Make goalkicking the goal

Andrew Sutherland Roar Guru

By Andrew Sutherland, Andrew Sutherland is a Roar Guru


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    Each new AFL season brings conversations about team strategies, structures and fitness but nothing about kicking straight for goal.

    Fed up with seeing so many lame shots during the NAB Cup, Mark Ricciuto claimed that goalkicking was undervalued. If he’s right, it’s an extraordinary situation considering goal scoring is the purpose of the whole exercise.

    For two years now, champion Essendon full forward Matthew Lloyd has verbalised his frustration at the high number of easy goals that are missed, and the apparent lack of concern shown by players and coaches.

    Both Lloyd and Ricciuto have highlighted the fact that development of goalkicking skills is not a focus of clubs – some have admitted their reluctance to indulge in lengthy goal practice sessions out of fear of causing leg injuries and others, more unbelievably, mentioned the inconvenience of having to retrieve balls – and hence it is one aspect of the game that has not improved over the years.

    All clubs have forward coaches but their exact role is unclear: do they deal with forward structures or goalkicking or both? Some are classified as assistants and others as development staff.

    If Lloyd and Ricciuto are correct and it appears they are, why wouldn’t a coach want to improve the goalkicking of his players?

    One reason could be the perception by coaches, who are predominantly former defenders, that goal kickers are born not made.

    In the case of the great full forwards and freakish goal sneaks there may be an element of truth to this, however you’ll probably find that many of these sharpshooters were largely a product of a childhood dominated by endless and solitary goal kicking practice.

    The fact is goalkicking in all its manifestations is a more difficult task than general kicking, even for those with the greater skills. This is because of the mental aspect: the pressure.

    You can see it on the face of defenders and many midfielders, who in the modern running game, find themselves within range of goal: the avid desire to give the ball off despite being only thirty metres out and facing a rather large stationary target that is 6.4 metres wide and as high as gravity will allow.

    Forced to take the shot, their timidity forces them into fundamental errors. They either lean back and kick the ball upwards which makes he ball lose momentum and accuracy, or they try to steer the ball with a soft foot which usually results in the ball slewing off the side of the boot.

    Technically there is not a lot of difference between accurate kicking in general play and shooting for goal: running straight at the target, head over the ball and kicking through the ball.

    Of course, many prominent forwards have their own idiosyncratic style that works. There was  Peter Hudson’s dowdy flat punt and more recently there are Lance Franklin’s exquisitely curving left footers. Franklin’s method is capable of producing some magnificent goals but it’s also high risk which may explain his relatively poor conversion rate of 57%.

    In regards to the mental pressure that makes many players go to water in front of the sticks, the clubs should employ former forwards like Lloyd to teach the fundamental procedures that all the great goal shooters perform in order to focus on that sacred space between the posts.

    It was surprising to discover that none of the eighty four players who have kicked over 400 goals in their career – and that includes the great full forwards like Tony Lockett, the all time record holder for goals scored, and Hudson, who had the phenomenal goal average of 5.6 per game – have exceeded an accuracy rate of 70%.

    So kicking for goal, even for the greats, is no walk in the park. But that doesn’t excuse the clubs’  seemingly haphazard approach to this fundamental skill.

    If a coach wants to gain a genuine premiership winning advantage it could be as simple as putting his players in front of goal more often.

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    The Crowd Says (22)

    • March 17th 2013 @ 10:38am
      Ahmed said | March 17th 2013 @ 10:38am | ! Report

      TBH kicking a football straight is pretty difficult. One small error can change the direction of the ball considerably over a long distance. Add on the pressure of 35,000 people watching the kick and its even more difficult

      That said, I do also believe that the accuracy could be improved considerably. I believe there is still the rule in football that allows for a rugby style conversion of placing the ball on the ground and kicking it (or has it been removed?).

      My other point is that whilst the score in the game does matter, football is one of the few sports where action is continuous and there is always a spectacle no matter what part of the ground the ball is in. For many football fans seeing a speccy is even better than a goal.

      • March 17th 2013 @ 11:28am
        Lucan said | March 17th 2013 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        The “shot clock” has pretty much removed this goalkicking option.

        • Roar Guru

          March 17th 2013 @ 12:09pm
          Andrew Sutherland said | March 17th 2013 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

          Lucan, it has also affected the preparation of the forwards. On Friday night, Jonathan Brown was talking to the haranguing umpire as he was walking in to take a shot.

    • March 17th 2013 @ 10:53am
      Wobbly said | March 17th 2013 @ 10:53am | ! Report

      I believe there is still the rule in football that allows for a rugby style conversion of placing the ball on the ground and kicking it (or has it been removed?).

      If so, a big rugby goal kicking convert ofvthe Franz Steyn ilk would be a prime catch for an AFL club.

    • March 17th 2013 @ 11:45am
      Harry said | March 17th 2013 @ 11:45am | ! Report

      A Sydney newspaper recently advertised for junior players by saying ‘come and play a game where you get a point for missing’ , hardly a way to promote accurate goal kicking in kids.

      • Roar Guru

        March 17th 2013 @ 12:10pm
        Andrew Sutherland said | March 17th 2013 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

        Harry, says it all really.

      • Roar Guru

        March 17th 2013 @ 4:26pm
        Redb said | March 17th 2013 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

        I find that very hard to believe.

      • March 17th 2013 @ 7:27pm
        Stavros said | March 17th 2013 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

        Surely that must have been an NRL inspired ad. They seem to have a real issue with rewarding the minor score.

        • March 17th 2013 @ 7:39pm
          Floyd Calhoun said | March 17th 2013 @ 7:39pm | ! Report

          Yep, the height of wit in League circles.

          • March 17th 2013 @ 8:32pm
            Australian Rules said | March 17th 2013 @ 8:32pm | ! Report

            That ‘dig’ also ignores the fact that many sports have different scoring values…like both rugbies, basketball, cricket, American footballl and others.

        • March 18th 2013 @ 9:49am
          Harry said | March 18th 2013 @ 9:49am | ! Report

          It was a paid ad in the Northen Districts Times submitted by the North Ryde Dockers AFL club. It actually said, “Is your child over the physical side of Rugby, sick of playing soccer, want to play a game where you get a point for missing?” Don’t worry, I could hardly believe it myself.

          • Roar Guru

            March 18th 2013 @ 10:15am
            Redb said | March 18th 2013 @ 10:15am | ! Report

            It was a joke Ad. Sorry you don’t get it. 🙂

            Another Ad says “Do you kick like a girl:” – which was an invite for girls to try Auskick.

            No footy club would encourage its players to deliberately miss. That the author commented says it all really. Stick to rugby league mate.

            • March 18th 2013 @ 10:38am
              Harry said | March 18th 2013 @ 10:38am | ! Report

              Very touchy Red – take the helmet off mate: whatever way you want to skew it that is how they advertised for AFL juniors – in the context of this conversation it will hardly encourage accurate goal kicking by highlighting mediocrity.

              • March 18th 2013 @ 10:43am
                Brewski said | March 18th 2013 @ 10:43am | ! Report

                It actually appears that you are the serious one, in the context of any conversation about AF.

                It is actually usuing a joke that is fired off by people like yourself, its called self deprecating comedy

              • Roar Guru

                March 18th 2013 @ 10:44am
                Redb said | March 18th 2013 @ 10:44am | ! Report

                it was a joke to attract attention to the Ad, get it? Probably not 🙂

          • March 18th 2013 @ 10:51pm
            Brewski said | March 18th 2013 @ 10:51pm | ! Report

            Couldn’t find your ad Harry 🙂 , what edition was it in ?, but I did find a interesting story pertaining to Australian football.

            Multi talented sports star James Dunn of Marist Eastwood was crowned Metro Catholic schools senior sportsman of the year, and of course his school as well.

            Recognised for his sporting achievemnts from Swimming to Rugby, James is also a member of the Swans AFL team and has played reserves football, and could play senior football this year.

            page 35 9th of January, digital edition of the Northern District times.


            • March 19th 2013 @ 1:51pm
              Harry said | March 19th 2013 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

              Tremendous research mate – congratulations – exactly what does the story have to do with kicking straight though – or were feeling the need for a little chest thumping?

              • March 19th 2013 @ 5:34pm
                Brewski said | March 19th 2013 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

                Couldn’t find your ad Harry, what edition was it in ?, they have digital editions, so do tell, would love to have a laugh !!.

    • March 17th 2013 @ 11:02pm
      Timmy said | March 17th 2013 @ 11:02pm | ! Report

      The pressure element is clearly what causes the majority of misses as I can guarantee that most afl players would have much less trouble hitting a target 40 metres up the ground than they would having a set shot at goal from 30

    • March 17th 2013 @ 11:10pm
      rgmerk said | March 17th 2013 @ 11:10pm | ! Report

      This article on free throw shooting in the NBA is relevant here.

      In short, free throw shooting percentages have not really improved over the history of the league, and while some players have managed to get sustained improvements in free throw shooting, declines are almost as common as improvements.

      • March 18th 2013 @ 12:13am
        Brewski said | March 18th 2013 @ 12:13am | ! Report

        “free throw shooting hasn’t really budged. Is that a sign that the level of play in the league is no better than it was five decades ago? Probably not. Instead, it likely reflects the point at which free throw shooting collectively stops determining NBA talent. To get the average any higher, teams would have to pass up players that are otherwise far more skilled. ”

        Says it for me, the stay at home full forward who could kick deadly straight would no doubt be overlooked if he did not have the required athletic talent, the same in the NBA, however the champion athlete who they suspect may become a relatively competent kick is drafted.

        Goal kickers IMO are born rather than made to a large degree, you either have it or you don’t., and even if you have it, you may lose it, talk to Ian Baker Finch about having it then losing it.

        And just on free throw shooting, you are at exactly the same place for FTS, in AF you can be all over the place, on any distance or angle.

        Having said that i thought Chris mayne from Freo was a absolutely shocking kick for goal a couple of years ago, could not hit a barn door with a shotgun, however in the space of a year or two has become a dead eye dick.

    • March 19th 2013 @ 10:31pm
      waltzing matera said | March 19th 2013 @ 10:31pm | ! Report

      Last year, an average of 1 team per round lost a match despite having more scoring shots so yes, inaccurate kicking for goal is a relevant issue. I have worked with junior and senior footballers from auskick through to the top level and in my humble opinion there are 2 factors that affect goalkicking, mental pressure and lack of strategy. Developing a goalkicking strategy, as per Matthew Lloyd or Ahmed Saad, also alleviates the mental pressure aspect as you are simply repeating the same technique. This may sound simplistic but all of the accurate goalkickers over time have the same technique each time they take a shot.