Which NRL Teams Have The Sharpest Goal Kickers Ahead Of Finals?
We're getting to the pointy end of the NRL season and goal kicking is already playing a big part in deciding who will feature in the Top 8 after Round 25. And it will only become more of a factor as the intensity of finals footy translates into closer games that could well be decided by the boot too.
Stats Insider's True Kicker Ratings page equips us with a better tool to analyse goal kicking as we start to look at which teams are best-prepared to kick their way to victory in September.
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 Score column in the table below.
While the True Kicker Score 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 Ratings have been updated after Round 23.
True Kicker Top 10
Walsh's learning experience will get easier
All of the goal kicker talk following Round 23 centred around young Reece Walsh.
In a game the Warriors lost by two points, his four misses off the tee proved the difference. Based on the attempts Walsh lined up, we would expect the average NRL kicker to have converted roughly 2.5 of the five - so, about 50%.
But a 19-year-old, no matter how talented, attempting a roughly 50/50 shot at goal - just the 27th attempt of his career - to level the scores isn't necessarily expected to be an average NRL goal kicker. He had also played a key part in the try leading up to the last-minute attempt, and without it, wouldn't have had the chance to even force the game into golden point.
It's an experience Walsh will learn from. And next year, he will learn from one of the best.
Shaun Johnson will be back in Warriors colours for 2022, and with that, the club will take on one of the best goalkickers in the NRL. His +12.5 True Kicker Differential (TKD) is the best in the competition this season. The average goal kicker would be expected to convert Johnson's 20 attempts this season at 77.5%. He has missed only two shots at goal for a 90% success rate.
The Warriors won't be short on goalkickers next season, even if Johnson does miss time. Chanel Harris-Tavita's +8.8% TKD ranks in the Top 10 over the last two seasons for the 22-year-old to add an extra 5.9 points off the tee to the average goalkicker across his 34 attempts. Kodi Nikorima has also registered a positive True Kicker Score (+3.7) this season.
The pressure will be off Walsh in 2022.
Kicking for the premiership
While the Roosters, Eels and two teams that end up finishing 7th and 8th will be part of the premiership conversation for a week or two in September, the general consensus is that it will come down to the Storm, Panthers, Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles.
All four teams can score points at will. The Storm are scoring at a historical level, the Panthers kept up with them before Nathan Cleary's injury, the Rabbitohs averaged over 40 points per game throughout their winning streak, and the Sea Eagles are flying towards September to average 39.7 points per game over the last ten rounds. So scoring points isn't a problem for these clubs.
However, defence wins premierships. We can expect an uptick in this department when finals football kicks off. We've started to catch glimpses of a rise in intensity on the defensive side of the ball already in some matches. In a season that will be remembered for its blowouts, the expectation is for games to be a lot closer as the season goes on.
Goal kicking will become crucial. It will no doubt decide one finals match, if not more.
The Panthers are best positioned to come up with the two points when it matters. Cleary's +19.9 True Kicker Score (TKS) leads all goalkickers in the NRL, while his True Kicker Differential is only behind Johnson for second (min. 10 attempts).
Adam Reynolds added an extra 26.5 points off the tee compared with the average kicker in 2020. While he hasn't kept up that same level, he still ranks second in the NRL in TKS at +19.4.
Reuben Garrick is expected to score more than the Bulldogs as a club by the end of Round 25. While he has featured here infamously in the past, his +12.8 TKS is third in the NRL this season and has helped him build a 40-point lead over Reynolds in the race to become 2021's top point scorer.
It's the Storm that will be most worried if a kick at goal decides a match in September.
Ryan Papenhuyzen has returned to the field and taken over the kicking duties. However, he is significantly far behind Cleary, Reynolds and Garrick in TKS at just +0.8 this season. His 86% Expected Success Rate suggests Papenhuyzen hasn't been forced into too many tough attempts throughout his 46 shots at goal this year either.
The Storm have won by an average of 25.2 points per game this season. However, a few nerves will be around if a game comes down to conversions over the next six weeks.
Did you enjoy this article? Join our free mailing list to get the best content delivered straight to your inbox, or join the conversation by leaving a comment below or on the Stats Insider Twitter or Facebook page.