Stats Insider: Time to lay the boot in
When you have a man who seemingly can soar higher than the tallest buildings lurking out wide, you can understand why the Brisbane Broncos are the NRL’s most potent scorers from kicks… but it’s not Israel Folau who is their main destroyer.<br><br>With 15 tries from kicks in 2009 the Broncos lead the competition in the valuable skill, thanks mainly to the pinpoint kicking game of New South Wales halfback Peter Wallace, the speed of the diminutive Antonio Winterstein and the strength and vertical leap of Folau.<br><br>Folau is widely regarded as the NRL’s best exponent at bringing down kicks for tries – but it is his little-known team-mate, left-side winger Winterstein, who is leading the charge this year with six tries from the boot already this season; that’s two more than the Queensland Origin flyer who bunkers down on the right side of the field.<br><br>Wallace leads the NRL with try assists from kicks, having posted nine already this season, one more than South Sydney’s John Sutton and two more than Knight Jarrod Mullen and Dragon Jamie Soward.<br><br>Sitting behind the Broncos on the exclusive NRL.com stats sheet are the Penrith Panthers (13 tries from kicks) and the South Sydney Rabbitohs (12 tries from kicks); but Panthers coach Matthew Elliott says the biggest secret to being successful is not always the kick itself but rather the attitude to the chase.<br><br>“More than the skill is the intent to chase the ball to get it back,” Elliott confides to NRL.com.<br><br>“The skill involved is important, and obviously practising those scenarios is important, but you can practice all you like and if the intent isn’t there to get the ball when it is there to be competed for, then you’re not going to have success. <br><br>“Players have to have the right attitude to getting to the ball, or even the crumbs, or no amount of practice will help.”<br><br>Five-eighth Wade Graham has had the most success for the Panthers at crossing from kicks, with four tries this year, equal second in the NRL behind Winterstein. <br><br>“It comes back to intent. We have a few guys like Lachlan Coote, Wade Graham, Luke Lewis and Jarrod Sammut who chase the ball with intent to get it back,” Elliott says. “And if you are on the scene and the ball becomes available, you get the opportunities to make a play… and Wade has been doing that.<br><br>“It is the reward for ‘extras’ at training and it’s something we also include in our practice scenarios because it is so important. Obviously you have to work on it defensively also, and for us in particular we have a bit of work to do there.”<br><br>Elliott is indeed correct when he points out his side’s defensive woes when it comes to kick defence. With 15 tries conceded to kicks, the Panthers are equal second-worst in the NRL, with just the last-placed Roosters (17 tries conceded to kicks) having more trouble.<br><br>They have had some trouble defusing bombs (third-worst in NRL) and also grubber kicks and Elliott is aware the trend needs to improve if his side is to remain in the finals zone.<br><br>“Defensively in all aspects we are just a little bit away from our best at the moment, so we might need to just spend a little bit more time working on it,” he says. <br><br>“Defending against kicks can be hard to combat and we spent a lot of time working on it in the lead-up to the Wests Tigers match (won 26-10) because some of their kicks are extremely hard to defend against<br>. <br>“It’s essentially like a forward pass: trying to predict where that will end up is hard. Quite often these kicks come on the back-end of sets which have worn a team down. If you kicked on first play it wouldn’t be as effective but at the back-end, defence can be a bit disorganised from the attacking set so it comes when defence is most vulnerable. <br><br>“Isolation in defence is also more difficult to deal with. While I have never been a real big fan of wingers I think it has become such a specialised position now and when you have centres playing as wingers the defensive side of kicks can be very tough for them to get that part of the game right.”<br><br>With kickers given added protection in 2009, defending against the boot has become even more difficult but Elliott insists there are still legal ways to shore-up defences.<br><br>“If you give someone like Israel Folau a free run to the ball then you are just asking for trouble,” he says. “You can’t obviously take a player out but you don’t have to get out of their way either. If you can make them deviate on their approach to the ball it’s a lot harder for them to get a clean shot at the contest.<br><br>“We need to have the same intent to chase kicks defensively as we do offensively.”<br><br>The best sides in the NRL at defending against kicks are the Rabbitohs, who have let in just five tries, and the Dragons, Bulldogs, Storm and Cowboys who have conceded just six each.<br><br><b>Tries Scored From Kicks</b><br>1. Broncos 15; 2. Panthers 13; 3. Rabbitohs 12; 4. Wests Tigers 11; 4. Knights 11; 4. Dragons 11; 7. Cowboys 10; 7. Sharks 10; 9. Bulldogs 9; 9. Sea Eagles 9; 11. Eels 8; 11. Titans 8; 12. Roosters 7; 12. Storm 7; 15. Warriors 6; 15. Raiders 6.<br><b><br>Tries Conceded to Kicks</b><br>1. Rabbitohs 5; 2. Dragons 6; 2. Bulldogs 6; 2. Storm 6; 2. Cowboys 6; 6. Eels 8; 6. Titans 8; 8. Warriors 9; 8. Sea Eagles 9; 8. Sharks 9; 11. Broncos 10; 11. Knights 10; 13. Raiders 14; 14. Wests Tigers 15; 14. Panthers 15; 16. Roosters 17.<br><br><b>Top Tryscorers From Kicks</b><br>1. Antonio Winterstein (Broncos) 6; 2. Israel Folau (Broncos) 4; 2. Wade Graham (Panthers) 4; 2. Jamie Lyon (Sea Eagles) 4; 2. Fetuli Talanoa (Rabbitohs) 4; 6. Jarrod Croker (Raiders) 3; 6. Akuila Uate (Knights) 3; 6. Tim Moltzen (Wests Tigers) 3; 6. Luke Burt (Eels) 3; 6. Chris Houston (Knights) 3; 6. Brett Morris (Dragons) 3; 6. Ben Hornby (Dragons) 3.<br><b><br>Top Kick Try Assists</b><br>1. Peter Wallace (Broncos) 9; 2. John Sutton (Rabbitohs) 8; 3. Jarrod Mullen (Knights) 7; 3. Jamie Soward (Dragons) 7; 5. Matt Orford (Sea Eagles) 6; 6. Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers) 5; 6. Michael Ennis (Bulldogs) 5; 6. Stacey Jones (Warriors) 5; 6. Cooper Cronk (Storm) 5; 6. Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys) 5.