy mainly meant Ron Barassi and Norm Smith (Len’s brother) at Melbourne.

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