AFL Goalkicking Analysis: Early Season Stats And Trends

The Stats Insider Shot Charting tool has been shaking its tail feather through the first few weeks of season, plotting all that’s happening across the league and helping AFL fans achieve an elevated understanding of the game. 

Let’s take a look at some of the standout themes that have emerged over the competition’s first 27 games.

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Settle down

Outside of shots taken from point-blank range, a more assured path to six points comes through an unmolested set-shot on goal. 

So far this season it’s no surprise to see the rampaging Swans out front having generated a league-best 55 set-shots, while also converting at a remarkable 62% accuracy from those opportunities.

The Western Bulldogs (52) are next on the list, and the only other club to have amassed at least 50 set-shots. And while the Dogs are hitting at a decent, though not spectacular 56%, it does representing a leap upon last season’s 51% and which plunged to just 40% over its last 4 games. As if the occasional presence of young star Tim English in the forward line wasn’t scary enough, opponents will be equally alarmed to know he’s nailed 71% of a the 7 set-shots he’s taken so far.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are just 3 teams who’ve dialled up less than 30 set-shot opportunities so far with that unpleasant distinction applied to Gold Coast (29), Collingwood (27) and North Melbourne (24). 

Interestingly, and while the Demons leads the league producing 60.7 inside-50s per game, helping themselves to a respectable 45 set-shot opportunities in the process, they’re converting at a dismal 36% which is a number they share with Fremantle as being the league's worst.

Though they’ve generated few set-shot chances, Collingwood’s brilliant 70% conversion is the competition’s best, with Brody Mihocek leading the way, converting on 86% of the set-shots he’s taken.

Finally, a discussion on set-shot goal kicking can’t take place without mentioning Brisbane, whose futility in front of goal last season defined their campaign. They dialled up an alarming 45% accuracy figure in 2020, and which plummeted to just 39% over their two Finals. This season, they’re converting at a brilliant 66%, which is the second-best mark in the league. Eric Hipwood is leading the way, having nailed 63% of his chances, while credit must also go to new-recruit Joe Daniher who’s so far submitted a much-improved 50%number, up sharply on the dismal 38% he posted between 2018 and 2020 with the Bombers. 

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Chance your arm

In an era of more sophisticated, oftentimes cluttered defence, it’s comforting to be able to take a long shot from beyond 50 metres, and even more satisfying when you’re able to so with a modicum of success. 

And in this realm, it’s no surprise to see that it's Sydney who are once again stealing the show. Not only are the Swans’ 30 shots from beyond 50 metres the league’s highest number, but they’re hitting on an outrageous 43% of those chances. Highly-impressive rookie Logan McDonald has already taking 5 such shots, hitting 2 of them.

Adelaide are the only other team to have taken more than 30 long-range attempts, nailing a respectable 39% of those speculations. Unsurprisingly, it’s Tex Walker leading the way. The Coleman medal front-runner has helped himself to 12 long-bombs, converting on an utterly ridiculous 58%.

The Hawks have taken just 9 long-range chances this year, but have at least hit on 44% of them. It’s a similar story with Collingwood who’ve taken just 11 shots from beyond 50, but whose 64% conversion leads the league. Like most things involving North Melbourne this season, the news isn’t great. They’ve taken just 14 shots from long-range, hitting pay-dirt just once.

RELATED: Investigating The AFL's Early Season Stats And Trends

Storm the gates

Penetrating deep, and being able to generate a shot within 25 metres, either through a set shot or general play, is one of the most efficient ways to generating scoreboard pressure in the AFL. Just ask Richmond, who since the start of 2018 have generated no less than 377 shots from with 25 meters- easily the league’s best return in that time-span.

Last Season, St Kilda’s brilliant drought-breaking campaign was driven vigorously by it’s ability to stretch opposition defences, and produce more efficient shots. They in fact led the league with a massive 107 shots from inside 25 meters, converting on a sizzling 74% of those opportunities.

As for season 2021, it's the new Stats Insider premiership favourite who leads the way, with the Western Bulldogs already amassing 23 short-range chances, with Josh Bruce and Aaron Naughton accounting for 10 of those shots.

Interestingly, the Gold Coast Suns, along with the Bulldogs, are the only team to have produced at least 20 shots from within 25 metres, converting at a brilliant 75% in the process. Ben King and Izak Rankine have accounted for 9 of those 20 shots, with King going 5 for 5 from his chances.

Fremantle are at the foot of the table where deep penetration is concerned, so far producing a paltry 6 shots from within 25 metres. Interestingly, Hawthorn and Port are the only two other clubs mired in single figures in this realm, with the Power at least nailing all 9 of their shot-range chances.

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James Rosewarne

James is a writer and Managing Editor at Stats Insider. He likes fiction and music. He is a stingray attack survivor. He lives in Wollongong.

Email- for story ideas or opportunities.

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