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Stat Attack: Sharks reverse goal-kicking woes as Roosters struggle

Two years after shoddy goal-kicking cost them a top-four berth, Cronulla now own the league's best success rate off the tee while the Roosters have plummeted to last.

With the departure of halfback Kyle Flanagan, the Tricolours' goal-kicking success rate has nosedived from a healthy 78.4% at the end of the 2020 regular season to just 63.3% after 24 rounds this year.

The emergence of Adam Keighran, who iced a penalty goal to deliver a clutch victory over Brisbane in round 22, has at least given the Roosters a reliable full-time option, kicking at 76.4%.

He returns to the side on Thursday night after missing last week's loss to Souths due to a head knock to help solve that problem for the Roosters on the eve of the finals.

The Sharks know all too well how important goal-kicking can be.

They famously lost four matches in a five-week stretch in 2019 despite scoring more tries than their opponents. That meant they finished seventh, three wins adrift of the fourth-placed Raiders who went on to make the grand final.

Cronulla's newfound ability to seal tight matches could result in their seventh straight finals berth with Josh Hannay's eighth-placed side having clinched five of their 10 wins by eight points or fewer.

Young halfback Braydon Trindall has been the team's conversion specialist following the late-season departure of Shaun Johnson, nailing an impressive 34 goals from 40 attempts (85%).

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Goal-kicking woes arguably cost the Sharks one victory in 2021, however, with now-departed playmaker Chad Townsend kicking one from four goals in a 12-10 loss to Canberra in round two.

Even still, Townsend was radar-like in black, white and blue this year - kicking 31 of 38 goals (81.5%) while the Warriors-bound Shaun Johnson slotted an impressive 18 of 20 shots (90%).

Trindall, 22, has shown great poise in his burgeoning career.

"Any team that's got a good goal-kicker just takes that pressure off a little bit more," Sharks prop Aiden Tolman said.

"If someone can strike them from the sideline and give you those extra two points, I think it's really crucial.

"You see the game on the weekend [a 24-16 win against the Broncos last Saturday] - we were six points up and to be able to have a goal-kicker that can slot them from right across the park, that eight-point buffer was really big for us going into the second half."

Hooker Blayke Brailey said Trindall was reaping the reward for extra work on the training paddock.

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"[He provides] just a lot of confidence that no matter where you score, he's going to kick the goal," Brailey said.

"I see him at training practise from the most ridiculous spots and he still gets it, so he's a really talented kicker.

"It's great to have such a quality kicker in our side."

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Points differential could well decide if the Sharks, who face the Storm on Friday night, make the playoffs. With a 49-point advantage over the Raiders, who are level on 10 wins, every conversion has counted.

Meanwhile, the Rabbitohs (78.3%) have slipped to eighth in the goal-kicking rankings after finishing first in 2020 (84.6%).

South Sydney's premier sharpshooter Adam Reynolds (112 goals from 140 attempts - 80%) is statistically having one of his leanest returns with his golden boot - only three times previously has he kicked worse for a season in his 10-year career.