Why are teams so bad at setting up for field goals in golden point matches?
The Warriors have had plenty of practice and haven't got it right yet. Some Shaun Johnson magic got them out of the mire against the Panthers on Saturday night but aside from his individual brilliance they looked lost yet again in extra time. They aren't alone - teams consistently struggle to get this part of the game right and with big games just around the corner, it is staggering to think they haven't got it all figured out yet.
The one exception is the Melbourne Storm. Craig Bellamy, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith wrote the blueprint for how to do it right. I can't claim this as my own - the how to guide has been in full display whenever the Storm have found themselves needing a deadlock breaker.
1. Everyone must know the play is on and be in the right position
It sounds obvious but so many teams run into problems because one player hasn't completely understood the plan to take a field goal. The right players need to be in the right positions - you need the specialist dummy half delivering the pass, you need forwards out of the way, you need the right field-goal kicker taking the shot, you need at least one player between the defensive line and the player taking the shot to make defenders get around them to get to the ball but without prompting the referee to penalise them and you need a bail-out option behind the player set to take the field goal.
You also need every player on the park to understand this very blueprint so they build-up to the final play correctly. The worse thing is a player ducking out of dummy half unexpectedly at the last minute and taking the kick further away from the posts or to the wrong side of the posts.
2. Set up on the right side of the posts
For a right-footed kicker the last play the ball needs to be to the left-hand side of the posts. It is much harder and much slower for a player to catch the ball from the side he kicks with than it is from the other side. Players can catch the ball on the run from the left and kick with the right. Markers are often the first defender to get to the kicker and they will be travelling from where the ball is coming - again easier for the kicker to get away from them if they are receiving from their left-hand side. This is obviously reversed if the field goal kicker is left-footed.
3. Take the shot early in the count
Teams know the field goal is on a lot of the time but by taking it earlier in the count that can surprise the defense a little more. Waiting until the last leaves no doubt that the field goal is on. Obviously teams need to be in field goal range but where possible the earlier in the count the more likely they are to catch opposition teams unaware.
4. Make sure the play the ball is a fast one
This is the most important facet of taking field goals. The play the ball needs to be a fast one otherwise the defenders will be set and have a head-start on getting to the kicker and either charging the attempt down or rushing the kickers into a poor shot. Most kickers have the distance to kick 45m field goals these days but the reason that isn't possible in golden point is due to opposition pressure. To combat that teams need the previous play the ball to a quick one. There are ways to achieve that - one the ball carrier needs to avoid fighting for extra yardage after initial contact. They need to submit to the defender quickly but not so quickly as to have the referee call a dominant tackle.
They need to get low to the ground as they approach the defensive line and get to ground quickly face down - getting turned onto your back results in a much slower play the ball. A quicker play the ball means the defensive line is still trying to get back onside later in the piece and less pressure can be put on the kicker. Everyone knows referees don't blow as many offside penalties in extra time but by getting a quick play the ball can often take that completely out of the picture or will at the least really highlight offside chasers.
5. Have an alternative option on-hand
Because defending teams do get away with jumping the gun or being flat out offside a lot more in extra time the chances of them getting to the kicker is higher. Attacking teams need to have a bail out option on hand to either have a crack themselves or to take a tackle and reset the play. This player generally needs to be on the left-hand side of the initial target for a right-foot kicker. It also means they are in position to carry the ball forward and reset the play if there