The Coleman Medal, for most goals in the H&A season, was won this week by West Coast's Josh Kennedy for the second year running. His 80 goals in 22 matches was the highest total for a winner since Brendan Fevola in back in 2009.
Unlike other years, the top-5 forwards in the Coleman race this year all play with a very different and unique style. I thought it would be fun to have a closer look at each of these players and see how and where they do their best work.
The ShotPlots I have been regularly publishing on Twitter give me a great tool to do this. If you haven't seen these before, all you really need to know is that each circle represents a shot from that spot on the ground. The bigger the circle, the higher quality chance it was. "Quality" is determined using the SQP model, but is pretty much what you would intuitively expect. A set-shot in close or a shot running freely towards the goal is a much "higher quality" shot than a hook around the body in traffic from a tight angle.
Shots that are highlighted green are goals.
- Kennedy is your archetypal full-forward. He kicks a lot of goals from in and around the goal-square, but is also an elite lead. 65 of his 80 goals came directly from marks or free kicks, many of these being hard leads out to around 30-40m out from goal. He rarely ventures up the ground to take shots from outside 50 and for the most part steers clear of the deep pockets.
- He has been deadly accurate this year. He's had an average SQP of 21.41 but has kicked more than two points a game better than this. This means that on top of elite level shot production, Kennedy also kicks an extra goal every two and a bit weeks compared to what an AFL standard forward would with his chances.
- Set-shots, 40m out on a slight angle to the right of goal have been his bread and butter this year. Look at that patch of green.
Kennedy creates so many high quality chances, and kicks so many set-shots, that his highlight reel is actually pretty tame. The two goals from the 1.12 mark of this video show what he does best. Getting space on his defender, taking a mark, then going back and slotting it.
- Buddy is an entirely different beast. He takes shots (and kicks goals) from areas that others would never dream of. As we all know, he leads high up the ground and backs himself in from 50m at pretty much any angle.2 He took 36 shots this year that had an expected goal chance of less than 40% and kicked 16 of them. While that isn't that far above average expectation, he is probably responsible for a fair bit of what we think of as the "AFL average" from these areas. Very few other players try what Buddy does.
- He leads almost exclusively to the left of goal. One thing that pops out about this ShotPlot is the lack of any real quality chances to the right of goal. When most people think of a Lance Franklin goal they think of that big left hook from out on the boundary that somehow gets the ball to curve the other way. Whether subconscious or not, Buddy seems to favour this area with his leads too.
A long bomb from the centre square against his old club as the match hangs in the balance sums up Buddy's "shots that others wouldn't dream of" philosophy quite well.
- Eddie plays a very different role to the other key forwards on this list. He rarely attempts shots from outside 50 (only the one this year), but uses the full width of the Adelaide Oval forward line to his benefit. He's certainly not afraid to attempt a shot from "his pocket" and has an admirable success rate when he does. Contrasting starkly to Kennedy, most of Eddie's goals come from open play rather than set-shots.3
- He's the highest impact small forward in the competition by a long way. Bett's has a Shot Quality Production of 19.2pts. The next closest small forward, Cyril Rioli only has an SQP of 11.5pts. Eddie finds a way to create chances worth about a goal and a half a game more than his next closest challenger. He no doubt benefits from Adelaide's "sling-shot" style of play, but regardless, this is still very impressive.
Probably the best example of what Bett's is capable of is this soon to be goal-of-the-year:
While we're on the topic of Adelaide I'm going to jumble around the order a bit and look at the 5th highest goal-scorer next.
- Unlike Kennedy and Franklin (who move up the ground to shoot) and Betts (who moves wide out into the pockets), Jenkins gets most of his goals from in and around the goal square. Despite the knock on him for only getting the "gimmees", Jenkins is a very powerful contested and "one-out" marker. He kicked 27 goals this year from contested marks or marks on the lead.
- He may not be an elite finisher. Jenkins is one of the only 2 men in the top-10 highest goal scorers to kick below his Shot Quality Production. He is very good at converting those high quality chances he creates around the goal square, but when moving further out can be a little shaky, converting at roughly the AFL average as opposed to above it like the others on this list.
The highlight of Jenkins year so far, and probably the best example of him as a player was his 8-goal haul against the Dogs in Round 7. This shows his strong contested marking, hard running, ability to make the distance from 50 as well as a few goal square "gimmees".
- Lynch seems to be the "complete package" in regards to a key forward. He has good production in the goal square, leads out well, can kick from 50 and backs himself from the pockets. Kicking and creating nearly 20pts a game in a team down the bottom of the ladder and crippled by injury is a very very good showing. As a 23 year old, he is the youngest player on this list and has probably not reached his peak yet.
- Missing easy chances cost him a bit this year. Compare this ShotPlot to any of those above and you will see a lot more large black circles. These are misses from shots rated as pretty simple. For shots rated a 75-85% chance of goal for an AFL average player, Lynch kicked only 7 of 13. While this is admittedly a small sample, we haven't seen these misses from the other top players.
The first goal he kicked in the "Q-clash" against Brisbane this year shows what an impressive set-shot kick Tom Lynch can be.