NRL 2020: True Kicker Ratings - Leaderboard

Introduced earlier in the year here and at NRL.com, the True Kicker Ratings for 2020 are in the books and a familiar name tops the list.

It's not the most glamorous job on a footy field and can even be brushed over for an ad break depending on the situation of the game. However, a kick at goal can decide games, finals appearances and seasons. For the South Sydney Rabbitohs, they can be confident that the extra two points will be picked up more often than not moving forward. The North Queensland Cowboys and Newcastle Knights, on the other hand, have some work to do and decisions to make.

What is True Kicker?

In a nutshell, they tell us how many points a player's goal kicking has earned (or cost) their team, over a set period of time, compared to the NRL average kicker - shown in the Overall True Kicker column in the table below. 

While the Overall True Kicker Rating gives us a good gauge on just how many points a players goal kicking has earned (or cost) their team, much like a total goals leaderboard, it can be influenced by players who have attempted more shots.

Thankfully, the True Kicker Rating system also has a way to deal with this. 

The kick by kick difficulty-adjusted-rating-system allows us to calculate ‘what we would expect’ a player’s goal kicking success rate (penalty goals + conversions) to be based on the kicks they have taken - shown in the Average Difficulty column below. 

By comparing this to a player’s ‘actual’ goal kicking success rate we can calculate how much they have exceeded (or fallen below) expectation. This number is presented in the form of a percentage (shown in the Difference column) and represents 'how much better or worse a player’s conversion success rate is than we would expect it to be based on the kicks they have taken’.

True Kicker Leaderboard
(min. 25 shots at goal)

Player
Attempts
Goals
Actual Success Rate
Overall True Kicker Rating
Ave. Difficulty
Difference
Adam Reynolds
115
98
85.22%
26.54
73.68%
11.54%
Cameron Smith
102
86
84.31%
13.39
77.75%
6.56%
Kyle Flanagan
113
91
80.53%
12.08
75.19%
5.35%
Mitchell Moses
70
57
81.43%
7.29
76.22%
5.21%
Jarrod Croker
87
71
81.61%
6.89
77.65%
3.96%
Shaun Johnson
73
56
76.71%
6.83
72.03%
4.68%
C. Harris-Tavita
34
27
79.41%
5.93
70.69%
8.72%
Nathan Cleary
108
86
79.63%
5.42
77.12%
2.51%
V. Holmes
34
24
70.59%
3.12
66.01%
4.58%
Zac Lomax
80
63
78.75%
2.20
77.38%
1.37%
Nick Meaney
32
22
68.75%
-1.90
71.72%
-2.97%
Moses Mbye
45
29
64.44%
-3.53
68.37%
-3.92%
Ash Taylor
54
36
66.67%
-3.87
70.25%
-3.58%
Kodi Nikorima
26
17
65.38%
-6.31
77.51%
-12.13%
Reuben Garrick
60
41
68.33%
-9.16
75.97%
-7.63%
Kyle Feldt
37
23
62.16%
-10.8
76.76%
-14.60%
Kalyn Ponga
70
46
65.71%
-16.25
77.32
-11.61%


Jarrod Croker topped the True Kicker Ratings after 14 rounds but Adam Reynolds has quite rightfully finished 2020 streaks ahead of the pack by the end of the year. He earnt an incredible 15.47 extra points compared to the average kicker between Round 15 and South Sydney's loss in the preliminary final. Croker, meanwhile, disappointed throughout the second half of the season to shave five points off his True Kicker Rating in that time.

The ageless Cameron Smith set a new career-high (min. 20 attempts) to kick at 84.31% at 37-years old. That translated into 13.39 extra points for the premiership-winning Storm in 2020. He's a freak.

While plenty of criticism has landed in Kyle Flanagan's lap following an up and down 2020 campaign with the Roosters, the Bulldogs can at least be confident they're signing a top tier goal kicker. Nick Meaney attempted the most shots at goal for the Bulldogs this season but left almost two points on the tee. Flanagan, on the other hand, finished 3rd in the NRL with a 12.08 TKR.

Further down the list, former Warrior Shaun Johnson continues to kick well following a barrage of criticism levelled at him last season. Current Warriors, Kodi Nikorima and Chanel Harris-Tavita, appear to have sorted the kicking duties out themselves. Harris-Tavita's +8.72% difference in actual success v average difficulty is amongst the best in the NRL while Nikorima's -12.13% is second-worst of all players with at least 25 shots at goal.

Only Kyle Feldt's -14.60% is worse than Nikorima. The Cowboys winger finished 2nd in tries scored which could go some way to explaining his terrible actual success rate (62.16%). However, given the attempts Feldt faced overall, we would expect the average NRL kicker to land 76.76% of his 37 attempts. A healthy Valentine Holmes makes for a far better option when available, though.

It's Kalyn Ponga's NRL-worst -16.25 True Kicker Rating that is a worry for the Knights and the major talking point out of the end-of-season leaderboard. He left over 16 points on the tee this year and we only need to think back to his horror afternoon with the boot against Feldt's Cowboys in Round 15 to get an idea of how costly his kicking issues could have been this season. Comparatively, Mason Lino's +11.85% Difference would lead the NRL in 2020 albeit he only attempted 16 shots at goal (15 goals).

Towards the bottom of the Top 8 this year and likely to be flirting around the edge of the eight again in 2021, Newcastle's season could come down to a kick at goal or two competition points decided by the boot.

While Reynolds can relax over the summer months and prepare his body for another crack at the premiership in 2021, Ponga, for one, can't afford to let his boots get dusty. He needs to rise to at least an average NRL kicker if the Knights are to significantly improve on their 2020 efforts.

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Jason Oliver

As far as Jason is concerned, there is no better time of year than March through June. An overlap of the NBA and NRL seasons offer up daily opportunities to find an edge and fund the ever-increasing number of sports streaming services he subscribes to. If there's an underdog worth taking in either code, he'll be on it.

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