Coaching High Forwards (6th forward or 4th mid)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Written by Steve Lennie, Opposition Analyst and Pro Scout, Fremantle FC

Role of the high forward within the team structure

There are a number of roles the high forward must perform within the structures of the team including pressure roles and cover roles at stoppages, ground level roles inside the forward 50 and link or conduit roles in a team’s ball movement.

Key relationships to other positions in the team

Key relationships with other positions include supporting key forwards at ground level and at marking contests, supporting the midfield at stoppages both around a stoppage and inside a stoppage and providing an option as part of the ball movement chains coming out of the defensive 50.

Main player responsibilities of the high forward

The main responsibility is to play the role effectively, hit the scoreboard, compete and support teammates.
Expectations of the high forward in specialised situations (set plays, In 50s, stoppages):
 • At stoppages the high forward may be called upon to provide a pressure role which involves covering an exit option for the opposition which had been previously determined
 • At times may be called upon to play a cover role, either in the corridor or on the defensive side of the stoppage, which would allow the team’s winger to drop off or be used in a different role
 • Another role for the high forward could be going into the stoppage to give the team a free player at the stoppage, or pick up an opposition midfielder in a defensive role to free up one of the team’s key midfielders
 • A set play may be for the high forward to go into the stoppage at say attacking mid ground position to free up a mid who then spits forward after the stoppage hopefully to be a free forward option. The high forward would then seek out and cover the opposition mid and becoming a midfielder flipping roles and positions

Player characteristics required to play the position successfully

The high forward needs to have the characteristics of both a clever small forward and a midfielder. This includes:
 • very good endurance
 • speed
 • skill
 • footy smarts
 • Ability to recognise the opposition’s structures and tactics and adjust accordingly
 • know when to release back to work off the team’s key forwards and when to push high and get involved in the team’s ball movement structures

Coaching the high forward

Key points to get across to players
 • Read the cues in the pressure role
 • Be on the move but don’t collapse into the stoppage 
 • Scope and adjust when in a cover role
 • Know what you’ve got around you
 • Know when to release and get back to a support position for the tall forwards,
 • Stay front and square; time your run and don’t get past the fall of the ball
 • Make sure you are working up into good starting positions to then roll and break to be in a good outlet position for ball movement coming out of defence

Specific training for the position
 • In close touch work
 • Footwork, pressure and tackling techniques
 • Game simulated stoppage drills
 • Full ground ball movement simulation drills
 • Entry drills where you can work on front and square timing and snap shots
 • Leading pattern drills

Specific pre-match preparation (opposition, scouting)

Through vision and meetings know the opposition structures and how they want to set up and move the ball.

Know your likely opponents and their strengths and weaknesses, will they follow you into stoppages or not, etc.

Key hints to becoming a better player in the position

Be fit and have the running capacity of a midfielder and the burst power of a medium/small forward.

Know your structures and be a good communicator as you have to be able to work effectively with both the midfielders and the other forwards.

Specific drills to develop a player’s competencies for the position

 1- 3v1 inside a 10x10 box, 1v1 out as per set up of wing vs high forward at stoppages. The ball is thrown to the one player vs 3, who then feeds back to a teammate just outside the box, the high forward then strikes, strips and releases to receive after teammates have won the ball and feed it out to the high forward. (Can extend to drill 3).

 2- 4v4 handball drill within 15m x 15m grid, can extend out to more numbers and add in up and down ground balls.

 3- Stoppage to forwards game simulation drill, set up as per team structures and move the ball forward, mix up the high forwards roles (pressure, cover, inside) control the numbers at the stoppage if you want to use an outnumber. (Use different starting areas on the ground as to get your different structures).

 4- Inside 50 drill using 6v6 forwards manned up inside 50. Have 2 or 3 kickers outside 50, get the smalls to run leading patterns out whilst the talls work deeper in shape or blocking and rolling etc, kickers to hit up the smalls on the lead then straight away have another kicker go deep to the talls so the smalls have to get back front and square and crumb.

 5- Out of defence ball movement drill, start with a deep entry kicked in by a coach to a plus 1 deep in 5v4, make the ground bigger with spread from backs and have 5v4 again working from the midfield to the open side and corridor trying to create space and width, then another 4v4 of forwards who are working both to the ball and deep to again create space. The high forward should be getting up to the ball or creating width along with the midfielders.

This article was written as part of the requirements of the AFL Level 2 Coaching course.

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