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Secrets of the sharpshooters: What makes our kickers tick

In the moments directly after a try has been scored or a penalty awarded, one man stands alone with the pressure on his shoulders to try and turn four points into six or add two to the tally with a crucial penalty goal.

Welcome to the world of the NRL goalkicker, where agony or ecstasy can come down to a matter of inches, where endless hours of practice sometimes go unrewarded and where your team's destiny can rest on your boot.

A strong boot and a strong mind are pre-requisites for every kicker, as well as the ability to find a routine that works for them and stick to it kick after kick after kick, regardless of the state of game or time on the clock.

In this special report, a  selection of NRL sharpshooters share their secrets with

Secrets of the sharpshooters

Latrell Mitchell (Rabbitohs)

“I try to keep it pretty simple. I line the ball up directly over the black dot. I take four steps back and two to the right. I tap my boots on the ground and tell myself to kick the ball straight and to kick through it. Then I move in and plant my right foot near the kicking tee and try to bring my left leg all the way through and kick it as straight as I can. I try and do plenty of practice after training as well to get my rhythm and kick it as straight as I can.”

Latrell Mitchell has a booming boot, whether he kicking for goal or potting long range field goals.
Latrell Mitchell has a booming boot, whether he kicking for goal or potting long range field goals.

Nathan Cleary (Panthers)

"I start by aiming the ball on the tee – and adjust it if I need. I take four steps back and about two-and-a-half to the side, and then a little step back. Once I get to the top of my run-up, I take a few deep breaths and stop for a moment. It’s important to make sure I kick through the ball. I make sure I have my head down for the first bit of the kick and into the follow-through. If I hear the crowd cheering, I know I’ve hit it well. It’s great to look up and see the ball go through the posts."

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Reuben Garrick (Sea Eagles)

“When I’m standing back, a lot of people may think I am taking a long time. Some think I take the longest. But I’m going through processes in my head and visualising what I want to do. I also work with mindset coach John Novak, so there is plenty of visualisation there when I’m looking at the ball. You do hear some noise but you just block it out. It’s then time to relax as you can certainly overthink. I’ve just got to let my body do what I’ve done a thousand times.”

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Sam Walker (Roosters)

“My routine is three back, three across and after I’ve lined up the ball, I focus on the ball and where my foot needs to be. I’m usually thinking 'head down, follow through and try to get my foot as close to the ball as possible'.”

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Toby Sexton (Titans)

"I normally go two steps back and two steps to the side, and then I kind of swing my arms to get a bit of oxygen back in the lungs and focus on my breathing for a little bit. I then look up and talk to myself. I say I’ll aim for a spot in the crowd… whether it’s a chair or a person and that’s normally the spot I’ll aim for. I’ll then go back down and take a little a couple of other little breaths and then follow through with my kick.”

Shaun Johnson (Warriors)

“I actually got warned because I have been taking a little too long to clear my head at the moment, so a big one for me is just trying to get back to neutral and take a breath. Adrenalin is pumping a little bit after scoring a try, so I calm myself down. I line the ball up, I've got a little routine if you watch the tape, I sort of rotate the ball and then flip it on its pump spot – that's a Daryl Halligan special – put it on the tee, I always start right post, dial in right post, three steps back, one, two, three to the left, toe tap, just so I can feel the ball on my foot when I kick it. Back in the day I remember I used to talk to myself, I can't even remember what I said, but now it's sort of just 'through the ball' in my head. I want to get through the ball and exit well."

The ice cool Shaun Johnson is one of the Warriors' favourite sons.
The ice cool Shaun Johnson is one of the Warriors' favourite sons.

Adam Doueihi (Wests Tigers)

“Three days out from a game I try to book a stadium or a nearby park and go by myself with our kicking coach and take some balls and do 24-30 shots on a day off. Before a match I like to go out before the kickers and catchers and do 5-6 before the game just to see the ball go between the posts. I’m pretty thorough with my routine – I do the same set-up whether it’s in front of the posts or out wide. I like to do some breathing techniques as I approach the ball and after I hit the ball. When I’m looking at the ball I say ‘through the posts’ three times just to get that verbal action in my head. After every kick I run to the side of the field and run off and run back on again to reset my body – no matter whether the ball has gone through or missed, I am just leaving it there and moving on to the next part of the game. I did some research into performing under pressure and I feel like in previous years I let the kicks play on my mind throughout the game so this allows me to brush past it and move on.”

In a rhythm: Adam Doueihi slots one against the Eels in Round 17.
In a rhythm: Adam Doueihi slots one against the Eels in Round 17.

Valentine Holmes (Cowboys)

“I have a line I say to myself a couple of times during my pre-kick routine, which is ‘guide me through’. It is a trigger to remind myself to focus on the key points I need to execute to strike the ball well.”

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Jamal Fogarty (Raiders)

“Firstly, I just make sure my tee is facing between the posts and put the ball between the black dot and the right post. Obviously with my kick, I come from right to left so if I aim between the black dot and the right upright no matter where I’m kicking from so I can open the goal up a little bit more. Then I just go through my normal process – three steps back, three to the side, then try and have a bit of a tempo from taking a step back and walking into the footy. And then then I just tell myself to kick the bottom of the ball and through the posts. I keep my head down and just hope it goes through the uprights.”


And how's this for holding your nerve with the game on the line...

That thrilling winning feeling

Thurston's kick for the game


Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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