NRL 2021: Sharpest and Sloppiest Goal Kickers after Round 2

Introduced here and at NRL.com last year, True Kicker Ratings are back for the 2021 NRL season. 

And while the sample size is small, and a lot will change in the coming weeks, there's still a host of notable points sticking out as we head into Round 3. Chiefly, the incredible start to Mitch Barnett's stint as the Newcastle Knights primary goal kicker. Knights coach Adam O'Brien will need to think carefully about who he hands the tee when star Kalyn Ponga returns from injury. Meanwhile, Chad Townsend might be passing it on to a Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks teammate following his forgettable night with the boot in Round 2.

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What is True Kicker?

In a nutshell, True Kicker Ratings 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 Rating 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.

*You can find a more detailed explanation of the True Kicker Rating system here.

True Kicker Leaderboard

(Min. 3 attempts)

Player
Attempts
Goals
Actual Success Rate
Overall True Kicker Rating
Ave. Difficulty
Zac Lomax
7
7
100.0%
3.62
74.12%
Mitchell Barnett
11
10
90.9%
2.34
80.29%
George Williams
8
7
87.5%
2.14
74.14%
Jamayne Isaako
6
4
66.7%
1.9
50.84%
Mitchell Moses
7
6
85.7%
1.34
76.11%
Ryan Papenhuyzen
8
7
87.5%
0.86
82.11%
Adam Reynolds
6
4
66.7%
0.81
59.94%
Kodi Nikorima
5
5
100.0%
0.76
92.38%
Latrell Mitchell
3
2
66.7%
0.34
61.05%
Valentine Homes
3
3
100.0%
0.28
95.25%
Jamal Fogarty
6
5
83.3%
-0.03
83.59%
Nathan Cleary
8
6
75.0%
-0.66
79.14%
Reuben Garrick
3
2
66.7%
-0.67
77.83%
Siosiua Taukeiaho
10
8
80.0%
-1.13
85.63%
James Tedesco
4
2
50.0%
-1.6
69.98%
Chad Townsend
10
7
70.0%
-2.39
81.93%


The leaderboard is skewed towards players that have had more shots at goal given the small sample size, but St. George Illawarra-Dragons centre Zac Lomax is yet to spray one wide this season and tops the list through two rounds. His 7/7 has netted the Red V 3.6 extra points compared to the average kicker so far in 2021.

Mitch Barnett is the interesting name just behind Lomax, though. 

Kalyn Ponga finished dead last in True Kicker Rating at -16.25 last season (min. 25 shots at goal). He left over 16 points on the tee throughout the year. Ponga knocked over just 46 of his 70 attempts for an actual success rate of 65.71% compared to an average difficulty of 77.32%. Barnett, however, has already added over two points compared to the average kicker while knocking over 10 of his 11 attempts (90.9%). The average difficulty of those 11 attempts was 80.29%.

It's expected that Ponga assumes the kicking duties when he returns from injury. But if he doesn't show significant signs of improvement, and Barnett continues to play 80 minutes on the edge, Adam O'Brien has an excellent backup kicker ready whenever he needs one.

We know where your eyes are drawn to on the list, Sharks fans.

Chad Townsend landed just one of his four attempts as the Sharks lost 12-10 to the Raiders in Round 2. The halfback's nightmare is further highlighted in the numbers.  

We would expect the average NRL kicker to have converted roughly three of the four attempts Townsend faced on Sunday night (rounded to the nearest whole number).

Shaun Johnson made headlines early in 2020 as missed kicks at goal cost Cronulla the chocolates. He did end up 4th in TKR by the end of the season, though. While he's expected to return between Round 5-8, whether or not he takes over from Townsend, given the nature of his Achilles injury, remains to be seen. 

Elsewhere on the list, Warrior's Kodi Nikorima's 5/5 this season is promising given he kicked at just 65.38% last season while costing the New Zealander's -6.31 points. Although, the 92.38% average difficulty suggests he hasn't been tested. Chanel Harris-Tavita's injury could see Nikorima take over full-time if Adam Pompey isn't called on as the first-choice kicker.

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It's early days and it hasn't presented as an obvious problem just yet, but there might be some cause for concern for the Sydney Roosters if they're in a close game any time soon. Both Siosiua Taukeiaho (-1.13 TKR) and James Tedesco (-1.6 TKR) have left points out on the field this season as Trent Robinson carves out his replacement for Kyle Flanagan (12.08 TKR in 2020).

Melbourne's Ryan Papenhuyzen, on the other hand, has made a good start in his new role as the Storm's new goal kicker. Taking over from Cameron Smith, who finished 2nd in TKR at 13.39 last season, Papenhuyzen's 87.5% actual success rate has translated into a 0.86 TKR across the opening fortnight.

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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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