Video Analysis: Bernard Foley's Goal Kicking

Video Analysis: Bernard Foley’s Goal Kicking

Video Analysis: Bernard Foley’s Goal Kicking

Pretty much everything I’ve read over the last week has been about three things, Hoopers push/shove/punch on Sanchez, Sanchez’s diving and the one we’re interested in – Bernard Foley’s kicking.

Five from nine is an odd stat, it’s not really negative and it’s not really positive either. Regardless, either way there are missed scoring opportunities, and in a World Cup Pool that could well come down to points difference, there is no room to be wasteful.

So I decided to have a look at Bernard Foley’s kicking in the game to see if there is anything obvious going on there.

Goal Kicking is a thankless task and the pressure kickers come under, and place on themselves is huge. It takes some serious nerve to be able to stand in the middle of 80,000 people and be consistent in your performance. Frankly it’s a bloody lonely place to be, and the swing from adulation to criticism is rapid.

But it’s an essential part of the game and Australia do need to get it sorted ahead of the world cup.

So it will be interesting to see how Foley backs this kicking performance up against the All Blacks – presuming he starts – he’s certainly the best kicking option of the first choice fly halfs, but I wonder if this signals a need to force Christian Lealiifano into the match day squad somehow?

It’d be shame to lose Toomua at 12, but I wonder if there is scope to fit Lealiifano in at 15, moving Folau to the wing? Again, that would be a shame as Folau is a worry to defend from 15 for any team, whereas on the wing he’s probably too excluded. But it’s a headache that Cheika and Damien Hill will have to deal with though, simply put you can’t head into a world cup with sub 70% kickers, certainly not in a  group as tight as Pool A.

I think it’s important to flag up a couple of things about this analysis. The first is we’re literally going through one game, which isn’t going to give us an indication of long term issues with Foley’s kicking, but purely what was happening on the night against Argentina.

The second is in game footage isn’t actually the best for kicking analysis; I prefer low level front and side on footage so we can do comparative analysis, so what I’ve tried to do here is look at what’s happening in the ball’s flight path and see if we can figure out the cause from there.

Ultimately goal kicking is a hard process to break down, having been a pretty average kicker in my day I’m certainly no expert.

But how important it has become is shown in the amount of specialist coaches there are involved in the game, and (if you’re that way inclined) sites like Alred Yapp (co-run by ex Randwick player Tony Yapp) and Stuart Lierichs Kick Coach are good places to start digging out more information.

  • Jim Marsh

    Great analysis, very interesting.

  • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

    Hi Graeme and thanks for the work you put in here. It’s very much appreciated.
    On another Rugby Forum, some blokes reckon that Foley’s placement of the ball on the kicking tee wasn’t right.TBH I’ve not been able to spot that at all but just wondering if that’s what you’re referring to as ‘alignment’ or are you referring more to miss kicking the ball, ala ‘follow through’?
    Fortunately Bernard seems a pretty relaxed fella, and now that the Wallaby’s have a kicking coach, results with the boot should improve.

    • Sape

      I reckon he was talking about aligning for the kick, as it web straight but missed on the right, so he should have started half a step more right.

  • Who?

    I just don’t want to hear anyone justify ANY player’s selection over another for the sake of goal kicking this year. None of our kickers have had long, consistent seasons. Quade’s not had a long season. His kicking’s been no worse than anyone else, but it’s not been a long season. Lealiifano’s not had a great season. Toomua’s 4th choice for the Brumbies (behind ‘Fano, White and Mogg). Foley’s not had a great season (and, let’s be honest, he’s only really had one good season – last year – before that, he was inconsistent). Giteau’s kicking has cost us Tests in the past (and he has a similar chipping-style – something I personally don’t trust). JOC even had a bit of a dog of a season kicking at goal (he too can look a bit chippy and unnatural, but previously he generally hit them very straight, without much curve).
    So, whilst it’d be great to say, “This bloke’s brilliant, let’s pick him,” the reality is that no one has that sort of clear recent form on the board.

    • harro

      I agree about Foley only being consistent last year. That year he had Mehrtens coaching him. I wonder how things can go awry so quickly?

  • Rob

    It’d be interesting to know if he has decided / been told to try something different lately as he seemed to lack consistency. I also felt he wasn’t moving through the ball smoothly. I think Mike Harris has a similar style, but pushes his body through the ball and lands beyond the tee. Foley seems to stab and recoil at times rather than move forward (a bad habit I have on short kicks). Sapoaga is someone who doesn’t have much follow through either, but he stays consistently compact with his head down and seems to have a good strike rate. After a few imperfections, I imagine he was over-thinking ways to correct it, which led to the inconsistency. Maybe he needed to focus his attention more externally than internally and trust the ‘flow’ of moving everything through the ball to target.

  • st saens

    I think Foley’s kicking was poor because he had been practising all week with lasers shining in his eyes. The complete absence of lasers on the night totally disrupted his rhythm….a bit like kicking at Eden Park with no booing.

  • Joy

    Hooper free. You missed it.

  • Joy

    Sorry., I was wrong. Hooper ruled out for the whole RWC.

  • harro

    Great analysis. Thanks Graeme

  • Mickeyb

    Graeme, fantastic analysis. You add so much to what is already a great site!

    Just curious to know who is the Wallabies kicking coach leading into the RWC?

    I know Merhtens did a great job in 2014 for the Tahs and for Foley. Esp given the fact they won the final. By a kick!

    Anyone know?

    • Hugh Cavill

      Chris Malone, who used to coach at Sydney Uni.

  • Andy

    I always found a shorter run up gave me more accuracy. I learnt that when playing soccer and doing free kick training. Seemed to work when converting to conversions with a rugby ball..

  • RobC

    Gday Graeme. Excellent analysis again, thanks! Was watching a replay of Wales England match last night. halfpenny, Ford. sigh…

  • Punter

    Thanks Graeme. Great analysis. Every WC winning side (that I can think of) had a place kicker with a high accuracy of success (around 80% or so). So I think it is vital. Secondly i feel that place kickers that use a horizontal placement of the ball (e.g. Grant Fox, Merts, Burke, DC) seem to have a greater accuracy than vertical placement (e.g. Mortlock, Foley, Cooper etc). Wonder if any analysis is done on this?

    • Sape

      Halfpenny, Cruden and More Steyn also place it horizontally, all very reliable kickers. You might be on to something!
      Edit, I think Wilko also is in the same basket.

      • Punter

        Yup good points. To get nerdy… I reckon it is to do with displacement. When you place it horizontally you have a greater surface area to strike. Thus displacement is less. The air inside the ball gets displaced less and thus less movement inside the ball. Less movement inside the ball = less impact on ball’s trajectory. Just a theory tho. what the hell do i know. haha

  • H Bomb

    There are several issues with Foley’s kicking. i) His lead foot needs to be in front of the ball at the point of impact. You will notice it is adjacent or behind the ball on most strikes. This leads to a slice / push as his body is through the strike and energy moving backwards. ii) His run up is too long. Most of the best kickers never take more than 2/3 strides into the ball. Foley takes 4. iii) The kicks he takes from close in he shortens his run up noticeably, then when he has a longer range kick he lengthens it. This inconsistency in the routine can cause issues. iv) His kicking foot doesn’t follow up and through post impact. It is a stabby motion that can lead to issues with his leg snapping or snatching at the ball. This again causes consistency issues on the strike.

    Foley is unusual in the professional ranks of full time kickers in that his missed kicks can not only be from poor alignment, but what one would call ‘sprays’ or ‘shanks’ that fly ugly. When Cooper or CLL miss it is usually a decent strike and the ball flies well it is just off line for varying reasons.

    IMO Foley needs a lot of work in this area (as well as some others).


an Englishman living in France, Graeme runs the Rugby Analysis website He coaches in his spare time, is an IRB qualified coach and you can catch him on twitter lazily re-tweeting other peoples comments.

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