In the recent past teams such as Geelong, Collingwood, St Kilda and the Bulldogs were almost guaranteed to fill up the top four spots, with the odd exception thrown in here and there. There was always a couple of stand-out teams who were flag favourites from early on in the season, and usually one of those took out the Grand Final at season’s end. Everything pretty much went according to plan.
2012 has a completely different feel about it though. Whilst Collingwood, West Coast, Adelaide and Hawthorn seem to be the front runners, there are at least another 6 teams who legitimately feel that have a crack at the title this year, depending on how the remainder of the year pans out.
Which brings me to my point – is poor kicking ultimately going to cost a team that chance?
This year, more than any other of recent times, making the eight gives you a real opportunity at possibly snatching a Premiership. Unfortunately however, 10 or 11 into 8 simply doesn’t go, which means there will be some very disappointed teams (and supporters) come September.
In just the last few weeks, several teams have shown that poor kicking for goal can be the difference between winning and losing – and possibly making the Finals or not. As the facts below show, the round just gone was a prime example.
St.Kilda – kicked 16.15 for the game, including a 5.7 second quarter. Lost by 4 pts to Adelaide, who themselves kicked 1.6 in the last quarter to almost give the match away.
Nth Melbourne – kicked 11.21 against Gold Coast, including a 2.7 second quarter limped over the line to win by 9 pts.
Richmond - kicked 11.20 against GWS, including 5.13 in the second half, only winning by 12 pts and missing out on vital percentage.
Western Bulldogs - kicked 13.17 against Port, including 3.6 in the first quarter and 4.6 in the last, also missing out on vital percentage.
Last weekend wasn’t unique though – the previous two rounds have also thrown up matches where teams who are fighting for top four or top eight spots have lost matches they should’ve won simply because of poor kicking.
In Round 11, Carlton played Geelong in a must-win game and kicked 11.19 for the match, including a last quarter that yielded 2.9. The final result was a win to the Cats by 12 points. The same weekend, in another huge match-up Essendon played Sydney, the Swans eventually winning a nail-biter by 4 pts. The Bombers kicked 11.16 for the game, including an abysmal 1.11 to half time, and 2.15 at three-quarter time – all of that done under the Etihad Dome. Unbelievable.
Round 10 saw St Kilda take on Richmond in one of the games of the year, the Tigers prevailing by 8 pts in the end. The Saints however kicked 16.17 for the match, including a shocking 1.8 in the third quarter, and must’ve been kicking themselves at the lost opportunity. Similarly, Essendon lost to Melbourne by 6 pts that same weekend, the Bombers kicking 6.16 for the match, after being 5.13 at ¾ time.
Taken in isolation, and at the time when a forward misses a goal at say the 8 minute mark of the second quarter of any given match, it doesn’t seem like much. However, in a season as closely fought as this one, those missed goals lead to lost matches, which could ultimately lead to a team missing out on a Finals berth and maybe even a Premiership - purely because of bad kicking.
Yes, the game is faster, players run more and the result is that they are more fatigued. All of this could go some way to explaining the poor kicking, but in the end the question needs to be asked – are we putting enough training into the most important skill the game has? In this day of strategies, game plans, rolling presses and continual interchanges, is it possible that coaches and clubs have taken the focus away from the most vital ability of all – kicking the ball through the big sticks? After all, it doesn’t matter how well you force the opposition into turnovers because of your defensive pressure – kick 1.16 for the match and chances are you won’t beat anyone.
Accuracy in kicking for goal has always been an issue in football, but this year it just seems more blatant – or perhaps it is just that the outcomes of the matches are more important given the evenness of the competition? Teams seem to be getting a run-on of “yips” in 2012, having horrendously lopsided quarters with score lines such as 2.8, 1.9 and the like. What then is the solution – or is there one? Do we need to give players more time to line up and hence regain their breath – or would that only make things worse? Do we just pass it off as “one of those footy trends”? It seems to be more than just coincidence that a large portion of close games in 2012 have seen one side (usually the losing side) kick woefully for goal for an extended time at some point in the match.
We can never be perfect at kicking for goal, and scorelines of 15.3 are just figments of coaches imaginations. However, are we at a point where it needs some deeper analysis that might result in changes to training methods? It frustrates me enough as a SC competitor to lose a match by 10 or 20 points when one of my star forwards has kicked 2.5 – God only knows how it must feel to lose an actual match, or a Final or Grand Final, the same way.