Round 23 will be long remembered for the “live ladder” fueled drama on Sunday evening which saw West Coast creep into the eight at the expense of a perhaps overconfident Melbourne. But the final round of the H&A season gave place to an equally remarkable climax with Buddy Franklin kicking 10 goals vs Carlton to come from the clouds and win his 4th Coleman medal. This was the first time anyone had kicked double digits in almost 3 seasons of football, and given Franklin had been averaging only 2 goals a game over the previous month, probably wasn’t within the imagination of even the most ardent Buddites.
As I did last year (and also midway through this season), I wanted to break down every goal and behind from the top-5 goalkickers and make a few comments about the unique styles and abilities on display from the AFL’s leading forwards. Unlike last year where Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins provided some real variety, this year’s top-5 all play as their side’s main, big, key forward so the difference between players is less pronounced. However, that’s not to say we can’t see individual and team tendencies in the location and type of shots created. Franklin and Kennedy might notionally play the same position, but that certainly doesn’t mean they go about it the same way.
NOTE: This article refers heavily to both shotplots and xScore, which I have been using regularly throughout the year. Basically, shotplots show whereabouts each shot was taken from, with bigger circles signifying easier chances. xScore is the average score an AFL average player would kick given those chances. If you’re still unsure what these are, it’s worth having a click around. This post walks through some of the logic, whereas this post goes into the specifics of xScore.
NOTE 2: The ground on which these shots are overlayed is the MCG. You’ll have to imagine tighter boundary lines for players who play mostly on skinnier grounds.
1. Lance Franklin
- Buddy loves a tough shot like no other. He struts up the ground looking for the ball, and if within 60m of goal, regardless of the angle, will more often than not let loose with a shot. He’s taken 38 shots from outside 50 this year, more than twice that of the next best player (Taylor Walker) and more than both Carlton and Hawthorn have attempted as entire teams.
- Outside of running onto some gimmes in the goalsquare, Franklin does very little inside 30m from goal. He has kicked only 2 setshot goals from less than 30m out this year. All his marking is done further up the ground.
- Last year Buddy heavily favoured leading towards the left of goal. This year that preference doesn’t seem to be as pronounced.
- Franklin has been far from consistent this year. Over a quarter of the goals he has kicked this season have come in two games against the 16th and 18th placed teams Carlton and Brisbane. He has been kept to 1 goal or fewer on 7 occassions.
2. Josh Kennedy
- Kennedy is far more subdued in his forward play. He rarely attempts much outside 50, nor does he camp himself in the goalsquare waiting for a big contested grab. Kennedy does one thing and he does it really well; hard lead out to the ball, (un)contested mark, then sink the shot. This seems like it would be simple to stop, but he has proven time and time again how effective it is.
- Compared to Buddy’s paltry 2 setshot goals from within 30m, Kennedy has kicked 18.1. All of these were from between 15m and 30m.
- 54 of Kennedy’s 65 goals came from set-shots. This is one of the highest proportions in the league. Charlie Dixon leads the way with 43 of his 46 goals coming from set-shots. For contrast, only 39 of Franklin’s 69 were from marks or freekicks.
- Kennedy has been by far the most consistent forward this year, with only injury stopping him from collecting his third Coleman in a row. Kennedy had five 6+ goal hauls this year. The next most was from Ben Brown with three. Kennedy has not been kept goalless in a game since the 2015 Grand Final.
3. Ben Brown
- Brown stays at home far more than the others on this list, only managing two goals from outside 50 for the year. But what he lacks in distance kicking he makes up for in contested marking. 41 of his shots this year have come direct from contested marks or free kicks, more than any other player.
- Thanks to this playing style, on average he takes higher quality shots than any other forward here. Even considering this he has been deadly accurate and is the only player in the top-10 goalkickers to have kicked twice as many goals as behinds. His goalkicking in the corridor has been particularly accurate, kicking 45.16 from in front of goal.
- Ben Brown ended the season very well, notching up multiple goals in every game from round 13 onwards bar one.
4. Joe Daniher
- Daniher is a little bit like a mix between Buddy and Brown. He can venture outside 50 and nail the long bombs, but is also a contested marking monster nearer to goal. He’s kicked the third most goals from outside 50 (behind Buddy and Tex) but also the third most goals from inside 15m (behind Garlett and Betts).
- Joe’s accuracy close to goal has been phenomenal this year. He’s kicked 25.1 from shots within 30m out and right in front.
- His accuracy from all other shots has been a bit more of a rollercoaster. After a solid month following a dreadful round 6 vs Melbourne where he kicked 1.6, the media was awash with articles on how Joe had fixed his kicking worries. Of course, as I write about a lot here, goal-kicking has a huge random component and Daniher finished out the season kicking straight some weeks and inaccurately others averaging out to just about what we would’ve expected him to kick given the chances he created.
5. Jack Riewoldt
- Riewoldt is obviously a fair few goals behind the others on this list, but has still had a very impressive 2017 as the main key forward in a top-4 side, especially considering he missed 2 games.
- An interesting pattern seems to emerge in his shotplot where he has taken very few shots from around the 40m mark in the corridor. He seems to either lead short off the goalsquare, or long, up to the wings. I’m not sure if this is just randomness masquerading as a pattern or whether this is an intentional play due to some underlying cause.
- He has converted far more accurately from the right side of goal this year than the left.
- Only once this year has kicked a bag of 5 or more in a game. That said, he’s been consistent and not yet held goalless in a game this year.