There has rarely been a season where the importance of goal kicking has shone through like the one just gone. In one of the closest competitions of the modern era, near hits and misses by the men with the magic boots have elevated them to victory or cost them defeat. Throughout the season there were some stand out kicks, but the number of costly misses in the top rugby league competition in the world was absolutely appalling.
Goal kicking is one part of play that should never cause a team any concern. It is the one part of play that the opposition can do nothing about. The displays of goal kicking atrocities this season by dozens of goal kickers has been absolutely disgraceful for the standard of football being played. Simple conversions have been missed by not the narrowest of margins, but by the width of the field.
What better time is there to reflect on the goal kicking displays of the 2003 season than after watching a second rower play role of halfback and goalkicker in a New Zealand victory over Australia where he did not even have to take a single shot at goal. That?s probably a good thing too, because he showed why he doesn?t kick for his club with his 50% strike rate.
Very few goal-kicking performances stood out this season, but Hazem El Masri showed his goal-kicking prowess when he nailed a record breaking 35 consecutive goals. The importance of those kicks is undermined by the fact that he could have missed all 35 of those goals and it not have affected the outcome in a single match. In a season as close as the one just passed, that is a remarkable statistic of one of the most remarkable goal kicking feats where the ball was being struck over the black dot from all parts of the field.
Andrew Johns put a conversion over from right on the sideline to give Newcastle an important 32-30 victory over the Dragons in the final minute of the Knights round 14 match against the Dragons. It was the type of kick that a player is not expected to get, but the type of kick that great goal kickers love to take.
It?s a pity that there were only few great goal kickers going around this season.
After being outscored 5 tries to 4 in round 2 against Manly, the Cowboys got home on the back of some lacklustre Manly goal kicking, which saw the Eagles leave Townsville without converting a single try and, as a result, without the victory. The next week the Cowboys were at it again. This time it was some Josh Hannay penalties that elevated the Cowboys to a second consecutive victory where their opposition scored more tries but inability to convert goals more often than not led to their downfall.
South Sydney almost got home against Brisbane on the back of 4 of Brisbane?s 5 tries not being converted, but it was their own goal kicking problems that show the atrocious situation that some clubs are in. Their lack of a top-line goalkicker cost them victory or at the very least an opportunity at victory or a shot at extra time in half a dozen games in 2003. It?s not as though they were missing sideline conversions that were letting them down, but simple shots at goal from near to the posts that a half-decent goalkicker could have kicked blindfolded.
They weren?t the only ones. Melbourne have always had problems in the goal kicking department, and when Matt Orford missed what was a routine conversion 10 metres to the right of the upright in a round 19 match against the Broncos, the result was devastating. The game was taken into extra time where Scott Minto scored the game-winning try. It wasn?t the only time. Many simple conversions either hit the upright, fell short or sailed wide. The result was many games became too close for comfort, missed victory, and premature old age for coach Craig Bellamy.
The concept is simple ? put the ball between 2 posts and over a crossbar. The execution has been dismal. Many teams tried multiple kickers with multiple failures. For professional athlete?s that get paid to play, they obviously aren?t getting too much training to kick a football.
If only I had more time to expose all culprits of these goal kicking atrocities...
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