WHEN coach Adam Simpson explained the AFL outlier that is West Coast's extended period of goalkicking excellence on Sunday night, he made three simple points.

The AFL's most accurate team over the period of 2015-2021 train goalkicking a lot, they aim to get shots in good parts of the ground, and they happen to have very good players.

The Eagles, Simpson said, had long valued goalkicking as a major part of their program and the idea that sports scientists limited goalkicking practice was rubbish.

It was a point made strongly, and why not. The coach was on the firmest ground imaginable, having just watched his team eradicate a 22-point deficit against the back-to-back premiers in a 10-minute masterclass on clutch goalkicking.  

We train it a lot. We try and get shots from good spots, and then we've got good players

- Eagles coach Adam Simpson

The data around West Coast's goalkicking during an uninterrupted run of six consecutive finals appearances – the longest active streak in the AFL – shows how far ahead of the competition Simpson's team is in this area.

In the period from 2015 to 2021, the Eagles rank No.1 in the AFL for shot at goal accuracy with a conversion rate of 52.0 per cent. The competition average over that time is 48.4 per cent.

In a game of small margins, if you had one statistic you could choose to be 7.4 per cent better at than your average opponent, goalkicking accuracy would surely be it.

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Then there is the Eagles' ability to get shots on goal in the first place. Over the same period, the Eagles have had a shot at goal from 50.9 per cent of their inside 50s (ranked second behind Geelong).

In five of the past seven seasons, they have been the best in the competition at either goalkicking accuracy or converting forward entries into shots. 

This year it is goalkicking accuracy, with their conversion rate of 55.2 per cent the best it has been in the seven-year period analysed.  

EAGLES' EFFICIENCY IN ATTACK

Year

Shot per inside 50 (%)

Shot at goal accuracy (%)

2015

54.9 (ranked first)

51.9 (ranked sixth)

2016

50.8 (third)

54.1 (first)

2017

49.8 (12th)

51.7 (fourth)

2018

50.6 (fourth)

50.0 (fourth)

2019

49.8 (fifth)

51.6 (first)

2020

49.6 (first)

49.7 (fourth)

20201

49.5 (fifth)

55.2 (first)

West Coast forwards Jake Waterman, Jamie Cripps and Oscar Allen all nailed set shots in the final 10 minutes against Richmond when the match looked out of their team's reach.

It was then left to champion forward Josh Kennedy to win the thrilling match with his snap set shot on the boundary with 36 seconds to play.

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The fact that West Coast makes goalkicking a priority in its football program is again evident in the data, with the club ranked No.2 behind Sydney for set shot accuracy from 2015-2021.

The Eagles are No.1 for turning inside 50s into set shots in that period, leading the AFL in both categories last year. 

The anomaly in the data is the premiership year of 2018 when they had a set shot accuracy of 50.7 per cent, ranked No.13 in the AFL.

SET-SHOT SPECIALISTS

Year

Set shot per inside 50 (%)

Set shot accuracy (%)

2015

27.1 (ranked third)

52.9 (ranked 10th)

2016

27.8 (second)

58.8 (second)

2017

26.5 (second)

52.1 (10th)

2018

25.3 (fourth)

50.7 (13th)

2019

24.2 (fifth)

56.3 (first)

2020

27.9 (first)

60.2 (first)

2021

27.7 (second)

56.5 (seventh)

Then there is the location of shots on goal, which Simpson said was a focus for West Coast.

Statistics don't show the Eagles to have any great advantage this season in where they are getting their shots on goal, but the data highlights again their ability to convert at high rate wherever they are, with the exception of beyond 50m.

The Eagles rank No.15 in the AFL for total shots in the corridor (183) but No.1 for converting those shots into goals (60.7 per cent).

They have taken the second-most shots in the AFL from an angle (134) and rank No.3 in the League for conversion (47.8 per cent).

A distance of 30-40m is their sweet spot, with an AFL-leading conversion of 60 per cent.

EAGLES KICK 'EM FROM ANYWHERE  

 

Total Shots

Ranking

Shot at Goal Accuracy

Ranking

0 - 15m

 30

#8 

86.7% 

#3 

15 - 30m

 69

#15 

60.9% 

#4 

30 - 40m

 85

#6 

60.0% 

#1 

40 - 50m

 102

Eq. #2 

48.0% 

#3 

50m +

 31

#12 

22.6% 

#13 

Simpson's final point was that the Eagles simply have good players, and there has been none better for the club than two-time Coleman medallist Kennedy.

Thirteen players have kicked 500 goals or more since 2002 when Champion Data started recording missed shots as well as goals and behinds, allowing an accurate assessment of goalkicking accuracy.

Kennedy, who ranks No.4 for goals kicked in that period, ranks third for shot-at-goal accuracy behind St Kilda, Sydney and Western Bulldogs star Barry Hall and Brisbane champion Jonathan Brown.

AFL'S LEADING GOALKICKERS, 2002-21

Player

Goals

Shot at Goal Accuracy

L. Franklin

969

51.7%

N. Riewoldt

716

53.2%

J. Riewoldt

698

54.0%

J. Kennedy

673

57.1%

M. Pavlich

658

55.3%

T. Hawkins

632

56.7%

E. Betts

630

55.3%

B. Hall

602

59.3%

J. Roughead

578

53.8%

B. Fevola

570

53.8%

J. Brown

551

58.4%

S. Milne

547

54.6%

S. Johnson

516

47.7%

Players like Kennedy, Jack Darling and Mark LeCras, and more recently Liam Ryan and Oscar Allen, are the reason West Coast has been so accurate over an extended period, but it is clear they have worked in a program that values skill and efficiency.

"Our boys can have as many kicks as they like and that's been for eight years," Simpson said.

"Coming in on your day off to do goalkicking, that probably doesn't happen. But we put it in our program and the forwards value it. 

"We train it a lot. We try and get shots from good spots, and then we've got good players."

Goalkicking accuracy is not everything, and other clubs have taken other paths to premiership success. But if you want to improve it, West Coast has shown it is possible.

Statistics supplied by Champion Data