One of the most rubbery statistics in Australian Rules football is the ‘Longest Kick’. An investigation of a set of records, referred to in this article as the 3AW records, shows that many the records listed are not as clear cut as they first appear.
This article examines a few of these records and uncovers some interesting stories behind them.
This article examines a few of these records and uncovers some interesting stories behind them.
Table of contents
- Some of the Records in Detail
IntroductionThe most detailed list of distance records was sourced from the 3AW Book of Footy Records, by Graeme Atkinson and Michael Hanlon (Matchbooks) 1989 and is available on the Footystates Website.
This set of figures includes breakdown by type of kick and event type, but does not specify if the distances are ‘in air’ only, or specify what size of football was used. I have used these figures as the basis for the article below.
Comparing Apples with Apples?The overall longest kick in history records are dominated by place kicks made prior to WW1 when technology was less accurate and the ball was bigger than it is now. The smaller ball has increased accuracy, but reduced the distances.
Over time and through experience at competitions records have been established in a number of categories. There are records by type of kick (Place Kick, Drop Kick and Punt) and also by event type (at practice, in game, or in a kicking competition). In game records dominate the list of longest ever recorded kicks. The top entries on the list from kicking competitions appear 27th and 28th in the longest all-time kicks.
Further differentiation could also be set for different sized footballs being used. International kicking competitions have had kickoff’s with both Australian balls and American balls and published results for each category. Laws on the size of the Australian ball have also included changes in 1904, 1930 and 1939. Many records for long kicks were set when pre 1920, when a larger ball was used and this factor should be taken into account by the reader.
Another clarification not clear in the records is whether the kick has been ‘in the air’ or if the distance the ball rolled after hitting the ground has also been included. This difference is clear in American records where originally a kick was only recorded based on the distance in the air, but now includes the distance the ball rolled.
In American football altitude has also been a factor, and a number of their distance records have been set at grounds with higher altitudes.
A quick review of the top 20 longest kicks (table 1) illustrates a bias to pre World War one, in game place kicks.
Table 1: 3AW Longest Kicks – Top 20 longest kicks of all types
|1||In Game||Drop kicks||105.5m (116 yards)||Fred Fanning||(Melbourne Seconds VFL), v Richmond, Seconds Grand Final, MCG, September 1939.|
|2||In Game||Place kicks||95.71m (104 yards, 2ft)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFA), v Carlton, East Melbourne CG, August 1893.|
|3||At Practice||Place kicks||98.48m (107 yards, 2ft 1in)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFL), East Melbourne CG, June 22 1899|
|4||At Practice||Place kicks||96.52m (105 yards, 1ft)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL), Junction Oval, July 21 1914|
|5||In Game||Place kicks||94.49m (103 yards, 1ft)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL) v South Melbourne, Junction Oval, June 15 1907.|
|6||At Practice||Place kicks||94.23m (103 yards, 2in)||Jack Leith||(Melbourne VFL),. MCG, May 23 1905|
|7||In Game||Place kicks||93.88m (102 yards, 2ft)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFL), v Collingwood, East Melbourne CG, May 23 1900.|
|8||At Practice||Place kicks||93.88m (102 yards, 2ft)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL), Junction Oval, April 24 1913.|
|9||At Practice||Place kicks||93.27m (102 yards)||Dave McNamara||(Essendon ‘A’, VFA), Essendon Recreation Reserve, August 6, 1912|
|10||In Game||Place kicks||92.66m (101 yards, 1ft)||Dave Higginbotham||(Geelong VFA), v Fitzroy, Brunswick Street Oval, September 1888.|
|11||In Game||Place kicks||92.35m (101 yards)||Dave McNamara||(Essendon ‘A’ VFA), v Northcote, Croxton Park, July 1911.|
|12||At Practice||Place kicks||92.35m (101 yards)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFL), East Melbourne CG, August 27 1901.|
|13||In Game||Place kicks||92.05m (100 yards, 2ft)||Jack Leith||(Melbourne VFA), v Geelong, Corio Oval, September 1896.|
|14||In Game||Place kicks||91.44m (100 yards)||Dave McNamara||(Essendon ‘A’ VFA), v Prahran, Toorak Park, August 1912.|
|15||In Game||Place kicks||90.53m (99 yards)||Albert Thurgood||(Fremantle WA), v West Perth, Fremantle, July 1895.|
|16||In Game||Place kicks||88.39m (96 yards, 2ft)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFA), v Southern Tasmania, Hobart, July 1893.|
|17||In Game||Place kicks||86.87m (95 yards)||Jack Leith||(Melbourne VFA), v Richmond, Punt Road Oval, 1896.|
|18||In Game||Punt||86.56m (94 yards, 2ft)||Harry Vallence||(Carlton VFL), v Collingwood, Victoria Park, May 27 1933.|
|19||In Game||Drop kicks||86.26m (94 yards, 2ft)||Horrie Clover||(Carlton VFL), v Richmond, Princes Park, July 9 1921.|
|20||In Game||Place kicks||86.26m (94 yards, 1ft)||Jack Leith||(Melbourne VFL), v Carlton, Princes Park, August 12 1905.|
The Windy Bias of In Game Records
One of the most obvious aspects of the records is the difference between event types. In-match distances are significantly longer than those measured in kicking competitions. This difference is quite marked.
To get an estimate of how marked, I have done some quick calculations. An average of the top 10 place kicks, drop kicks and punts for in-game records is 85.93m as opposed to 73.71m for in competition kicks. A difference of just over 16.6% longer distances for in game records. This pattern is consistent for each type of kick.
In game records are higher than competition records for a number of reasons
- Wind assistance will account for a large percentage of the variation.
- Without computers and TV; exact locations would be less clear than in a kicking competition causing start/end positions to be exaggerated.
- Not all record kicks may have been measured by a tape and may have been measured by supporters pacing out the kick after the game.
One factor that might count in the reverse and explain why match records are further that kicking competition records is that players are full of adrenaline in a game.
The 3AW Statistics include records achieved at practice, but only for place kicks. The averages for kicks at practice is similar to that of in game kicks, with the average of kicks at practice being marginally longer. The fact that records at practice are similar to the in game records points to the idea wind and not adrenaline is the key difference.
An idea of distancesI have always found distances to be a blurry concept and find it hard to picture how far 90 yard actually is. To aid with this I have mocked up a rough scale plan of the MCG.
The MCG has dimensions of around 160m x 141m from fence to fence (roughly 155m length in playing area. Looking straight down the ground, the defensive 50m line is approximately 105m from goal. Not all Australian Rules grounds are the same size and an 80 meter kick would go much further than half the length of the ground on a smaller football ground.
Fred Fanning is said to have kicked his 105.5 meter kick from the MCG wing, o be true this means it was kicked from the defensive wing.
Some of the Records in DetailA few records and names in the list are worth reviewing in detail.
Albert Thurgood and the early days
The rules were still evolving at this time. The rules for Australian rules football stated that a number 2 rugby ball was to be used. It was not until 1904 that an Australian Rules football was regulated to its own measurements.
The earliest king of the long kick was Albert Thurgood. With 13 entries in the 3AW list, Thurgood appears in the list the most times. He shares the honour with another football great, Dave McNamara.
Thurgood played with Essendon from 1892-94, then Freemantle 1895-98 and finally returned to Essendon from 1899-1902. A leading goal kicker for the period, Thurgood was named in Essendon’s Team of the Century.
1893 appears to have been Thurgoods golden year for kicking with seven of his record kicks being recorded in that year. Essendon won their 3rd premiership in a row that year and in 1894, Thurgoods last, would win their fourth in a row.
In the last game of the 1893 season, Thurgood kicked 12 goals against Richmond, a Victorian record for the most goals in a match at the time. His 64 goals for the season was another record, passing his own record of 56 goals in the previous year.
Thurgood’s records, which illustrate has amazing 1893 year are listed below. Note the two records in one game against Carlton in August 1893.
Table 2: Thurgood Record Kicks in the 3AW list
|1||In Game||Drop kick||73.15m (80 yards)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFA), v Footscray, at Footscray, 1893.|
|2||In Game||Place Kick||88.39m (96 yards, 2ft)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFA), v Southern Tasmania, Hobart, July 1893.|
|3||In Game||Drop kick||82.30m (90 yards)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFA), v Melbourne, MCG, July 1893.|
|4||In Game||Place Kick||80.47m (88 yards)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFA), v Geelong, East Melbourne CG, 1893.|
|5||In Game||Place Kick||95.71m (104 yards, 2ft)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFA), v Carlton, East Melbourne CG, August 1893.|
|6||In Game||Drop kick||69.49m (76 yards)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFA), v Carlton, East Melbourne CG, August 1893.|
|7||In Game||Punt||75.29m (82 yards, 1ft)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFA), v Geelong, Corio Oval, September 1893.|
|8||In Game||Punt||80.47m (88 yards)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFA), v Fitzroy, Brunswick Street, May 1894.|
|9||In Game||Place Kick||90.53m (99 yards)||Albert Thurgood||(Fremantle WA), v West Perth, Fremantle, July 1895.|
|10||In Game||Place Kick||93.88m (102 yards, 2ft)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFL), v Collingwood, East Melbourne CG, May 23 1900.|
|11||In Game||Drop kick||77.11m (84 yards, 1ft)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFL), v Carlton, East Melbourne CG, August 17 1901.|
|12||In Game||Drop kick||78.64m (86 yards)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFL), v Collingwood, Lake Oval, September 7 1901.|
|13||In Game||Punt||73.15m (80 yards)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFL), v Collingwood, East Melbourne CG, June 9 1906.|
|1||Competition||Punt||64.03m (70 yards, 1in)||Albert Thurgood||(Essendon VFL), Powlett Recreation Reserve|
As for the accuracy of the distances on the list, I remain unconvinced.
One match that received extensive review was the 1895 Freemantle v West Perth game.
In an extensive article in the Western Mail, each of Thurgood’s record total of 14 goals for the match is described. The longest distance mentioned was his 5th goal, “a fine kick at fully 55 yards distance from the posts” according to the Western Mail (Perth) 26-Jul-1895 p15, no mark similar to the 99 yard mark listed in the 3AW records is mentioned by the Western Mail.
Dave McNamara at Echuca 1928
Table 3: Dave McNamara Record kicks in the 3AW list
|1||In Game||Drop kick||77.72m (85 yards)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL), v Melbourne, MCG, June 1 1907.|
|2||In Game||Place Kick||94.49m (103 yards, 1ft)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL) v South Melbourne, Junction Oval, June 15 1907.|
|3||In Game||Place Kick||92.35m (101 yards)||Dave McNamara||(Essendon ‘A’ VFA), v Northcote, Croxton Park, July 1911.|
|4||In Game||Place Kick||91.44m (100 yards)||Dave McNamara||(Essendon ‘A’ VFA), v Prahran, Toorak Park, August 1912.|
|5||In Game||Place Kick||84.43m (92 yards, 1ft)||Dave McNamara||(Essendon ‘A’ VFA), v Footscray, North Melb CG, September 1912.|
|6||In Game||Place Kick||85.04m (93 yards)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL), v Collingwood, Victoria Park, May 19 1923.|
|1||Competition||Place Kick||77.55m (84 yards, 2ft 5in)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL), Junction Oval, April 3 1909.|
|2||Competition||Place Kick||78.94m (86 yards 1ft)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL), Launceston, 1913.|
|3||Competition||Place Kick||78.03m (85 yards, 1ft)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL), SCG, August 12 1914.|
|4||Competition||Place Kick||81.99m (89 yards, 2ft)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL), SCG, August 13, 1914.|
|5||Competition||Place Kick||79.86m (87 yards, 1ft 9in)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL), Ballarat, 1922.|
|6||Competition||Place Kick||71.37m (78 yards, 2in)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL), Sydney 1923.|
|7||Competition||Place Kick||65.53m (71 yards, 2ft)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL, MCG, September 20 1928.|
|8||Competition||Punt||65.53m (71 yards, 2ft)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL), Echuca, September 20 1928.|
Between the early 1900’s and 1930 the regulation Australian Rules football was smaller than the 1890’s when Thurgood’s set most of his records, but larger than it would be in the 1930’s and onward. It is speculation, but the fact that so many distance records were set when the ball was larger does suggest some bias.
Reviewing some of these records is a mixed blessing
Before we start, one kick appears to be missing from the 3AW list, a 1914 kick of 96.5 yards. This kick was important enough for the ball to be mounted.
|Year||Collection||Image||Description||Event||Manufacturer||On Public Display|
|1914||St Kilda Heritage Museum||The inscription on the football reads 'ACTUAL BALL USED - MCNAMARAS PLACE KICK'. The plaque is engraved as “ T W Sherrin maker”||Ball from Dave McNamara’s longest kick, (96.5 yards on July 21, 1914)||Sherrin||Yes (St Kilda Heritage Museum Moorabbin)|
Firstly, there is no record of a 103 yard 1 foot kick in the Argus report of the match against South Melbourne in 1907. Recorded as a spiteful game and with more than a full column on the game there is no mention of a spectacular record kick. (The Argus 17-Jun-1907 p6)
Secondly, there was a kicking competition at the 1914 Football carnival in Sydney. The carnival was badly timed, as what was to become World War One was declared while the Western Australian Team’s boat was en route. The kicking competition featured rugby great H.H. ‘Dally’ Messenger who won the accuracy competition against West Australian H.Limb and then competed in the distance kicking competition against McNamara and others. McNamara won the competition and the Referee Newspaper records his winning kick as 67 yards 8 inches. After the competition finished McNamara kicked again for 76 yards, a ‘New South Wales Record”. (Referee (NSW) 19-Aug-1914 p12). Neither of the two distances approach the 89 yards 2 feet mentioned in the 3AW records.
Thirdly, there was some success with McNamara’s famous 1923 kick of 93 yards. Newspapers of the day reported that the distance was measured out by the committee after the game. The 93 yards also appears in the newspaper just days after the event with an additional clarification that the distance was the ‘in air’ distance.
Finally, the listing of McNamara’s record punt set in Echuca is probably the most dubious. The 3AW list carries a number of records set in a 1928 Melbourne’s Sporting Globe kicking. A review of the results show that McNamara is listed as setting record kicks in Melbourne and in Echuca on the same day. Newspaper reports at the time put him in Melbourne (Albany Advertiser WA - 29Sep1928 p4) and I can find no link to McNamara being in Echuca.
One possibility is that the location listed is incorrect and that McNamara’s kick should be listed as in Melbourne. The other possibility is that the same kick has been recorded twice; as both of McNamara’s kicks are listed with exactly the same distance.
Table 4 Records in the 3AW list from the 1928 Sporting Globe kicking Competition.
|1||Competition||Place kicks||65.63m (71 yards, 2ft 4in)||Clarence Nolan||(North Melbourne VFL), MCG, September 20 1928.|
|2||Competition||Place kicks||65.53m (71 yards, 2ft)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL, MCG, September 20 1928.|
|3||Competition||Place kicks||65.07m (71 yards, 6in)||Gordon Coventry||(Collingwood VFL), September 20 1928.|
|1||Competition||Punt||65.53m (71 yards, 2ft)||Dave McNamara||(St Kilda VFL), Echuca, September 20 1928.|
|2||Competition||Punt||68.43m (74 yards, 2ft, 6in)||Lee Kew Ming||(North Melbourne VFL), Echuca, September 20 1928.|
Robert Allen’s recent biography of Kew Ming brings to life an extra-ordinary Australian. Kew Ming served in Two World Wars and received the Military Medal while fighting in the infamous mud of Paschendaele in 1917 and ended the war a Sergeant.
In a racially prejudiced Country Victoria, Kew Ming would not have received many favours from the surveyor the paper arranged to measure his kicks. Despite the odds, when the results were announced, Kew Ming was awarded victory in two out of three categories with the longest drop kick (73 yards) and longest punt (74 yards 2 feet 6 inches).
Ray Kercheaval’s 91 Yard Punt with an Australian Football
After initial failure when researching this kick, I have had some success but not enough to confirm the record. There is no American footballer named Kercheaval and no Ray Kercheval. But another similarly named footballer was famous for his long kicking.
Ralph Kercheval (1911-2010) was the oldest living NFL player when he died in 2010. Kercheval was a star at the University of Kentucky (the Wildcats) before playing seven years of football with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1934-40).
The ‘Dodgers’ played American Football in the NFL from 1930-48 but the franchise had previously existed as the Dayton Triangles, and today, after yet more relocations and changes is known as the Indianapolis Colts.
At the University of Kentucky, Kercheval had a reputation for long kicking. In 1933, against Cincinnati, when he punted 10 times for 520 yards, a league records he still holds.
Many of his punts were difficult quick kicks out of the single-wing formation, meaning that he had to take the snap only 5 or 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage and boot it quickly. During his seven-year NFL career with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1934-40).... Kercheval's longest punt was an 86-yarder against the immortal Bronko Nagurski and the Chicago Bears on Oct. 20, 1935.
'30s UK Star Had a Leg Up on Kicking by Billy Reed Lexington Herald-Leader (October 29, 1993) via http://www.bigbluehistory.net/bb/statistics/Players/Kercheval_Ralph.html
In a 1989 interview with Bill Christie of the L.A. Times, Christie wrote that Kercheval was one of the best ever punters in College Football and that the team would often pass the ball to Kercheval to kick rather than running the ball down the field.
Kercheval had an unorthodox punting style. He would hold the ball one-handed before releasing it, and the motion gave the appearance that he was slamming the ball on his foot, instead of dropping it.
'I never thought about how I kicked,' Kercheval said. 'But whenever I’d try to hold the ball with both hands, it would be tough for me to balance it.'
Source: L.A. Times 9-Jan-1989
Billy Reed Lexington Herald-Leader also has insights into Kercheval's style.
As part of his punting technique, Kercheval seemed to throw the ball downward. He once explained that he held the ball with one hand on top and a little to to the side, which allowed the left arm to swing as if he were in stride and gave him excellent balance.''
'30s UK Star Had a Leg Up on Kicking by Billy Reed Lexington Herald-Leader (October 29, 1993)
Known for his long kicking, records show that Ralph played a game at Wrigley Field (Chicago) on 20-Oct-1935 and kicked a record 86 yard goal in the game. Records are pretty thin, but this appears to be the most likely occasion for a kicking competition where he kicked 91 yards with an Australian ball (an event to match the 3AW listing). There is no mention of a kicking competition in the Brooklyn newspaper report the next day, nor is the 3AW report actually clear that it was an Australian Rules ball; an American in 1935 could easily have been referring to an Australian rugby ball. There appears to be no mention of this kick in the Australian newspapers, even in later years when talking about long kicks. I can also think of no reason why an Australian football would be used in a kicking competition at Chicago at that time. An international kicking competition did exist, but only from 1937 (Sporting Globe 12Jul1939 p11).
A 91 yard kick is mentioned a number of times in relation to the match:
'He says that in his rookie year with football’s Dodgers, he was credited with punting a ball 91 yards in the air, against the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field. NFL records show that Kercheval had a kick in that game that went 86 yards. Perhaps the ball hit the ground and bounced back in Kercheval's direction.'
Source: L.A. Times 9-Jan-1989
The other love of Kercheval's life was thoroughbred racing. After graduating, he went to work for famed breeder C.V. Whitney, and spent the rest of his professional life in the horse business, with the exception of four years in the Army during World War II.
So no direct proof either way, but if anyone was going to set a record for a punt Ralph Kercheval would be a good choice.
Fred Fanning’s 116 yard Drop Kick in 1939
Fanning is said to have kicked 116 yards, (105.5 meters) so if you imagine him kicking straight down the ground a the the MCG, it would be from within his own defensive 50 meter line (Even though 50m lines didn’t exist back then, you have an idea that was a long kick). Even from the boundary line, such a kick would have been from way back in his own defensive half.
Contemporary newspaper reports are revealing.
September 1939 was a tumultuous time in the world, as Poland had been invaded by Germany weeks before, and the Second World War had just begun. The papers were full of war news, but football still received good coverage.
Fanning was yet to play a senior game and was not part of Melbourne’s 1939 premiership team that played only a few days later. The Argus records that Fanning was Richmond’s chief obstacle in the Seconds Final, with twelve goals of Melbourne’s total of 22 goals. The Argus writer notes that Fanning’s eighth goal was from a long way out on the boundary was a gem. (Argus 29-Sep-1939 p15). The Age correspondent records that Fanning was in extraordinary form with a 65-yard kick from the half forward wing. (The Age 29-Sep-1939 p4) Neither paper mentions a 116 yard kick, that was 10 yards longer than any previous kick in football history.
Fred Fanning would go on to play 104 senior games for Melbourne between 1940 to 1947. To this date he holds the record for the highest number of goals kicked in a VFL/AFL game, with 18 goals which occurred in his final senior appearance against St Kilda in round 19, 1947.
Fred Hughson – August 1943
The 3AW records have Fitzroy captain Fred Hughson with a record 84 yard kick at the Brunswick Street Oval in August 1943.
Fitzroy played South Melbourne in a nail biter at Brunswick street in round 3 on the 22nd of May 1943 when Fitzroy came back from a 23 point deficit at three quarter time to win by a single point 16.17 (113) to South Melbourne’s 16.16 (112). Fred Hughson usually played full back and did not kick a goal in the game.
Aintree writing in the Adelaide News (24-May-1943 p6) notes that Hughson amazed spectators at the match when he kicked a ball 83 yards 11 inches in a kicking/throwing contest which included American Marine Private William Jost who threw the ball a just short of 70 yards.
As this kick is not included in the list and the August kick cannot be found, it is most likely that the date in the 3AW records is incorrect, and the 83 yard 11 inch kick in May has been incorrectly added.
Jeff Fehring’s 94 Yards at Moorabbin Oval, April 11 1981.Finally few modern kicks appear on the list where there is video footage.
The blurry video footage shows ruckman Fehring kicking a punt from the defensive side of the centre square at Moorabbin and the ball bouncing through for a goal. It is not clear what distance was measured, whether it was to the goal or where the first ball landed.
Collingwood won a high scoring game that day. The game was tied at half time by eventually Collingwood kicked 23.19 (157) to the Saints 19.21 (135). The monster goal was Fehring’s only goal that day. It was reputedly achieved just after he had been reported.
Born at Leitchville near Echuca, Jeff played 26 VFL senior games from 1977 to 1981, the first three years with Geelong and the final two with the saints. In all he only ever kicked four League goals and has been remembered ever after for those 15 seconds of video footage.
Jeff later played in the SANFL before managing a farm where lack of rain, marriage breakup and depression ended his life earlier than it should have at age 52 in 2008.
One thing that Jeff’s 1981 kick does is demonstrate that such kicks are possible and the other records may not be complete fiction.
Final CommentsThere is so much more that could be written on long kicking records. From the international competitions featuring Stanford University and Carlton in the 1930’s to the sponsored kicking competitions on Chanel 7 in the 1960’s to the Sunkick competition, to the effect of ball shape and whether Burley balls go further that Sherrins.
One interesting aspect of the records that I did not get to comment on is that full backs such as Joe Garbutt, Fred Hughson, and Paul Vinar feature just as do goal kickers such as Thurgood, Coventry and Pratt.
Hopefully this article brings to light a few events from football’s past and is a catalyst for further work on kicking records.
If anyone does want to claim the longest kick and wants to send some evidence, I would love to see it.
Note that the original statistic are sourced from the 3AW Book of Footy Records, by Graeme Atkinson and Michael Hanlon (Matchbooks) 1989 and is available on the Footystates Website.