It is the most unwanted tag in football, and St Kilda’s Jack Billings is on his way to claiming it again in 2018.
Billings was the AFL’s worst kick for goal in 2017, kicking 23.36 at a conversion rate of just 39 per cent, and he has booted 4.12 in eight matches so far this year.
The 22-year-old – taken at pick three in the 2013 draft – has had plenty of misfiring mates this year, too, with St Kilda’s dreadful 69.85 clearly the worst in the competition.
With the spotlight on goalkicking at an all-time high, Collingwood’s Josh Thomas tops the list of sharpshooters with 12.3 in 2018, while Brisbane’s Charlie Cameron (15.4) and Adelaide skipper Taylor Walker (17.5) are also proving reliable from a sample size that could change quickly, but remains a good indicator.
St Kilda’s problems have even impacted Tim Membrey, the AFL’s seventh-best converter in 2017, with the former Swan the fourth-worst in 2018.
Steven Milne, who kicked 574 goals for the Saints, said the club’s woes in front of goal were “very frustrating” and urged Billings, Membrey and their teammates to ramp up practice sessions.
“It’s not up to scratch and pretty frustrating to watch,” he told The New Daily.
“They’ve got to improve quickly or there’s going to be a lot of articles on it and a lot of commentators talking about it.
“It’s very frustrating watching the boys, but as players no one means to miss goals and they are lacking a bit of confidence.
“But they’ve got to get back to the basics … practice makes perfect.
“That’s your craft and what you get paid to do.
“If you get paid to kick goals, you should be having as many shots as you can. I know the sports science side of things has ramped up but I remember having three or four hundred shots a week, snaps after training, before training.
“Times have changed a bit, but it’s crucial to kick straight. It gives you goals and momentum. Hopefully it will change for the boys.”
Sydney forward Tom Papley and Port Adelaide big man Charlie Dixon have also been wasteful in 2018.
And North Melbourne’s Ben Brown, widely considered to be the best set shot for goal in the competition, slipped out of this year’s top 10 after two late misses against Richmond.
Brown’s 26.9 remains terrific and he booted 63.30 in 2017, again leaving him just out of the top 10 but excellently placed given the amount of shots on goal he had.
Milne said while Brown’s routine, which features a lengthy run-up, is “very different”, repetition is crucial for players to have success in front of goal.
“It does impact the result if you don’t have that set routine,” he said.
“I was always the same. Walk for eight steps, jog for four and then kick. You’ve got to have a routine and stick with it.”
He also said he sympathised with current players held to high standards of the past.
“Players these days are running machines and are quicker than they have ever been,” he said.
“That leaves them more tired and is a bit of a reason they’re missing.
“You see all the numbers – blokes are running 15 and 16 kilometres in a game. I ran that in maybe one of my 270 matches.”
The benefit of a whole year’s data gives a bigger sample size and shows just how handy some of Melbourne’s forwards were in front of goal in 2017.
It is also no coincidence that the top six players on this list kicked fewer than 30 goals.
The league-wide trend showed that it was impossible to keep a conversion rate nearing or above 80 per cent if a player was regularly having two or three shots per match.
It shows how good Membrey, Menzel and Wright were for their clubs in 2017, as well.
Billings is not the only player on the list for worst conversion rate in successive years, joined by Port Adelaide’s Chad Wingard.
And Richmond’s Josh Caddy obviously prioritised improving his goalkicking in the pre-season, rising from one of the league’s worst conversion rates in 2017 to one of the best so far in 2018.