Stats Insider: Slotting the extras

Goal-kickers of the eight remaining NRL teams will face a new kind of pressure when they line up the Steeden on the kicking tee this weekend, as one simple miss could be the difference between season survival and death. <br><br>Consider this: It’s 18-all and the clock is ticking down the final seconds. Suddenly the shrill sound of the whistle goes and the referee has found a reason to penalise your opponents – are you confident your man can slot the points? If the shot is from in front, you would no doubt be pretty confident… but what if it’s from distance, on the right sideline? Or is the left fringe his preferred position to pilot the ball over the black dot?<br><br>It comes as no surprise to see Bulldogs winger Hazem El Masri – the season’s leading point scorer and the game’s highest points collector of all time – leading the percentages of the eight remaining first-string kickers. El Masri has kicked at an impressive 82.4 per cent in 2009. However, while he is known for his ability to kick goals under pressure, he certainly isn’t perfect and has had a little bit of trouble keeping up his average from the sideline (but don’t we all!). <br><br>While ‘El Magic’ has a 100 per cent record from centre-field, a 92.3 per cent success rate from the left fringe and an 81.8 per cent rate from the right fringe, he is only kicking at 64.3 per cent from the left sideline and 50 per cent from the right this year. Despite this you’d almost certainly have your money on him to find a way to push the ball through the uprights; such has been his ability to do so over several years.<br><br>Newcastle’s Kurt Gidley is the next best kicker in terms of success rate in 2009, with a solid 82.1 per cent of his kicks proving fruitful. The Knights’ fullback and captain is very sound kicking from the centre (although he has missed one this season for 96.4 per cent success) and from the fringes. Gidley has a 94.4 per cent strike rate on the right fringes and an 83.3 per cent success rate on the left fringes. So he’s pretty reliable. <br><br>As for the sidelines, either flank is a toss-of-the-coin job for Gidley; he has a 50 per cent success rate from both the left and right sidelines. <br><br>Next on the list is Titans halfback and co-captain Scott Prince, who missed just 20 goals this season to be kicking at 78.3 per cent. Prince is 100 per cent from the centre of the field and pretty solid at 85.7 per cent on his preferred left edge – but Gold Coast fans might need to cross their fingers if he needs to kick a crucial goal from the other areas. <br><br>Prince is 70.1 per cent reliable from the right fringe but only 53.9 per cent effective from the left sideline. And he kicks less than he makes from the right sideline – with just a 40 per cent success rate.<br><br>St George Illawarra’s Jamie Soward enters the list next with a 2009 strike rate of 76.3 per cent. Soward is a ‘south paw’, or left-footed kicker, and consequently has a stronger success rate kicking from the right-hand side. The Dragons’ five-eighth has kicked at 95.3 per cent from in front, having missed two, and 84.2 per cent from the right fringe, compared to 80 per cent on the left fringe. <br><br>But it is his sideline stats which could prove costly for the Dragons, particularly if they keep attacking to the left and Brett Morris, their preferred side. The confident finals rookie has kicked 60 per cent of goals from the right sideline – but just 29.4 per cent from the left sideline. <br><br>“I will just go through my regular routine and do some practice during the week,” Soward tells NRL.com. “I assume it’s the same for all the kickers, but I haven’t played NRL finals before so I’m not sure if it will feel any different.<br><br>“I don’t mind if there is plenty of noise or not much at all… I have a pretty private routine which works for me. And hopefully they keep going over.”<br><br>2008 Dally M Medal winner and Manly captain Matt Orford is next with 76 per cent of his kicks raising the touchies’ flags this season. <br><br>Orford is another kicker to be 100 per cent from in front and extremely reliable on the fringes, with 93.3 per cent success on the left side and 87.5 per cent success on the right. But he really struggles with the wide ones. Having kicked just four sideline conversions all year – two on each side – Orford carries a 25 per cent success record from the right sideline and an 18.2 per cent success rate from the left sideline, making the odds well against him winning a match with a sideline conversion.<br><br>Parramatta’s Luke Burt ranks just below Orford, sixth-best of the finals kickers with a 75.9 per cent success rate. He also is kicking at 100 per cent from in front and is a little less reliable on the fringes – but a little more reliable from the sidelines than the Sea Eagles’ skipper.<br><br>Burt has kicked at 83.3 per cent from the left fringe and 77.8 per cent from the right fringe. And his 50 per cent success rate from the left sideline is pretty respectable. The winger is also piloting over 30.8 per cent from the right sideline.<br><br>The only two forwards kickers – Brisbane’s Corey Parker and Melbourne’s Cameron Smith – round out the top eight, with Parker shading the Storm skipper with a 70.3 per cent strike rate compared to Smith’s 69.9 per cent.<br><br>Parker is 100 per cent from in front, 83.3 per cent from the right fringe, 72.2 per cent from the left fringe, 56.3 per cent from the right sideline and 42.1 per cent from the left sideline – a pretty solid all-round effort.<br><br>Smith is also perfect from in front – but his other areas are a little erratic. He is 75 per cent from the left fringe and just 36.4 per cent from the right equivalent, but then he has slotted 61.6 per cent from the right sideline compared to 41.7 per cent from the left sideline. It appears the former Queensland and Australian kicker hates those ‘in between’ kicks on the right side the most.<br><br>So when your side crosses the try line late in the piece this weekend, you’ll know exactly where you want them to put the ball down – and then hope the numbers add up to victory. <br><br><b>First-String Goal Kickers’ 2009 Season Strike Rate</b><br>Hazem El Masri (Bulldogs): 89 from 108 = 82.4 per cent; Kurt Gidley (Knights): 69 from 84 = 82.1 per cent; Scott Prince (Titans): 72 from 92 = 78.3 per cent; Jamie Soward (Dragons): 87 from 114 = 76.3 per cent; Matt Orford (Sea Eagles): 57 from 75 = 76 per cent; Luke Burt (Eels): 63 from 83 = 75.9 per cent; Corey Parker (Broncos): 64 from 91 = 70.3 per cent; Cameron Smith (Storm): 51 from 73 = 69.9 per cent.<br><br><b>Back-up Kickers</b><br>Broncos: Peter Wallace – 6 from 8 = 75 per cent<br>Bulldogs: Michael Ennis – 1 from 1 = 100 per cent; Jamal Idris – 0 from 1 = 0 per cent<br>Titans: Mat Rogers – 7 from 10 = 70 per cent<br>Sea Eagles: Jamie Lyon – 21 from 29 = 72.4 per cent; Shane Rodney – 1 from 1 = 100 per cent; Steve Matai – 0 from 1 = 0 per cent<br>Storm: Ryan Hoffman – 0 from 1 = 0 per cent; Greg Inglis – 0 from 1 = 0 per cent; Joseph Tomane – 17 from 25 = 68 per cent<br>Knights: Wes Naiqama – 9 from 10 = 90 per cent; Scott Dureau – 3 from 3 = 100 per cent; George Ndaira – 1 from 1 = 100 per cent; Matt Hilder – 0 from 1 = 0 per cent<br>Eels: Krisnan Inu – 5 from 7 = 71.4 per cent; Kris Keating – 3 from 3 = 100 per cent<br>Dragons: No back-up kickers used. Ben Hornby 71.4 per cent career. <br>