Goal-kicking is a crucial part of any NRL club’s finals ambitions and with plenty of off-season player movement affecting who will kick for each team, NRL.com Stats has run the rule over how each club is placed heading into 2020.
You only have to ask Cronulla – who lost four games in five weeks last season despite scoring more tries than their opponents – how crucial a missed kick can be. The Sharks would have finished top four if they kicked a few more goals last season.
The Roosters, Wests Tigers, Panthers, Cowboys, Titans and Dragons are among the clubs whose goal-kicking stocks will be significantly impacted by roster changes.
NRL.com Stats has ranked all 16 clubs based on a variety of factors such as career percentage of the main kickers, their 2019 records, depth and experience.
This is why, for example, the Rabbitohs are above Penrith; Nathan Cleary is the best kicker in the competition but has no recognised back-up, whereas Souths have three front-line kickers in their starting 13.
If it seems odd the Raiders and point-scoring sensation skipper Jarrod Croker a are below Manly and Parramatta, consider Croker’s 2019 average was well down on his career average and no-one else in the team’s best 17 has ever kicked a goal.
1. South Sydney Rabbitohs
- Adam Reynolds: 644/784, 82.1%
- Latrell Mitchell: 209/281, 74.4%
- Ethan Lowe: 69/90, 76.7%
Picking up Roosters’ front-line kicker Mitchell is a huge coup for the Bunnies. Mitchell isn’t as proficient as Reynolds, who is among the best in the NRL, but as a back-up kicker it’s a massive luxury. As is having incumbent Maroons kicker Lowe – who shapes as a starting big-minute player this year – as third choice. Three top-line kickers in the starting 13 gives Souths both quality and depth and is enough for us to rate them the strongest of the 16 clubs.
2. Penrith Panthers
- Nathan Cleary: 243/285, 85.3%
- Jarome Luai: 8/11, 72.7%
Cleary is arguably the best kicker in the competition (88% success rate in 2019) so even losing Maloney – who was fourth-best among regular kickers with almost 86% – won’t hurt unless Cleary misses significant game time. Luai shapes as the understudy but questions over what happens if or when Cleary misses a game means we have ranked the Panthers just under the Rabbitohs.
3. Manly Sea Eagles
- Reuben Garrick: 65/85, 76.5%
- Daly Cherry-Evans: 123/171, 71.9%
When Cherry-Evans was injured last year he eventually returned to find the team had a new front-line kicker in Garrick. It means when fully fit the side will have two genuine options off the tee. DCE kicked at just over 80% last season while Garrick was still one of the better kickers in the NRL at over 76%.
4. Parramatta Eels
- Mitch Moses: 246/325, 75.7%
- Clint Gutherson: 60/85, 70.6%
- Blake Ferguson: 22/32, 68.7%
One of just two clubs (the Raiders were the other) at which one player took every goal attempt in 2019. Mitch Moses slotted them at 78%, making the Eels sixth-best last season. His past four years he has averaged around 80%, well up on his early-career efforts. Gutherson is a solid back-up if needed, having slotted them at over 75% in 2017 when he was the full-time kicker, while Ferguson has also kicked.
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5. Canberra Raiders
- Jarrod Croker: 744/929, 80.1%
- Sam Williams: 25/30, 83.3%
Last season the Raiders had a back-up kicker with a career percentage over 80%. This year with Aidan Sezer gone, there is no player in Canberra’s best 17 who has ever kicked a goal other than captain Croker. Williams has never kicked other than a short stint in 2018 and will not be in the starting side unless one of the other halves is injured. Croker took every kick for the Green Machine in 2019 but had a down year by his standards, landing just under 74% – the fourth-worst overall percentage of the 16 clubs, which is why the Raiders are ranked below the Sea Eagles and Eels.
6. Brisbane Broncos
- Jamayne Isaako: 150/184, 81.5%
- Kotoni Staggs: 14/21, 66.7%
- Anthony Milford: 36/53, 67.9%
Isaako is a reliable kicker but depth is an issue for any games he misses. Staggs will improve while Milford hasn’t kicked since 2017. The returning Jordan Kahu is a solid kicker but unlikely to command a regular place in the starting side.
7. Newcastle Knights
- Kalyn Ponga: 75/97, 77.3%
- Mason Lino: 49/60, 81.7%
- Mitch Barnett: 3/5, 60%
With Ponga improving to nearly 83% in 2019 and Lino kicking at just over 84%, the Knights were the second-best side off the tee last year. Lino is no guarantee of a spot but if Ponga maintains his 2019 form the Knights will be well-served again.
8. Canterbury Bulldogs
- Nick Meaney: 33/43, 76.7%
- Kerrod Holland: 76/97, 78.3%
- Joe Stimson: 3/5, 60%
Meaney is a decent kicker but will face challenges for his wing spot, while Holland is even less of a guarantee to be in the starting team week to week. Stimson should be in the 17 when available but has barely kicked at NRL level. As long as one of Meaney or Holland are in the 13 the Dogs are well-served.
9. Melbourne Storm
- Cameron Smith: 1209/1616, 74.8%
- Paul Momirovski: 21/28. 75%
- Cameron Munster: 16/29, 55.2%
- Ryan Papenhuyzen: 2/3, 66.7%
It’s rare the Storm need anyone other than Smith to kick, which is probably a good thing with no established back-ups on the roster. However likely loan signing Paul Momirovski is a genuine back-up if he makes the starting side. Smith has kicked at around 80% the past three seasons, well up on his career average.
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10. St George Illawarra Dragons
- Zac Lomax: 26/32, 81.2%
- Tim Lafai: 25/39, 64.1%
- Corey Norman: 14/24, 58.3%
- Issac Luke: 204/283, 72.1%
Gareth Widdop was the only regular kicker to record a higher percentage than Panthers ace Nathan Cleary last year and leaves a big gap to fill. Lomax was the second-choice last year and will be called upon to step up. Luke kicked a lofty 85% at the Warriors last year but may struggle for game time.
11. Cronulla Sharks
- Shaun Johnson: 371/495. 74.9%
- Chad Townsend: 119/181, 65.7%
- Matt Moylan: 29/47, 61.7%
Cronulla’s 2019 goal-kicking woes are well-documented but with Johnson as a frontline option and Townsend in support it really shouldn’t be that big of a problem. Overall the Sharks were second-worst for accuracy in 2019.
12. Gold Coast Titans
- Tyrone Roberts: 244/328, 74.4%
- Ash Taylor: 94/137, 68.6%
- Tyrone Peachey: 6/7, 85.7%
The Titans were one of the better teams last year for goal-kicking, largely thanks to the now-retired Michael Gordon. Roberts should be the main kicker in 2020, Taylor is a serviceable back-up while Peachey has shown promise in limited chances.
13. New Zealand Warriors
- Chanel Harris-Tavita: 24/30, 80%
- Patrick Herbert: 15/21, 71.4%
The Warriors were one of five sides to kick at over 80% last year but their two best – Adam Keighran (90%) and Issac Luke (85%) – won’t be kicking in 2020. Luke has left the club while Keighran has dropped well down the halves pecking order. Even then, Harris-Tavita is no certainty to start if Kodi Nikorima and Blake Green are the first choice halves. The Warriors could well climb this list if CHT nails a starting berth.
14. Sydney Roosters
- Kyle Flanagan: 19/31, 61.3%
- Siosiua Taukeiaho: 38/54, 70.4%
Flanagan was a point-scoring prodigy at junior level and is far better than his current record of 61% indicates. He will replace Latrell Mitchell as the main kicker while Taukeiaho is more than handy as a back-up. The Tricolours could shoot up this list once Flanagan finds his range.
15. North Queensland Cowboys
- Valentine Holmes: 51/69, 73.9%
- Esan Marsters: 96/135, 71.1%
- Jake Clifford: 18/26, 69.2%
- Kyle Feldt: 21/33, 63.6%
The Cowboys were third-worst off the tee last year at around 72%. Marsters and Holmes boost their stocks in place of Jordan Kahu, with averages suggesting Holmes should be the first-choice kicker despite a year out of the game. Marsters kicked at less than 66% last year as the Tigers struggled for goals.
16. Wests Tigers
- Moses Mbye: 111/159, 69.8%
- Adam Doueihi: 10/16, 62.5%
- Benji Marshall: 402/565, 71.2%
The Tigers had the worst goal-kicking record of any club in 2019 and things aren’t exactly looking up, with both first-choice kickers – Esan Marsters and Paul Momirovski – departing. Mbye kicked above his career record with 10 from 13 (77%) in limited chances last year and should be the one to step up. Marshall has kicked plenty in his career but has not taken a shot in seven years, meaning Doueihi is more likely to be the back-up.