Coaching Half Forwards

Thursday, April 30, 2015

By Jarred Moore, Development Coach, North Melbourne

Role of the Half Forward

The half forward is essentially a leading and crumbing player who can push up the ground to provide an option for team mates and must also get back inside the fifty metre arc to create or score goals.

Key Relationships to Other Positions in the Team

The half forward needs to create space for other forwards, so they must work together as forwards and also try to get front and square and crumb off the Centre Half Forward or Full Forward. They also must provide a target for the midfielders and defenders, especially when those players are under pressure.

Main Player Responsibilities of Half Forwards
  • Provide a target for midfielders and defenders (lead to the right spots and the right times)
  • Create or score goals
  • Bring the ball to ground in front of them if they cannot mark it so others can crumb (provide a contest)
  • Stop the opposition from running the ball out of defense
Expectations of the Half Forwards in Relation to Specific Situations (Set Plays)

When inside 50m:

  • They must always be moving. The half forward can either lead up at the ball carrier or get front and square to the ball carrier.
  • They must not lead into another player’s dangerous space.

Stoppages inside 50m:

  • The player needs to sacrifice for the team and open up space at the stoppage.
  • Give defensive cover in case their team loses possession in either a centre corridor position or rounding up the opposition sweeper coming off the back of the stoppage.

Centre Bounces:

  • Run in hard off the half forward line to target the opposition’s sweeper.
Characteristics Required to Play the Half Forward Role Successfully
  • Aerobic fitness to run up the ground and provide options and also get back inside the 50-metre line to create scores.
  • Speed to be quick off the mark and be a good leading target.
  • Good clean hands on the ground and in the air.
  • Accurate kicking to maximize scoring opportunities in front of goal and when passing to teammates.

Key Points to Get Across to Players

Leading patterns and working together as forwards are critical – the players need to practice where and when to lead, while they work with the other forwards. 

Practicing with a few players kicking the ball inside the forward 50 where there will be at least three or four forwards can achieve this. The forwards need to be on the move and not running into each other’s space. The kicker should only kick to a player running into space. This drill should help the players be aware of the other forwards.

Half forwards need to be able to create a contest if they cannot mark the ball. A key point to get across to them is to spoil or bring the ball to the front of the contest if they cannot mark it. This assists the other forwards to know where to be to help win the ball.

Another point the player needs to understand is to lead to the ball carrier’s leg. They need to understand that if a left footer is running out of a stoppage it may be impossible to get it to the leading player’s right hand side, so the player has to lead to the left.

Specific Training for Half Forwards

To develop leading you can use a drill (see diagram) with one forward and one defender using half the 50-metre arc. The players start in the goal square with a kicker outside 50. The forward provides a lead to the kicker while the defender works to prevent the forward marking. 

The coaching points are:

  • Using bodywork to get a break on the defender
  • Not leading too early
  • Resetting and clearing space to lead into if the first lead isn’t used

Specific Pre-Match Preparation

It is important that the players know how the opposition likes to defend. Some teams like to play a spare player in defense and others like to drop off forwards if they move too far up the ground.  Some teams will defend one on one. Specific tactics and set ups should be applied against each opposition.

Pre-match preparation should also include showing the players the expected leading patterns and working together as forwards from previous games to encourage the players to do the same in the coming game.

Key Hints for Becoming a Better Half Forward
  • Bodywork and timing is the key to a good lead. Timing of the lead can be the difference between getting the football or being too close to the ball carrier
  • Keeping on the move makes your opponent watch you and take their eyes off the ball. It also makes the opponent less likely to peel off and help someone else or fill space.
  • To be a good half forward sometimes you have to sacrifice for the team. You may need to lead your player out to create space for a team mate or you may have to give defensive cover at a stoppage. Giving a block to another player before they lead also helps the team score and will not go unnoticed.
Specific Drill for Half Forwards

This drill is designed to focus on a few different areas of competency. There are two parts to the drill.  The drill starts with a forward versus a defender just outside the goal square. There are two kickers (A and B) both with a football outside the 50-metre arc. During the drill the players are only allowed to use half the ground, this takes away some space and makes it harder for the forward.

Part 1 – Kicker A kicks a high ball into a contested marking situation at the top of the goal square. The forward competes against the defender to mark the ball or bring it to ground. Once the ball is marked or hits the ground it is thrown behind them.

Part 2 – The forward resets and makes a lead to kicker B. The defender works to close space and make a spoil. If the forward cannot get free of defender after first lead, he resets towards goal square to create space and then leads again.


Main teaching points are:

  • Use your body in contested marking contest and not your hands.
  • Use your body before leading to gain a few metres on the defender.
  • Create space for yourself if the first lead doesn’t work.

Jarred Moore is a development coach at North Melbourne. 

This article was written in 2013 as a part of the requirements for AFL Level 2 Coaching Accreditation.

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