Does your NRL team have a field-goal specialist?

In Round 7 of the 2020 National Rugby League season, Parramatta Eels captain and fullback Clint Gutherson kicked his first ever first-grade field goal to snatch victory from the Canberra Raiders 25-24.

This highlighted the enormous game-winning skill that, while only worth one point, can make or break a team’s chance of winning.

As a fan, the field goal is extremely exciting when scores are locked and the clock is ticking down. At this time we look to our field-goal exponents with hope.

In 2019, there were six field goals kicked to win NRL contests. St George Illawarra’s Corey Norman, Brisbane’s Jamayne Isaako, Canberra’s Aidan Sezer, Penrith’s Nathan Cleary, Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans, and the Roosters’ Latrell Michel all kicked field goals, winning the game for their respective clubs.

Cherry-Evans has kicked 21 field goals for the Sea Eagles since his debut in 2011. His presence of mind to execute under the pressure of a rushing defence has carried his team to victory on many an occasion.

Each generation has produced specialist field-goal kickers. In the ’80s and ’90s exponents included Benny Elias, Terry Lamb, Michael O’Connor, Wally Lewis and Ricky Stuart (just to mention a few).

From 2000 on, we have seen professional players practice and practice the field goal until they were satisfied they could ply their trade under pressure from the opposition and the clock.

More recently, some exponents include Andrew Johns, Jason Taylor, Darren Lockyer, Jamie Soward, Braith Anasta, Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston, and Benji Marshall.

Andrew Johns smiles as he's presented to Newcastle fans in 2017

Andrew Johns (Tony Feder/Getty Images)

In a league of his own, Thurston famously kicked the North Queensland Cowboys to victory in the 2015 grand final against the Brisbane Broncos.

The match was forced into golden point when the sides were locked at 16-all after 80 minutes. Thurston set himself and snatched victory. Deservedly, he received the Clive Churchill medal.

In the modern era, there have been six State of Origin matches decided by a field goal. Shaun Timmins kicked New South Wales to victory in game one of the 2004 series.

In Game 1 of 2006, after a disastrous plague of injuries to the Blues, Brett Finch was selected to play halfback only 24 hours before kick off, receiving boos from the supporters.

The ring-in saved the day for NSW, booting a field goal in the 78th minute.

Despite having field-goal specialist Braith Anasta in the team, Finchy won the game with a perfect stike from 35 meters out, creating folklore.

Of course, it should be mentioned that Lockyer also kicked Queensland to victory in 2010. A brilliant athlete, Lockyer not only skippered his state and country, he had a deft left-foot boot that often got his team over the line.

I can’t leave out Cooper Cronk in Game 3 of 2012, who perfectly executed for the Maroons from 46 meters out to take the series 2-1.

With the amount of close games in the National Rugby League, the field goal is a necessary tactic and a valuable skill. This clutch play can be the difference.

If your team does not have a field goal specialist, you might just lose by one point.

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