Stats Insider: Why the Panthers love an aerial attack

The great Andrew Johns once released a DVD called ‘Joey – The Andrew Johns Story So Far’; it contained wonderful insights into his vast array of kicking skills, including practice drills the mercurial man himself used to hone his craft. <br><br>Current Panthers halfback Luke Walsh was around 15 at the time; a small yet skilful halfback growing up in Newcastle, looking to emulate his idol. To him, the DVD was no doubt gold. <br><br>Of course, not many years later Walsh was playing in the NRL with the Knights and getting one-on-one time with Johns.<br><br>So is it really any wonder to see the now 22-year-old leading the NRL in try assists from kicks, and not just leading, but crushing every other player in the statistic?<br><br>Walsh has an incredible 13 try assists from kicks already this season – that’s almost two per game – while his nearest rivals have just three. Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk, Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce, Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran and Bulldogs pivot Ben Roberts each have laid on three tries from the boot in 2010 to be running joint second, but they are streets behind Walsh.<br><br>Walsh’s pinpoint accuracy and the great chase of his Panthers team-mates has seen the Penrith boys notch 16 tries from kicks so far this season – a whopping six ahead of their nearest rivals Canterbury-Bankstown.<br><br>While the news is obviously pleasing to the coaching staff at the foot of the Blue Mountains, one could assume the heavy reliance on kicks could also be a concern.<br><br>But despite 48 per cent of all their tries coming from the boot, coach Matthew Elliot isn’t concerned… yet.<br><br>“Being number one is something we are happy with because we put our work into it,” Elliott tells NRL.com.<br><br>“We are certainly not unhappy to be getting results and while we would like to score more tries without kicks, we certainly aren’t concerned at the reliance of it at this stage. <br><br>“It’s pleasing because we have done plenty of practice, which is extremely important, and to get results from hard work is reassuring for the player group. We just practice and practice, using drills consistently to try to enhance our skills. <br><br>“Plus, it is only early in the season, giving us something to build on.”<br><br>The Panthers’ mentor is quick to point out an even more significant statistic to back up the hours of work his players have put into both kick attack and defence: With just one try conceded from the boot, the Panthers are the equal best side in the NRL defensively as well. <br><br>“The most significant thing for us is certainly our defence to attacking kicks,” he chuffs.<br><br>“Steve Georgallis (assistant coach) does a lot of work in attack and defence with the boys when it comes to kicks and while I think it’s good to be on top for scoring tries, to be on the bottom of conceding them is what I’m most happy about.”<br><br>While Walsh has been the architect with the boot, it’s been fullback Lachlan Coote scoring the most and according to Elliott, ensuring none get through either. <br><br>Coote leads the NRL with four tries from kicks, one ahead of Sea Eagles centre Steve Matai and two ahead of a bevy of NRL stars.<br><br>“You have to chase with intent in defence as well as attack but I think Lachlan Coote has been great for us defensively and he has contributed a fair deal to our success,” Elliott says. <br><br>“He is pretty special at the back and has been fantastic, with great positioning and anticipation. We are lucky to have him cleaning up for us.”<br><br>St George Illawarra (one conceded), Melbourne (two conceded) and Manly (two conceded) are the other sides with impressive scramble around kicks while the worst defensive teams to the boot are Newcastle (10 conceded), the Warriors (nine conceded), Wests Tigers (eight conceded) and Parramatta (eight conceded).<br><br>The side with the least numberof tries scored from kicks is Brisbane, with the Broncos getting over just once this year from the boot. <br><br>St George Illawarra and Newcastle have only crossed twice, which in the Dragons’ case is just seven per cent of their tries scored in 2010.<br><b><br>Tries From Kicks</b><br>Panthers: 16; Bulldogs: 10; Sea Eagles: 8; Roosters: 6; Warriors: 6; Wests Tigers: 5; Rabbitohs 5; Eels: 5; Cowboys: 4; Storm: 3; Titans: 3; Sharks: 3; Raiders: 3; Knights: 2; Dragons: 2; Broncos: 1.<br><br><b>Tries Conceded From Kicks</b><br>Panthers: 1; Dragons: 1; Sea Eagles: 2; Storm: 2; Sharks: 3; Rabbitohs: 4; Cowboys: 4; Bulldogs: 5; Broncos: 6; Raiders: 6; Titans: 6; Roosters: 7; Eels: 8; Wests Tigers: 8; Warriors: 9; Knights: 10<br><br>