TRAVIS Cloke marks the ball, well, strongly, dominantly. Collingwood fans should be up, in raptures, applauding and reveling in another great, contested grab.
Half of them shudder and reach for their phones, the other half look away, somewhere else, the sky, their shoes, the other direction at least, at pains to witness what’s probably going to occur next.
It’s not only a plight on the game this mess that set-shot goal-kicking has become, but if nothing else it’s incredibly sad for the players involved inviting the lament and hysteria alike.
But sure, let’s not go too easy on someone such as Travis. He is on a very nice wicket, lives in probably a very lovely house full of very nice things and for work gets to wear very comfortable clothes playing the exact same game he did so leisurely after school on and weekends yet this time during business hours.
if he is missing a set shot 20 metres out with no angle to speak of, then we’ve got a problem.
He is paid more than well enough to be not just a footballer, not just a professional footballer but an elite footballer and that means bringing elite skill to the workplace as often as can be expected.
From 60 metres out on the boundary, perhaps we can wane the demands in that scenario, but if he is missing a set shot 20 metres out with no angle to speak of, then we’ve got a problem.
Experts and former footballers such as Wayne Carey and Jonathon Brown who have well earnt the right to comment and criticise given their track records all point to an issue above the shoulders, between the ears, on what is causing this horrendous pattern of totally unreliable set-shots.
Many column inches and radio minutes are dedicated to explaining the reliability and trust of one’s technique, to practice and refine their set shot routine and to keep to it the same and every time without fail or question.
‘Keep it simple’, we are told again and again.
But are they by ‘keeping it simple’ actually making it anything but?
Using rough numbers let’s assess the efficiency of field kicks, its somewhere around 70%. However, that would include the rushed kicks, under pressure kicks, scrambled clearances from a contest, etc.
It’s fair to say if we could measure (and Champion Data probably do somewhere in their underground lair) the efficiency of field kicking from a mark or free kick it would be at least 80%.
This is when kicking to a stationary target no more than two metres in height and wingspan, or harder still to a fast-moving, leading target where a prediction is made on the expected landing of said disposal.
AFL goal posts are 6.4 metres apart and 15 metres high. A goal is therefore 24 times the target of an individual footballer.
Yet where field passing is probably 80%, set shot goal kicking for some barely surpasses being a 50-50 preposition at best.
Then why do we see players such as Cloke walk back from a mark, pause and set up some sort of contrived flamingo-like walk in where everything is different to what he would do if he was passing to a teammate somewhere on the wing?
Why do players try to nurse the ball through the big sticks? Why do they try and kick it as hard whether from 15 metres or from 65 metres? Why are they using a different kicking technique to what they do if they were looking to seek a target when out of scoring range?
Cloke’s 2015 technique includes starting with one foot flat on the ground, one on its tiptoes. From the get-go one is already shot for confidence in the success of what is to follow.
There is then a real rigidity in his posture, which all culminates in a flurry of limbs and a ball drop that rests more on hope than skill and whooshka, you aren’t at all surprised he kicked a set shot from 25 metres at right angles.
So this talk of repetition and routine, marking out your steps, measured run-up, controlled ball drop and keeping it all flowing, its utter nonsense.
Port Adelaide’s Jay Schulz is a key example in pointing out the real answer.
Notice him, he does go back a certain distance but what he does after is paramount – he then strolls in as if he is kicking at goal such he would in general play without any pressure
He doesn’t use a ridiculous, choreographed marching-band setup, he simply follows the exact same technique he would be using if he had marked in the open and was to play on, waltz in, unobstructed, to an open goal.
You don’t see Power fans squirming in their seats like a yet-to be toilet-trained toddler whenever he takes a nice mark anywhere in the forward line.
The question is simple – why do forwards possess a technique for field-kicking and something alien on top of that for set shots?
The glaring case in point, and we refer back to our old mate Travis, was his cringe worthy miss to the City end in the final term against Geelong on Friday.
Let’s say the man on the mark was 25 metres out and to be even more conservative let’s say the angle was somewhat instead of non-existent.
If Cloke was to have gone back a certain, routine amount of steps and was to then walk in, casually but with rhythm, then effortlessly aim to pass the ball to a member of the cheer squad, with no real emphasis on height other than to comfortably clear the line, you would dare say most of these otherwise non-viewing fans would actually hold some confidence in their big man converting.
Sure, concessions are made for feeling the pressure of the moment and therefore allowing nerves to disrupt your action and send the result waywardly, but there must be substantial improvement to be made by using what works around the ground when coming in for a set shot.
Travis, let’s rid ourselves of the ‘Swan Lake’ style stance and the catwalk model on a runway setup on delivery, let’s aim for a member of the crowd behind the goals and merely ‘pass’ the ball to them.
If the member of the crowd wears a black and white scarf they’ll be more than accepting of the mark, they’ll start watching you again take the shot in the first place!