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Adding the extras: The importance of having a gun goal kicker

Johnathan Thurston kicks for goal. ( AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Roar Guru
5th July, 2017
9

Manly’s push up the premiership ladder has been unexpected in 2017, even for a Manly fan like myself.

The last five weeks in particular have been particularly impressive as the Northern Beaches club has notched up wins against Gold Coast, Canberra, Newcastle, Cronulla and the Warriors.

While Daly Cherry-Evans, the Trbojevic brothers and Marty Taupau have all been praised for this return to form, and rightly so, this five match winning streak also coincides with the introduction of Matthew Wright to the team.

His importance doesn’t lie with the amount of run metres he collects, linebreaks made or tries scored but what he is able to do with his boot. Manly finally have a decent goalkicker!

Looking at statistics for the 2017 season, which can be hard to find for goal kicker percentage, Matty Wright is hitting them at 78 per cent slotting over a total of 18 from 23 attempts. While this is not in the elite class, it sits him slightly over the average of most NRL standard kickers at 75 per cent. Consistently nailing three of every four isn’t half bad.

Going on statistics from last month Adam Reynolds, Nathan Cleary and James Maloney were the competitions sharp shooters, all with percentages above 80. This of course only includes players who had taken more than twenty shots at goal.

Reynolds was particularly impressive with a successful percentage of 92 per cent, only missing two of his first 25 attempts this season.

On the other end of the scale is Manly’s Dylan Walker who had only successfully converted 22 of his 37 attempts at a percentage of 59.45 per cent. These figures are also attached to some notable games this season.

In Round 2, Manly scored three unconverted tries in the first 12 minutes to jump out to a 12-nil lead, psychologically this was only a two-try lead for the Rabbitohs to come back from and they did, winning easily 38-18.

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And who can forget Josh Hodgson sledging Walker as he narrowly converted a penalty in extra time in Round 8 against the Raiders? While Walker’s boot got Manly the two points that day, his goal kicking was also part of the reason the game went to golden point in the first place.

Another player on the lower end of the scale is Australian Captain Cameron Smith, who is only sitting around 68 per cent. He has never struck me as one of the top goalkickers, but due to the Storm’s dominance over the last 12 years he hasn’t really had to be.

Matthew Wright is a vast improvement, and it only takes one look at his goal kicking technique to realise that. Looking forward to 2018 and it is going to be hard for Jorge Tafua to force his way back into the best 17 unless Manly has another goal kicker on their books.

Tafua’s run metres out of his own end are much appreciated, but they are nowhere near as valuable as turning four points into six.

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