Lance Franklin sets his sights on the goals. (Picture: sydneyswans.com.au)

The 2021 AFL season has seen goalkicking become a major issue. So why is kicking for goal so hard for players to get right?
It has become an increasingly worrying trend over the last 18 months as teams are struggling to put the ball through the big sticks.

It is perhaps the most important part of our game. Bigger than match-ups, bigger than game plans and game styles, and anything else you can think of when it comes to football. Kicking goals is how you win games, it does not matter how good your players are or how good the game plan is, if players can’t kick goals, then everything else is redundant.

Goalkicking feels like a lost art at present and has been ridiculed by former greats as the only part of the game which has not improved over the years. Depending on your individual view regarding this and keep in mind stats can be misleading, but if a team kicks poorly at goal, more often than not, they lose the game.

Season 2021 has seen some horror kicking performances

In the first 11 rounds, there have been some very poor goal-kicking performances. At the weekend, Collingwood only managed 1.11 up until ¾ time in their clash with Geelong. Fremantle could only muster 0.7.7 until minutes into the second term against Port Adelaide as they missed shots at goal that a league footballer should be finishing.

An interesting stat regarding Fremantle is that of their 11 games this season, only once have they managed to kick more goals than points with 11.7 being their best return this campaign. Scores of 11.21 (round two v GWS), 13.18 (round four v Hawthorn), and 9.15 (round 11 v Port Adelaide) have plagued their season.

Fremantle is not the only perpetrator when it comes to goal-kicking either. Adelaide (4.15 v GWS round seven) St. Kilda (8.15 v Gold Coast round eight and 5.17 v Geelong round nine) and Port Adelaide (5.14 v Brisbane round seven) have all had their troubles kicking goals at various stages this season.


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Clubs do not put time into goal-kicking

So why is this? Being it is the most important skill in the game today, AFL footballers should know what to do when it comes to set shots, shouldn’t they? At most open training sessions, most AFL clubs will have differences in their warm-up routines, their skill drills, and game style for the upcoming match.

Most teams will either have a coach who keeps watch on the time and oversees the training session. Each drill could go for a certain amount of time and then they move on to a different drill.

There are goalkicking elements in certain drills and this is mostly in match simulation and ball movement drills. However, in some instances, coaches are more worried about how the football gets to the forward half in terms of transition and how their defence will set up. Kicking the goal is often an afterthought as if it is a certainty.

Gone are the days where players could spend 20 to 30 minutes after training to practice their goal-kicking. So much of their time is accounted for recovery, review sessions, and looking ahead to the next opponent. It is starting to show that goal-kicking is not high on the to-do list for AFL clubs.

According to fanfooty.com.au, of the top 50 goalkickers through the first 11 rounds, 15 players are kicking at 57% or under with Toby Greene (22.23 at 48 %) and Max King (13.21 at 38%) the two worst in the competition. 23 players are between 60 and 69 % while only 12 players are 70% or above.

It has been a worrying trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Perhaps it is time for clubs to spend more time on one of the true arts of the game as more often than not, it decides the outcome.

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