Are the goalkicking superstars losing their radar?

Luke D'Anello Roar Pro

By Luke D'Anello, Luke D'Anello is a Roar Pro

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    Lions player Brendan Fevola (r) reacts after kicking a spectacular grubber kick goal. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

    Lions player Brendan Fevola (r) reacts after kicking a spectacular grubber kick goal. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

    Whichever way you analyse it, football games are won by teams who best maximise their opportunities. Game plans, zones, floods and forward presses are all thrown out the window if players, and particularly forwards, fail to execute their shots at goal.

    And, as it stands, AFL goalkicking is in crisis.

    The likes of Tony Lockett, Jason Dunstall and Matthew Lloyd – all superb kicks for goal in their own right – must have looked on in horror in Round 3.

    Some of the opportunities frittered away were, almost, unforgivable. It is the sort stuff that can cost you a premiership – and the last two Grand Finals have proved it.

    Goal accuracy was below 50 per cent last weekend – and it would be fair enough to opine that what was on display was sub-standard.

    Across the season so far, the conversion rate is 55 per cent – the lowest known since we were able to access data of each shot for goal in 1999. It is a disturbing trend.

    But there are compelling reasons for the drop in accuracy.

    Commentator Brian Taylor, who is a former goalkicking coach and player at Collingwood, believes conditioning staff at clubs get in the way of any meaningful goalkicking practice for players after training.

    Former St.Kilda coach Grant Thomas has backed Taylor’s view.

    The load is simply too much, the fitness gurus say. There is too much strain on the quadriceps and, therefore, the risk of injury in future weeks is increased.

    Essendon’s Lloyd is one player who made it a habit to spend an hour after most training sessions having set shots for goal.

    During his 15-year career, Lloyd converted at a rate of just under 69 per cent. Now you know how high a standard he set. His hard labour produced results.

    For comparative purposes, Dunstall converted his shots at a rate of 68 per cent, while Lockett was ultra impressive, as you would expect, at a tick under 74 per cent.

    There have been other great goalkickers, of course, but I am using these three as an example.

    Today, it’s difficult to think of anyone in their league. Nick Riewoldt (career rate of 61 per cent) is a star, but still a wonky set shot. Ditto Lance Franklin (58 per cent).

    Brendan Fevola (60 per cent) gets plenty of shots, but misses plenty. Jonathon Brown (64 per cent) is one who seems to have, well and truly, discovered his radar. This season he has booted 17 goals from 21 shots – a rate of 81 per cent. Superb.

    So, we have to ask, is it more important for these forwards to do 100 push ups or a 5km run, or work on their goal-kicking for half-an-hour?

    Arguably, the last two premierships, as mentioned, have been decided by inaccuracy in front of goal.

    But don’t blame the players, the skill, and devotion it requires, is being neglected for fear of asking too much of the players during the training week.

    And if conversion rates continue to fall, something must change. Otherwise there will be a few more games thrown away by teams this season due to wobbly boots.

    Practice still makes perfect. History tells us so.

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • April 15th 2010 @ 10:05am
      Tom said | April 15th 2010 @ 10:05am | ! Report

      Luke, how is it you can write an article like this without considering the way in which defensive structures have changed? It’s now far more common for teams to have extra defenders in the centre of the forwardline where set shots would be easier.

      I don’t have any hard data to support this, but if 20% more set shots were being taken from the flanks rather than from right in front, surely that would lead to about a 10% decrease in accuracy without reflecting at all on the kicking skills of the forwards?

    • Roar Pro

      April 15th 2010 @ 10:25am
      Luke D'Anello said | April 15th 2010 @ 10:25am | ! Report

      I take your point on board, Tom.

      But there were plenty of shots missed on the weekend from straight in front. What you say doesn’t mean we shoiuld accept more behinds being kicked than goals across a round, surely?

      I still think, regardless of where the shots are being taken from, that Lloyd, Dunstall and Lockett (just three examples) were better kicks than any forward today. And – you would know this – surely all their shots were not taken from directly in front? I’m sure Lloyd used to practice the difficult shots, too.

      • April 15th 2010 @ 11:38am
        Tom said | April 15th 2010 @ 11:38am | ! Report

        I think you could probably look at any weekend of football in the history of the VFL/AFL and pick out a number of set shots missed from straight in front. That kind of anecdotal evidence isn’t really all that useful in picking out trends.

        Lloyd was unquestionably a great kick for goal. Probably the best I’ve seen. That he acheived an average of 69% would suggest to me that anyone who can get in the 60s is doing pretty well.

        As for Lockett and Dunstall, they were also great set shots but, although again I don’t really have any evidence, my recollection is that they generally played much closer to goal than most of the modern full-forwards you’ve mentioned (Fevola is possibly an exception) and tended to lead pretty much straight in front. Not all the time, of course. But more so.

        Modern forwards should be better at kicking set shots. I don’t disagree with that. But I don’t think they’re getting any worse.

    • April 15th 2010 @ 11:02am
      Wayno said | April 15th 2010 @ 11:02am | ! Report

      It always amazes me how a guy can kick 50 metres on the run and drop the ball on his targets head and then kick it OOB on the full off his shin from a set shot 20 metres out directly in front. It must be a psycological thing.
      I attended the Lions V Power game on the weekend and the set shot kicking from the Powers forwards was beyond disgraceful.

      • Roar Guru

        April 16th 2010 @ 11:03am
        Dogz R Barkn said | April 16th 2010 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        Took the words right out of my mouth.

        Even those with limited exposure to actually playing the game understand that sometimes the instinctive kick is much more accurate than the deliberate kick – a case of having too much time to think about it??

        But you’re right, hitting a player on the chest at 50-60 metres, while runing flat chat, and with either foot, is an amazing skill – very much underestimated by people who know nothing about the game.

        But plonk someone in front of goal at 25 metres, give a minute to line it up, and they are about a 40% chance of absolutely spraying it.

        The mind is a funny thing sometimes.

        I read an article that in the draft camps (where they put 17 year olds through their paces), they are tested at hitting a target at 40 metres with either foot, but target unseen, with back to target they are told to go left or right and must turn and hit the target in a split second – so spotting up a target at distance with either foot is definitlely a prized skill in Australian football.

        Further to some discussion below on training, or insufficient goal kicking training, it could well be that much of the effort of drills is about fitness and working through patterns and movements (where you are kicking to position, with perhaps the occasional shot at goal on the run) – there are probably less formal drills that involve set goal kicking.

        Indeed, it’s not out of the question that players are merely expected to do that sort of thing on their own, maybe before and after the “real” training sessions – so there is definitely something in that argument.

    • April 15th 2010 @ 2:11pm
      Gibbo said | April 15th 2010 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

      “Practice still makes perfect. History tells us so.”

      well, closer to perfect. Lloyd wasnt 100%. But something has to be done for Tommy Hawkins!

    • Roar Guru

      April 15th 2010 @ 2:45pm
      Redb said | April 15th 2010 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

      Schwartz on SEN said the other day its the age old fitness before skills problem and is fairly common early in the season. the fitness staff are using up much of the available training time on aerobic fitness rathern than allowing for more skills sessions even though potentially damaging to quad muscles,etc.

      Surely goal kicking needs to go up a peg or two with the trainers plans!

    • Roar Guru

      April 15th 2010 @ 3:38pm
      Michael C said | April 15th 2010 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

      apparently Tony Lockett had big photos of the goals etc of each ground and would use them in the lead up to a match to help mentally prepare – – and remind himself of how you have to kick from the different areas of each ground,

      because,

      some grounds more than others have their own ‘wind’ or air movement patterns in different conditions that make it less than straight forward,

      that said – – the mental pressure is what sports is all about – – and having a roost from 50 out near the boundary there is a lot less ‘expectation’ and therefore a lot less self imposed pressure, as compared to a shot from 20 out directly in front.

      However – – some people are more able than others to accept that responsibility and just ruddy go back and thread it. In general play – – we sadly see a lot of players almost scared to have a shot and desperately trying to give it off……..last Saturday night Eddie Betts was a clear example – – lining up within range and his eyes were all over the place……just take the responsibility lad!!!! kick the ruddy thing!!!!

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