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What Does Pressure Do To A Goalkicker?

What Does Pressure Do To A Goalkicker?

As you’ve all probably seen, Matt Giteau has been replaced as first choice goalkicker for the Wallabies by James O’Connor.  Giteau commented that he’s working on a new technique and didn’t think it was right that he should be experimenting during test matches.

Recently I wrote an article that revealed from 2008 to 2010 Matt Giteau has had a pretty consistent goal kicking success rate of 73% when kicking for the Wallabies – see here.  I’ve seen reports that Giteau had an 81% success rate in Super Rugby in 2010 but I haven’t seen the data behind that number to confirm it was accurate.

I’ve made the comment previously that I think an 80% success rate should be a minimum for any team wanting to be successful in test rugby and I believe that a kicker with an 85% success rate would be considered outstanding.

I was a goal kicker when I played and I would have loved a 73% success rate!  Then again no-one ever paid me to kick goals which tells you that my average would never have been that high and whilst I have a reasonable knowledge of how to kick goals, I didn’t often manage to transfer that knowledge to my boot when the pressure was on.

If the 81% success rate I referred to for Giteau in Super Rugby is accurate, does that suggest that the extra pressure of kicking in test rugby would cause your success rate to drop to 73%.  His test average has been pretty consistent over the last three years so did Giteau just have a good 2010 in Super Rugby or has he been kicking at above 80% in Super Rugby over the last three years?

Unfortunately I don’t have any statistics with which to answer that question.  So I decided to try and find out what pressure does to a goal kicker’s performance in another way.  I’ve looked back over the last three seasons from the start of 2008 through to the Wallabies game against New Zealand in Hong Kong last week to see how Matt Giteau has kicked under pressure.

How can we define pressure? I’m sure there are many different ways people can suggest but the definition I went with is that a kick would be taken under pressure if it met the following criteria:

  1. It was taken in the second half of a match; and
  2. The score at the time the kick was taken was less than 7 points between the Wallabies and the opposition; or
  3. The result of the kick would bring the Wallabies to less than 7 points behind the opposition.

Whilst I’m sure kicks in the first half of a test match are taken under plenty of pressure I think that once you’ve gone past halftime you start to get a sense that any points scored could be the difference between winning or losing.

Similarly I didn’t seek to exclude conversions from right in front of the goal posts or come up with any other exclusion criteria so the anlaysis gives you an average of all kicks that meet the above criteria.

Matt Giteau has had 34 kicks in that time period for the Wallabies that meet my criteria.  The results of those kicks are summarised below and show that for those kicks he had a 62% success rate over the time period.

2008 2009 2010 Average
Kicks Attempted 12 14 8 34
Made 8 9 4 21
Missed 4 5 4 13
Successful % 67% 64% 50% 62%

As you can see his success rate in that time period has been in steady decline but really fell away in 2010 to 50%.

Another measure I looked at was the time those kicks were taken in the game and those results are summarised below.

HT-50 Mins 50-60 Mins 60-70 Mins 70-FT Mins
Kicks Attempted 13 7 7 7
Made 7 6 4 4
Missed 6 1 3 3
Successful % 54% 86% 57% 57%

Finally, only 9 of those 34 kicks were in Australia where Giteau had a 56% success rate in the time period compared to a 64% success rate for the 25 kicks taken overseas.

What does it say about goal kicking under pressure that Giteau’s success rate in 2010 Super Rugby was reported at above 80% but falls to 73% when kicking for the Wallabies and falls even further to 62% in the second half of Wallaby games?

If you’re game you can watch 33 of those 34 kicks in the following video to see what else you can tell from Giteau’s kicks.  The missing kick is the conversion of Quade Cooper’s match winning try against Italy in Padova in 2008.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”450″][/youtube]

All Blacks

Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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