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Dead-eye Gunston on target

Mark Macgugan   July 3, 2013 7:00 AM

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Jack Gunston has kicked 12.1 from set shots this season

It doesn't matter who kicks the goals, as long as we get them
WHEN you're in a forward line surrounded by superstars, goalkicking opportunities can be hard to come by.

Your only hope of making an impact on the scoresheet is to grab your chances when they come.

Jack Gunston is certainly doing that.

The 21-year-old Hawk has become known for his deadly accuracy from set shots, generated from a distinctive grip on the ball and a strict routine.

He has booted an outstanding 12.1 from set shots in 2013 – his first miss coming against the Brisbane Lions in windy conditions last Sunday – backing up from 29.6 last season.

With Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead beside him, Gunston knows he won't always be on the end of his midfielders' passes, but he has worked hard to make sure he's an appealing option.

"It (goalkicking) is something I've focused on; I always have," the former Crow told AFL.com.au this week. 

"I'm not always going to get the ball up forward with the great forwards up there beside me, so I want to make the most of my opportunities when I do have it."

After crossing to Hawthorn at the end of 2011, Gunston worked with the club's high performance coach David Rath to perfect his routine.

He borrowed bits and pieces from other players, and came up with a formula that worked for him.

His grip on the ball, with his right hand higher than his left, is a particular point of difference.

"When I was in Adelaide, I saw how Kurt Tippett held the ball, and at Hawthorn I saw how 'Roughy' kicked the ball, and put it all together," Gunston said. 

"I take 12 steps back, go to the top of my mark, compose myself, and just make sure I'm doing the same thing every time. 

"It's a light stroll in, a couple of steps, and just make sure I kick through the ball.

"You want to be in your own world and just focusing on one part of it. 

"The hand grip just sort of evolved after a bit of trial and error through my first pre-season at Hawthorn. 

"It's served me well, so I'm sticking with it."

Gunston's total for the season stands at 21 goals, including five hauls of three or more, and at least one in every match since round four.

He has also worked hard to ensure his contribution goes beyond hitting the scoreboard, with a focus on creating space for others through unrewarded running, and strong defensive efforts.

"My role is the link-up type player, and just being dangerous, whether I'm kicking goals, or getting assists or laying tackles," Gunston said. 

"It doesn't matter who kicks the goals, as long as we get them. 

"So there are a number of areas I can contribute to the team, and hopefully I can keep doing those and hold my spot."

And even if he's not the No.1 target, Gunston is happy with life as part of the League's most potent attack.

"It can be hard at times, but I wouldn't want to be in any other forward line," he said. 

"We're a selfless group, and we're always looking after each other; it doesn't matter who kicks the goals

"And we're only going to get better, I think, when Cyril [Rioli] comes back. 

"As long as we keep working together and providing options, we can keep kicking big scores like we are at the moment."