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Who are the Best (and Worst) Kicks in the Comp? Looking at Goalkicking in 3 Different Ways

Posted in Analytics Landscape, ExpScore, Shot Quality, and xScore

For the fourth week in a row, a player has missed a potential match-winning shot with the last kick1 of the game. Isaac Smith relived his Qualifying Final horror last Saturday against the Cats at the MCG, but he has ample company in Todd Goldstein, Tom Hawkins, and Michael Walters who, over the last month, have all failed to give their sides the win with the most important kick of the match.

Goalkicking is without a doubt one of the most important skills in the game. Wins and losses are routinely decided on it. It seems like barely a week goes by without some ex-player coming out and lamenting the quality of "modern day" goalkicking. I disagree with these sort of takes for a number of reasons (increased intensity, improved defence, and selective memory are among the reasons why accuracy appears to have stagnated), but I'll save that for another time.

Today, I wanted to look at the different ways we can measure goalkicking, how useful these are at measuring the "ability" of different types of players, and which players have the best goalkicking records so far this year.

First and foremost the simple goals and behinds tally. You've read it in the papers, you've seen it on Fox, in fact, you probably have a mate who knows how many goals and behinds your key forwards have kicked this year off the top of his head. But just who has kicked the most goals from their shots this year?

Simple Accuracy (Goals / Scoring Shots)

Here are all 231 players to have taken at least 10 scoring shots this year, sorted by simple accuracy. Ben McEvoy leads the way this year with a simple accuracy of 92%, scoring 11.1 from his 12 scoring shots this year.

PlayerClubGoalsBehindsSimple Accuracy (%)
Ben McEvoyHawthorn11192
Callum Ah CheeGold Coast Suns12286
Mitch RobinsonBrisbane Lions9282
Ryan BastinacBrisbane Lions14382
Christian PetraccaMelbourne21581
Drew PetrieWest Coast Eagles11379
Tom McDonaldMelbourne19579
Paul PuopoloHawthorn14478
Daniel MenzelGeelong Cats331077
Dan HanneberySydney Swans10377
Riley KnightAdelaide Crows10377
Steven MotlopGeelong Cats17577
Jonathon PattonGWS Giants331077
Matthew WrightCarlton23777
Rory SloaneAdelaide Crows13476
Trent CotchinRichmond12475
Tim O'BrienHawthorn16673
Will Hoskin-ElliottCollingwood11473
Lewis JettaWest Coast Eagles8373
Jack MartinGold Coast Suns16673
Blake AcresSt Kilda8373
James ParsonsGeelong Cats11473
Mark BlicavsGeelong Cats10471
Jacob WeiteringCarlton7370
Wayne MileraAdelaide Crows7370
Brandon EllisRichmond7370
Ben CunningtonNorth Melbourne7370
Tom BoydWestern Bulldogs7370
David MackayAdelaide Crows7370
Rory LobbGWS Giants14670
Dan ButlerRichmond20969
Marc MurphyCarlton9469
Nathan HrovatNorth Melbourne11569
Jack WattsMelbourne20969
Josh P. KennedySydney Swans11569
Jordan De GoeyCollingwood9469
Tom ScullyGWS Giants11569
Jamie ElliottCollingwood251268
Andy OttenAdelaide Crows17868
Lachie NealeFremantle13668
Tim MembreySt Kilda261268
Rory AtkinsAdelaide Crows10567
Jake MelkshamMelbourne8467
Todd GoldsteinNorth Melbourne10567
Ben BrownNorth Melbourne412067
Josh HillWest Coast Eagles16867
Josh SchacheBrisbane Lions8467
Shaun AtleyNorth Melbourne10567
Alex SextonGold Coast Suns10567
Eddie BettsAdelaide Crows412067
Mitch HannanMelbourne18967
Nick RiewoldtSt Kilda241267
Jeremy CameronGWS Giants412166
Josh JenkinsAdelaide Crows271466
Eric HipwoodBrisbane Lions261465
Brandon MateraGold Coast Suns221265
Kayne TurnerNorth Melbourne15865
Sam ReidSydney Swans221265
Cameron PedersenMelbourne9564
Sam Petrevski-SetonCarlton7464
Cale HookerEssendon271564
Zac WilliamsGWS Giants7464
Ben AinsworthGold Coast Suns9564
Tom HawkinsGeelong Cats362064
Clay SmithWestern Bulldogs7464
Daniel WellsCollingwood7464
Patrick CrippsCarlton7464
Ricky HendersonHawthorn9564
Dale ThomasCarlton7464
Charlie DixonPort Adelaide331963
Orazio FantasiaEssendon321963
Lachie HunterWestern Bulldogs12763
Levi CasboultCarlton241463
Robbie GrayPort Adelaide402363
Luke BreustHawthorn241463
Devon SmithGWS Giants12763
Charlie CurnowCarlton12763
Jeff GarlettMelbourne321963
Jack GunstonHawthorn171063
Joe DaniherEssendon452663
Nathan JonesMelbourne10662
Taylor GarnerNorth Melbourne10662
Jesse HoganMelbourne10662
Anthony McDonald-TipungwutiEssendon251562
Steele SidebottomCollingwood13862
Tom J. LynchGold Coast Suns372362
Zak JonesSydney Swans8562
Jarryd RougheadHawthorn231462
Darcy MooreCollingwood211362
Josh J. KennedyWest Coast Eagles372461
Jack DarlingWest Coast Eagles301961
Michael WaltersFremantle221461
Jack RiewoldtRichmond402661
Taylor WalkerAdelaide Crows412661
Elliot YeoWest Coast Eagles6460
Jackson TrengovePort Adelaide151060
James StewartEssendon12860
Josh BruceSt Kilda261760
Robert MurphyWestern Bulldogs6460
James SicilyHawthorn12860
Sam JacobsAdelaide Crows6460
Callan WardGWS Giants6460
Sam Powell-PepperPort Adelaide151060
Travis ClokeWestern Bulldogs6460
Tim TarantoGWS Giants6460
Toby GreeneGWS Giants322259
Toby McLeanWestern Bulldogs10759
Jack RedpathWestern Bulldogs10759
Isaac HeeneySydney Swans10759
David MundyFremantle10759
Alex Neal-BullenMelbourne10759
Patrick DangerfieldGeelong Cats322259
Nathan VardyWest Coast Eagles7558
Luke DahlhausWestern Bulldogs7558
Tom PapleySydney Swans191458
Daniel RioliRichmond141058
Adam TreloarCollingwood11858
Peter WrightGold Coast Suns221658
Bryce GibbsCarlton141058
Ryan LesterBrisbane Lions11858
Richard DouglasAdelaide Crows7558
Liam PickenWestern Bulldogs12957
Tom CutlerBrisbane Lions8657
Charlie CameronAdelaide Crows201557
Jarman ImpeyPort Adelaide131057
Patrick RyderPort Adelaide8657
Shane KerstenFremantle171357
Tom LynchAdelaide Crows231757
Mark LeCrasWest Coast Eagles231757
Travis BoakPort Adelaide12957
Will HaywardSydney Swans131057
Gary RohanSydney Swans10856
Jason CastagnaRichmond191556
Tom MitchellHawthorn9756
David ZaharakisEssendon9756
Mason WoodNorth Melbourne141156
Michael BarlowGold Coast Suns10856
Dayne BeamsBrisbane Lions9756
Dayne ZorkoBrisbane Lions252056
Shaun BurgoyneHawthorn10856
Rohan BewickBrisbane Lions6555
Cam McCarthyFremantle171455
Ben ReidCollingwood6555
Dustin MartinRichmond221954
Dean KentMelbourne7654
Dyson HeppellEssendon7654
Jack ZiebellNorth Melbourne7654
Bailey DaleWestern Bulldogs7654
Jamie CrippsWest Coast Eagles151354
Travis ColyerEssendon10953
David SwallowGold Coast Suns8753
Brady GreyFremantle8753
Aaron HallGold Coast Suns10953
Mitch DuncanGeelong Cats9853
Jarryd LyonsGold Coast Suns9853
Harry TaylorGeelong Cats111052
Alex FasoloCollingwood272552
Jarrad WaiteNorth Melbourne171652
Bradley HillFremantle121152
Lance FranklinSydney Swans474551
Chad WingardPort Adelaide181751
Ollie WinesPort Adelaide111150
James HarmesMelbourne9950
Jake StringerWestern Bulldogs242450
Jake BarrettBrisbane Lions9950
Rhys StanleyGeelong Cats6650
Touk MillerGold Coast Suns5550
Dom SheedWest Coast Eagles8850
Jesse WhiteCollingwood5550
Nat FyfeFremantle111150
Zach MerrettEssendon5550
Zach TuohyGeelong Cats6650
Jack VineyMelbourne5550
Luke ShueyWest Coast Eagles6650
Darcy LangGeelong Cats5550
Aaron YoungPort Adelaide101050
Jack SilvagniCarlton151550
Sam J. ReidGWS Giants101050
Jack CrispCollingwood6650
Sam LloydRichmond6650
Liam ShielsHawthorn7750
Josh GreenEssendon151550
Jade GreshamSt Kilda212249
Justin WesthoffPort Adelaide101148
Lewis TaylorBrisbane Lions121348
Luke ParkerSydney Swans101148
Steve JohnsonGWS Giants131448
Shaun GriggRichmond91047
Matthew KreuzerCarlton91047
Marcus BontempelliWestern Bulldogs161946
Luke McDonaldNorth Melbourne6746
Tom PhillipsCollingwood5645
Nic NewmanSydney Swans5645
Josh CaddyRichmond101245
Dylan ShielGWS Giants91145
Nakia CockatooGeelong Cats7944
Brodie SmithAdelaide Crows7944
Sam GrayPort Adelaide172244
Jason JohannisenWestern Bulldogs6843
Mitch McGovernAdelaide Crows6843
Kieren JackSydney Swans6843
Gary AblettGold Coast Suns81142
Cyril RioliHawthorn5742
Josh KellyGWS Giants101442
Shaun HigginsNorth Melbourne141942
Jack NewnesSt Kilda5742
Jeremy McGovernWest Coast Eagles81142
Scott PendleburyCollingwood5742
Hayden CrozierFremantle91341
Jack BillingsSt Kilda162341
Jared PolecPort Adelaide71041
Shane EdwardsRichmond71041
Josh DunkleyWestern Bulldogs4640
Jordan MurdochGeelong Cats6940
Kane LambertRichmond6940
Isaac SmithHawthorn71139
Sam MenegolaGeelong Cats71139
Sean LemmensGold Coast Suns81338
Paddy McCartinSt Kilda5838
Tomas BuggMelbourne71237
Matthew SucklingWestern Bulldogs71237
Marcus AdamsWestern Bulldogs4736
Sebastian RossSt Kilda4736
Will LangfordHawthorn61135
Maverick WellerSt Kilda91833
Levi GreenwoodCollingwood61332
Tim BroomheadCollingwood51131
Jack StevenSt Kilda61430
Jack LonieSt Kilda51229
Hugh McCluggageBrisbane Lions51229
Dion PrestiaRichmond2820

I stress, "scoring" shots, because unfortunately due to data availability, we don't have much data on how many shots players have taken which have either fallen short or missed the goals entirely. If we did, I suspect a few of these records would look a fair bit worse. When some of this data does drip through to the public, it can throw up a few surprises.

Even though the data are incomplete, we can still get a pretty good idea about goalkicking ability if we look at the right things. However, looking at that table above, the limitations of a straight goals and behinds record is immediately apparent.

Firstly, we have to decide an arbitrary cut off point for when we consider the sample big enough. If instead of looking at players with at least 10 scoring shots, we look at players with at least 5 scoring shots, McEvoy is no longer number 1. Two players this year (Christian Salem and David Cunningham) have kicked 5 goals straight without registering a single behind. Of course, they are not really the best kicks in the comp, we wouldn't expect their accuracy to remain 100% if instead of 5 shots, they had taken 50.

If we make the cutoff 20 or more shots, Christian Petracca becomes the best kick. If we make the cutoff 40 or more, Daniel Menzel becomes the best. 40 might seem like a sensible value, and Menzel really is a good kick, but if we make 40 shots the cutoff we miss a lot of forwards we would otherwise be interested in, such as Sam Reid who has kicked 22.12 or Matthew Wright who has kicked 23.7.

Another obvious shortcoming of the simple accuracy measure is that the difficulty of shots is not accounted for whatsoever. McEvoy has certainly kicked straight this year, but 11 out of his 12 shots were set shots and the majority of them around 30m out, dead in front. This is not a slight at McEvoy at all, in fact this exactly what you would want your resting ruckman to be doing, it's just not necessarily evidence to support the claim he is the best kick in the comp.

McEvoy Shotplot17

What we need instead is a way to judge the difficulty of shots, perhaps based on how well the rest of the competition has kicked similar shots in the past. Luckily I have that exact tool, something regular readers would know as xScore. If you look at McEvoy's shotplot closely you will see that each of those circles is a slightly different size, the bigger the circle, the easier the shot. The shots further out, and at tougher angles are smaller. As is the one right in front, 25m out. Why? Because this was the one non-set shot of his 12 scores, a snap out of the pack. This is a tougher goal to kick than the set shots right next to it.

An AFL average player given those exact shots would kick about 53 points on average (so around 8 goals). McEvoy's 67 points (11 goals) means he's kicked significantly above average.

Using this model, the next obvious leap is to look at which players have kicked the most points above their xScore expectation given the shots they've taken. These are players that have kicked straighter than the AFL average player would've expected to. Good kicks.

Difference Between Actual Score and xScore

Again using the 10 scoring shot cutoff, here's how the competition has kicked.

Jeremy CameronGWS Giants412126723334
Matthew WrightCarlton23714511431
Jonathon PattonGWS Giants331020817731
Daniel MenzelGeelong Cats331020817731
Eddie BettsAdelaide Crows412026623729
Orazio FantasiaEssendon321921118328
Steven MotlopGeelong Cats1751077928
Ryan BastinacBrisbane Lions143875928
Taylor WalkerAdelaide Crows412627224626
Eric HipwoodBrisbane Lions261417014426
Christian PetraccaMelbourne21513110526
Jack MartinGold Coast Suns1661028022
Ben BrownNorth Melbourne412026624521
Tom McDonaldMelbourne19511910019
Tom HawkinsGeelong Cats362023621719
Trent CotchinRichmond124765719
Lance FranklinSydney Swans474532730918
Joe DaniherEssendon452629627818
Jack GunstonHawthorn17101129517
Paul PuopoloHawthorn144887117
Rory LobbGWS Giants146907317
Mitch RobinsonBrisbane Lions92563917
Charlie DixonPort Adelaide331921720215
Tom J. LynchGold Coast Suns372324523015
Jake MelkshamMelbourne84523814
Josh JenkinsAdelaide Crows271417616214
Tom ScullyGWS Giants115715714
Lachie NealeFremantle136847014
Steele SidebottomCollingwood138867214
Rory SloaneAdelaide Crows134826814
Callum Ah CheeGold Coast Suns122746014
Anthony McDonald-TipungwutiEssendon251516515114
Ben McEvoyHawthorn111675314
Dan HanneberySydney Swans103635013
Dayne ZorkoBrisbane Lions252017015713
Josh P. KennedySydney Swans115715813
Sam ReidSydney Swans221214413113
Andy OttenAdelaide Crows1781109812
Jack WattsMelbourne20912911712
Toby GreeneGWS Giants322221420212
Jack RiewoldtRichmond402626625412
Devon SmithGWS Giants127796811
Marc MurphyCarlton94584711
Michael WaltersFremantle221414613511
Ben CunningtonNorth Melbourne73453411
Adam TreloarCollingwood118746311
Drew PetrieWest Coast Eagles113695811
Tim O'BrienHawthorn1661029111
Sam Powell-PepperPort Adelaide15101009010
Nathan HrovatNorth Melbourne115716110
Dayne BeamsBrisbane Lions97615110
Rory AtkinsAdelaide Crows105655510
Wayne MileraAdelaide Crows73453510
Jamie ElliottCollingwood251216215210
Riley KnightAdelaide Crows10363549
Brandon MateraGold Coast Suns22121441359
Peter WrightGold Coast Suns22161481399
Luke BreustHawthorn24141581499
Alex SextonGold Coast Suns10565569
James ParsonsGeelong Cats11470619
Brandon EllisRichmond7345369
Jordan De GoeyCollingwood9458499
Mark LeCrasWest Coast Eagles23171551478
David MackayAdelaide Crows7345378
Travis BoakPort Adelaide12981738
Blake AcresSt Kilda8351438
Mitch HannanMelbourne1891171098
Lachie HunterWestern Bulldogs12779718
Josh J. KennedyWest Coast Eagles37242462397
Tom BoydWestern Bulldogs7345387
Shaun AtleyNorth Melbourne10565587
Zac WilliamsGWS Giants7446397
Callan WardGWS Giants6440337
Nathan JonesMelbourne10666597
Robbie GrayPort Adelaide40232632576
Tim MembreySt Kilda26121681626
Will Hoskin-ElliottCollingwood11470646
Cam McCarthyFremantle17141161106
Shaun BurgoyneHawthorn10868626
Elliot YeoWest Coast Eagles6440355
Richard DouglasAdelaide Crows7547425
Sam Petrevski-SetonCarlton7446415
David ZaharakisEssendon9761565
Aaron HallGold Coast Suns10969645
Mark BlicavsGeelong Cats10464595
Robert MurphyWestern Bulldogs6440364
Zach TuohyGeelong Cats6642384
David MundyFremantle10767634
Tom PapleySydney Swans19141281244
Mason WoodNorth Melbourne141195914
Bryce GibbsCarlton141094904
Lewis JettaWest Coast Eagles8351483
Jack ZiebellNorth Melbourne7648453
Tom CutlerBrisbane Lions8654513
Ricky HendersonHawthorn9559563
Ben AinsworthGold Coast Suns9559563
David SwallowGold Coast Suns8755532
Patrick DangerfieldGeelong Cats32222142122
Zach MerrettEssendon5535332
Clay SmithWestern Bulldogs7446442
Josh HillWest Coast Eagles1681041022
Patrick CrippsCarlton7446442
Josh SchacheBrisbane Lions8452502
Charlie CameronAdelaide Crows20151351332
Tom MitchellHawthorn9761592
Tim TarantoGWS Giants6440382
Jeff GarlettMelbourne32192112092
Cameron PedersenMelbourne9559572
Daniel WellsCollingwood7446442
Toby McLeanWestern Bulldogs10767652
Jacob WeiteringCarlton7345432
Shane KerstenFremantle17131151132
Will HaywardSydney Swans131088871
Bailey DaleWestern Bulldogs7648471
Zak JonesSydney Swans8553521
Dyson HeppellEssendon7648471
Mitch DuncanGeelong Cats9862611
Isaac HeeneySydney Swans10767661
Daniel RioliRichmond141094931
Charlie CurnowCarlton12779781
Alex Neal-BullenMelbourne10767661
Luke DahlhausWestern Bulldogs7547461
Dan ButlerRichmond2091291290
Jarryd LyonsGold Coast Suns9862620
Darcy MooreCollingwood21131391390
Dom SheedWest Coast Eagles8856560
Sam J. ReidGWS Giants101070700
Jared PolecPort Adelaide71052520
Chad WingardPort Adelaide18171251250
Jarryd RougheadHawthorn23141521520
Sam LloydRichmond6642420
Taylor GarnerNorth Melbourne10666660
Luke ParkerSydney Swans10117172-1
Nat FyfeFremantle11117778-1
Justin WesthoffPort Adelaide10117172-1
Jack CrispCollingwood664243-1
Jason JohannisenWestern Bulldogs684445-1
James StewartEssendon1288081-1
Jesse WhiteCollingwood553536-1
Tom LynchAdelaide Crows2317155156-1
Travis ColyerEssendon1096970-1
Patrick RyderPort Adelaide865455-1
Todd GoldsteinNorth Melbourne1056567-2
Luke ShueyWest Coast Eagles664244-2
Nick RiewoldtSt Kilda2412156158-2
Jamie CrippsWest Coast Eagles1513103105-2
Luke McDonaldNorth Melbourne674345-2
Nathan VardyWest Coast Eagles754749-2
Kayne TurnerNorth Melbourne15898100-2
Dylan ShielGWS Giants9116567-2
Levi CasboultCarlton2414158160-2
Dustin MartinRichmond2219151153-2
Cale HookerEssendon2715177180-3
Liam ShielsHawthorn774952-3
Ben ReidCollingwood654144-3
Jack RedpathWestern Bulldogs1076770-3
Jackson TrengovePort Adelaide1510100103-3
Tom PhillipsCollingwood563639-3
Aaron YoungPort Adelaide10107073-3
Jarrad WaiteNorth Melbourne1716118121-3
Nic NewmanSydney Swans563639-3
Michael BarlowGold Coast Suns1086872-4
Sam JacobsAdelaide Crows644044-4
Bradley HillFremantle12118387-4
Dale ThomasCarlton744650-4
Brodie SmithAdelaide Crows795156-5
James SicilyHawthorn1288085-5
Jarman ImpeyPort Adelaide13108893-5
Travis ClokeWestern Bulldogs644045-5
Ollie WinesPort Adelaide11117782-5
Touk MillerGold Coast Suns553540-5
Jack DarlingWest Coast Eagles3019199204-5
Lewis TaylorBrisbane Lions12138590-5
Liam PickenWestern Bulldogs1298186-5
Dean KentMelbourne764854-6
Rohan BewickBrisbane Lions654147-6
Jordan MurdochGeelong Cats694551-6
Shaun GriggRichmond9106470-6
Paddy McCartinSt Kilda583844-6
Darcy LangGeelong Cats553541-6
Jake StringerWestern Bulldogs2424168174-6
Jack SilvagniCarlton1515105111-6
Brady GreyFremantle875561-6
Jack VineyMelbourne553541-6
Jake BarrettBrisbane Lions996370-7
Josh KellyGWS Giants10147481-7
Scott PendleburyCollingwood573744-7
Gary RohanSydney Swans1086875-7
Josh CaddyRichmond10127279-7
Marcus AdamsWestern Bulldogs473138-7
Steve JohnsonGWS Giants13149299-7
Sebastian RossSt Kilda473138-7
Josh GreenEssendon1515105113-8
James HarmesMelbourne996371-8
Jack NewnesSt Kilda573745-8
Josh BruceSt Kilda2617173181-8
Gary AblettGold Coast Suns8115967-8
Josh DunkleyWestern Bulldogs463038-8
Matthew SucklingWestern Bulldogs7125462-8
Harry TaylorGeelong Cats11107685-9
Jesse HoganMelbourne1066675-9
Ryan LesterBrisbane Lions1187483-9
Kane LambertRichmond694554-9
Cyril RioliHawthorn573746-9
Hayden CrozierFremantle9136777-10
Kieren JackSydney Swans684454-10
Nakia CockatooGeelong Cats795161-10
Shane EdwardsRichmond7105263-11
Jeremy McGovernWest Coast Eagles8115970-11
Isaac SmithHawthorn7115364-11
Alex FasoloCollingwood2725187199-12
Jason CastagnaRichmond1915129141-12
Sam MenegolaGeelong Cats7115365-12
Rhys StanleyGeelong Cats664254-12
Tim BroomheadCollingwood5114154-13
Mitch McGovernAdelaide Crows684457-13
Matthew KreuzerCarlton9106478-14
Hugh McCluggageBrisbane Lions5124257-15
Shaun HigginsNorth Melbourne1419103118-15
Levi GreenwoodCollingwood6134966-17
Will LangfordHawthorn6114764-17
Jack StevenSt Kilda6145069-19
Jack LonieSt Kilda5124261-19
Sam GrayPort Adelaide1722124144-20
Dion PrestiaRichmond282040-20
Marcus BontempelliWestern Bulldogs1619115136-21
Jack BillingsSt Kilda1623119141-22
Jade GreshamSt Kilda2122148172-24
Sean LemmensGold Coast Suns8136185-24
Tomas BuggMelbourne7125480-26
Maverick WellerSt Kilda91872101-29

Using this metric Jeremy Cameron becomes top of the class. 34 points above xScore means he has kicked about 7 goals more than the AFL average player would with his shots.2 This is no doubt very impressive, but it's important to realise that the difference between score and xScore, does not solely measure accuracy, but rather naturally favours those players who take lots of shots.

Cameron has taken 62 scoring shots this season, the 6th most in the league. Kicking 34 points above xScore is not quite the same level of sharpshooting as Matthew Wright who has kicked 31 points above xScore from only 30 shots, the 53rd most shots in the league. Again, looking at their shotplots gives us a better idea of what is going on. The dark grey areas make up a bigger proportion of Cameron's shots than Wright's
Cameron Shotplot17Wright Shotplot17

Looking purely at score added above expectation certainly gives us an idea of the value of a player, but it's not the best way to judge the accuracy of a player's goalkicking. Instead we turn to the world of statistical hypothesis testing3 to help us pick out the best kicks.

Probability of Kicking As Many Goals by Luck

To explain how this works I'm going to use a simple example. Imagine a player takes 3 shots at goal, each with individual probabilities of goal4 of 0.5, 0.6, and 0.3. For those who have forgotten high school maths, probabilities are represented between 0 and 1. A probability of 0.5 is the same as a 50% chance, 0.6 is 60% etc.

The probability of a player kicking all 3 goals, assuming they are in fact AFL average, no better or worse, is 0.5 * 0.6 * 0.3 = 0.09. You could say this is the probability of an average player getting "lucky" and kicking three, as opposed actually being higher skilled then the rest of the competition. For those players with very few shots (like Salem and Cunningham) this is most likely what is going on.

The probability of the same AFL average player kicking 2 out of the 3 shots is calculated so: (0.5 * 0.6 * 0.3) + (0.5 * 0.4 * 0.3) + (0.5 * 0.6 * 0.7) = 0.36. So the probability of an AFL average player kicking 2 or more goals given these three shots is 0.36 + 0.9 = 0.45. There's a 45% chance that a player with complete average skill would kick at least 2 goals given these three shots.

Now we expand this a bit further and look at a real example, the AFL clairvoyant, Mitch Robinson. Here are his shots this year:

Robinson Shotplot17

Outside of those two shots right near goal, Robinson has taken some very difficult shots this year. No other shot has had more than a 50% chance of goal if kicked at the AFL average.

Using the same method as above, we can calculate the probability of kicking 9 goals or more if Mitch was in fact an AFL average kick. This comes out at 0.0074, or a 0.74% chance. There's less than a 1% chance that we would see this record from an AFL average goalkicker. It's far more likely that Mitch Robinson is actually better than average.

Here's the rest of the competition ranked by this metric:

PlayerClubGoalsBehindsScorexScoreProb Avg. Player Equal or Better
R.BastinacBrisbane Lions14387590.0049
M.RobinsonBrisbane Lions9256390.0074
J.PattonGWS Giants33102081770.0074
S.MotlopGeelong Cats175107790.0122
D.MenzelGeelong Cats33102081770.0255
J.MartinGold Coast Suns166102800.0342
J.CameronGWS Giants41212672330.0387
C.Ah CheeGold Coast Suns12274600.0486
E.HipwoodBrisbane Lions26141701440.0527
E.BettsAdelaide Crows41202662370.0616
D.HanneberySydney Swans10363500.0689
T.WalkerAdelaide Crows41262722460.0725
T.ScullyGWS Giants11571570.0823
R.SloaneAdelaide Crows13482680.123
R.LobbGWS Giants14690730.1236
A.SextonGold Coast Suns10565560.1294
B.CunningtonNorth Melbourne7345340.1409
B.BrownNorth Melbourne41202662450.144
J.ParsonsGeelong Cats11470610.148
S.ReidSydney Swans22121441310.1486
J.KennedySydney Swans11571580.1589
B.AcresSt Kilda8351430.1681
A.OttenAdelaide Crows178110980.1766
D.PetrieWest Coast Eagles11369580.1784
D.MackayAdelaide Crows7345370.1824
T.HawkinsGeelong Cats36202362170.1835
L.JettaWest Coast Eagles8351480.1845
D.SmithGWS Giants12779680.2046
J.JenkinsAdelaide Crows27141761620.2051
J.De GoeyCollingwood9458490.2075
N.HrovatNorth Melbourne11571610.21
T.BoydWestern Bulldogs7345380.2155
L.HunterWestern Bulldogs12779710.2155
R.AtkinsAdelaide Crows10565550.2171
M.BlicavsGeelong Cats10464590.2227
T.BoakPort Adelaide12981730.2276
W.MileraAdelaide Crows7345350.2332
C.DixonPort Adelaide33192172020.2499
D.BeamsBrisbane Lions9761510.2505
R.KnightAdelaide Crows10363540.2515
T.LynchGold Coast Suns37232452300.2543
B.MateraGold Coast Suns22121441350.2608
L.FranklinSydney Swans47453273090.2633
S.AtleyNorth Melbourne10565580.2645
T.GreeneGWS Giants32222142020.2781
D.ZorkoBrisbane Lions25201701570.2844
Z.WilliamsGWS Giants7446390.3012
S.Powell-PepperPort Adelaide1510100900.3029
C.WardGWS Giants6440330.3093
J.KennedyWest Coast Eagles37242462390.3212
T.MembreySt Kilda26121681620.3292
T.McLeanWestern Bulldogs10767650.345
P.WrightGold Coast Suns22161481390.3595
M.LeCrasWest Coast Eagles23171551470.3605
A.HallGold Coast Suns10969640.3716
B.AinsworthGold Coast Suns9559560.405
Z.TuohyGeelong Cats6642380.4093
R.GrayPort Adelaide40232632570.4203
M.WoodNorth Melbourne141195910.4219
R.DouglasAdelaide Crows7547420.4311
P.DangerfieldGeelong Cats32222142120.439
C.CameronAdelaide Crows20151351330.442
E.YeoWest Coast Eagles6440350.453
I.HeeneySydney Swans10767660.4741
J.ZiebellNorth Melbourne7648450.4743
R.MurphyWestern Bulldogs6440360.4864
J.SchacheBrisbane Lions8452500.487
T.CutlerBrisbane Lions8654510.4978
T.PapleySydney Swans19141281240.4997
D.SwallowGold Coast Suns8755530.5058
J.HillWest Coast Eagles1681041020.5131
T.TarantoGWS Giants6440380.5163
J.LyonsGold Coast Suns9862620.5199
P.RyderPort Adelaide8654550.5244
T.GoldsteinNorth Melbourne10565670.5277
L.DahlhausWestern Bulldogs7547460.5336
T.LynchAdelaide Crows23171551560.5353
C.SmithWestern Bulldogs7446440.5404
C.WingardPort Adelaide18171251250.5637
N.RiewoldtSt Kilda24121561580.5644
W.HaywardSydney Swans131088870.5648
B.DaleWestern Bulldogs7648470.5734
S.ReidGWS Giants101070700.5746
D.ShielGWS Giants91165670.5857
T.GarnerNorth Melbourne10666660.5974
J.PolecPort Adelaide71052520.606
D.SheedWest Coast Eagles8856560.613
J.CrippsWest Coast Eagles15131031050.6145
M.DuncanGeelong Cats9862610.6149
K.TurnerNorth Melbourne158981000.6308
L.ParkerSydney Swans101171720.6373
A.YoungPort Adelaide101070730.6422
J.JohannisenWestern Bulldogs6844450.6437
Z.JonesSydney Swans8553520.6479
J.DarlingWest Coast Eagles30191992040.6552
N.VardyWest Coast Eagles7547490.6688
J.WaiteNorth Melbourne17161181210.6751
J.WesthoffPort Adelaide101171720.6751
J.StringerWestern Bulldogs24241681740.7003
J.TrengovePort Adelaide15101001030.7286
J.ImpeyPort Adelaide131088930.731
S.JacobsAdelaide Crows6440440.7348
L.McDonaldNorth Melbourne6743450.7419
N.NewmanSydney Swans5636390.7422
L.ShueyWest Coast Eagles6642440.7428
J.RedpathWestern Bulldogs10767700.7467
B.SmithAdelaide Crows7951560.7513
L.PickenWestern Bulldogs12981860.7523
L.TaylorBrisbane Lions121385900.7579
J.BruceSt Kilda26171731810.7584
M.BarlowGold Coast Suns10868720.763
O.WinesPort Adelaide111177820.7734
G.RohanSydney Swans10868750.7765
J.KellyGWS Giants101474810.8121
J.MurdochGeelong Cats6945510.8131
T.MillerGold Coast Suns5535400.8167
S.JohnsonGWS Giants131492990.8228
M.AdamsWestern Bulldogs4731380.8244
J.BarrettBrisbane Lions9963700.856
K.JackSydney Swans6844540.8655
P.McCartinSt Kilda5838440.8711
T.ClokeWestern Bulldogs6440450.8715
H.TaylorGeelong Cats111076850.872
M.SucklingWestern Bulldogs71254620.8766
G.AblettGold Coast Suns81159670.8812
R.BewickBrisbane Lions6541470.8869
S.HigginsNorth Melbourne14191031180.8903
S.RossSt Kilda4731380.8908
N.CockatooGeelong Cats7951610.8959
R.LesterBrisbane Lions11874830.8972
D.LangGeelong Cats5535410.8987
S.MenegolaGeelong Cats71153650.9161
J.DunkleyWestern Bulldogs4630380.9182
S.GrayPort Adelaide17221241440.9312
J.NewnesSt Kilda5737450.945
J.McGovernWest Coast Eagles81159700.9465
M.BontempelliWestern Bulldogs16191151360.9531
J.GreshamSt Kilda21221481720.9535
J.BillingsSt Kilda16231191410.9648
M.McGovernAdelaide Crows6844570.9672
H.McCluggageBrisbane Lions51242570.969
R.StanleyGeelong Cats6642540.971
J.LonieSt Kilda51242610.9758
J.StevenSt Kilda61450690.9882
S.LemmensGold Coast Suns81361850.9935
M.WellerSt Kilda918721010.995

So there's only a 0.41% chance (or alternatively about a 1 in 250 chance) that Matthew Wright is actually average and his record is that of an average player who got "lucky". This may seem like a tiny chance at face value, but it's important to remember that we are looking at 231 players here, it would certainly not be uncommon to see a few players luck out. A way to be more sure of Wright's skill would be to look at his past season's, but I'll save that for another post.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the "statistically significant" worst kicks in the comp. Given the 19 shots he has taken this year, there's a 99.94% chance that an AFL average player would kick as straight or straighter then Tom Bugg has. Maybe his suspension was a bit of a blessing for the Dees.

Bugg shotplot17

You can see clearly from his shotplot that other than 4-5 sitters, he's missed virtually everything else he has attempted.

Mav Weller from St Kilda is a similar story. 99.5% of kickers would do as well or better with his chances this year.

Weller Shotplot17

Have a click around and find the best and worst from your club.

Looking solely at set shot kicking could also be enlightening. xScore can sometimes misrate the difficulty of shots from open play, as pressure on the kicker is not known exactly, but rather inferred from other data. If we looked only at set shots we could remove some of this noise and get a better idea of who is actually the sweetest kick in the comp. The problem with this is the sample sizes become a lot smaller. I may have a look at this later on in the year, but as it stands now, Jonathon Patton is by far and away the best set shot.5

  1. or just about last
  2. A goal is worth 5 points more than a behind.
  3. Don't worry, I promise it's simple.
  4. if kicked by the AFL average player, calculated using xScore
  5. and Weller the worst

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