The injury to Josh Kennedy is dragging on. With Adam Simpson ruling out the two-time Coleman medalist from the Eagles' elimination final rematch with the Dogs on Saturday, the calf injury that was originally expected to see Kennedy miss just the one game is now stretching into it's sixth week. This is bad news for the Eagles, but it does have the positive side effect of throwing the race for the Coleman medal wide open.
Last year, Kennedy won the top goalkicking prize in a canter. He was on track to make it three in a row this year, kicking an average of 3 and a half goals a game over the first 10 rounds, a record about half a goal a game better than his nearest challenger. However, this weekend will no doubt see him slip out of the top 5. Even he will find it hard to make up lost ground over the final 8 weeks of the season with so many of the competition's other premier forwards performing. Only 5 goals currently separate first and seventh in Coleman race.
The output of a key forward can most easily be broken down into two components, the quality of chances which they are given/create, and the accuracy with which they convert those chances1. Regular readers of this site would know I like to quantify the quality of chances a forward creates using expected score, or xScore (xS). This puts a number on every chance, related to the probability of an AFL average player kicking a goal from that chance. So a player who takes 4 marks close to goal giving themselves 4 high quality set shots may have a xScore of around 22pts. This reflects the average player's performance from these shots. Most would kick all 4, a few may miss 1 or 2. Compare this to a player who takes a 2 speculative snaps from the boundary. They might have an xS closer to 4-5pts reflecting the expectation of the average player from these chances.
The accuracy of a forward also comes out of this number. A player who kicks more points than their xScore is a better than average kick. A player who kicks fewer is worse than average. Applying these metrics to the current top 5 Coleman contenders, and plotting the location of each of their shots gives us a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the best forwards in the game.
NOTE: These numbers only include shots that registered a score and not any attempts that ended up out of bounds or not making the distance. I don't have the data for these unfortunately.
1st. Jeremy Cameron
- Cameron has been deadly accurate this year. Both Buddy and Josh Kennedy have higher xScores over the season, but Cameron has kicked 3 more goals than Franklin and 5 more than Kennedy.
- He kicks goals from all over. He's strong out of the goal square, and kicks a fairly even spread of goals from marks, on the run, and crumbing. He backs himself from out wide and can make the journey from 50m out easily. This was probably best exemplified by his running shot from 50 to beat the Tigers in round 9.
- Cameron hasn't been kept goalless once this season, however he did take only the one shot against Carlton in round 12. He has kicked bags of 6 twice.
2nd. Lance Franklin
- Buddy continues to be unique in his attempted scoring shots. He's taken 11 more shots than Cameron, but takes on so many difficult prospects that he does well to stay above the 50/50 goals/behinds ledger.
- He has taken 27 scoring shots from on or outside the 50m arc this year already. For reference, that is only 2 fewer scoring shots than Collingwood's top goalscorer Jamie Elliot has taken all season.
- This has been a particularly inconsistent season from Buddy. He has had the biggest haul in a game this year with 8 goals, but this came sandwiched between two 1 goal games. He's also been kept scoreless twice. Franklin's 6 behinds last week should've been worth around 3 goals on average based purely on the quality of the chances.
=3rd. Joe Daniher
- Daniher is becoming a very well-rounded footballer. He has been kicking well, marking well, and showing his ability from long range. He has kicked 2 goals this season from further than 60m out.
- His marking has made for some high quality set shot chances in and around goal. The average Daniher chance has about a 57% of being kicked by the average player compared to the average Franklin chance which has only a 49% chance.
- Since kicking 1.6 in round 6, Daniher has kicked 22.4 and has consistently outperformed his xScore.
=3rd. Eddie Betts
- The first thing that pops out about Eddie's ShotPlot is the fact that he rarely backs himself from anywhere further than about 45m out. This is not necessarily a criticism, in Adelaide's long bombing forward line he probably doesn't need to.
- His goal sneak credentials however, are unparalleled. He has taken 13 shots from within 15m of goal, most of them snaps, and missed only 3. We haven't seen quite as much love from deep in the pockets this year as we have grown accustomed to, but we are still seeing Eddie using the width of the forward 50 better than others.
- After coming out of the gates quickly, Betts has mirrored the rest of the Adelaide squad in dropping off over the last couple of months. In the first 5 weeks of the season Betts was averaging 4 goals a game, in the last 8 weeks that has dropped to 2 goals a game.
=5th. Josh Kennedy
- Despite not playing for almost a month and a half, Kennedy still maintains the 2nd highest xScore in the competition. He is undoubtedly the best leading forward in the competition. 44 of his 56 shots have come from marks or free kicks.
- He very rarely stays in the goalsquare and pretty much never loses his man for the stroll into an open goal. Not one shot this season has been taken from within 15m of goal.
- Kennedy has kicked under 2 goals only once this season and he hasn't been kept goalless in a game since the 2014 Grand Final.
Jack Reiwoldt and Robbie Gray also sit in 5th with 34 goals for the season to date. Taylor Walker is one goal back but has also played one less game. A big bag from any of these players could easily see them jolt up to the top.
Could the 2017 season possibly be any more exciting?