More Jonny Wilkinson or Tommy Raudonikis? Either way, the NRL’s two-point field goal era has begun

Rugby league history was made three times this week, first with the passing of Blues icon Tommy Raudonikis.

When master coach Warren Ryan was told the news on Wednesday morning, he declared Raudonikis was the greatest competitor he ever saw. Only afterwards did he ask when he had died.

Raudonikis was less a planet in rugby league’s solar system, more its blazing sun.

But his record was something of an oddity.

An elite representative halfback … without a field goal in his career.

It was perhaps fitting then that one day later, Adam Reynolds ushered in a new era with the NRL’s first two-point field goal.


The rule change was brought about suddenly in the off-season.

From at least 40 meters out, field goals would now be worth two points.

Most considered it a minor tweak next to the introduction of set restarts for offside infringements.

And across four and a bit rounds, it’s barely featured.

Only two of Reynolds’ peers have given it a go, with considerably less success.

Loading reported last year that just one in 10 field goal attempts from more than 40 metres out were converted in 2020.

Data from Stats Perform going back to 2015 shows the longer term average is closer to one in 20.

That means this season’s strike rate of one from three is far in excess of expectations.

And Reynolds’ comments after the match — describing it as “easy points” — suggest it could become a staple in the right circumstances.

Where field goals are born

Almost all sets will now end with a side within range of two points without having to break a line.

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Yes, the odds of converting the kick are small. But the rewards have just become more significant.

A man in the 1970s plays rugby league
According to NRL records, Tommy Raudonikis never kicked a field goal.(NRL Photos 


English rugby union player Jonny Wilkinson finished his test career with 36 drop goals — more than any other player.

His most famous one earned the Rugby World Cup for England against the Wallabies in 2003, giving the field goal a bad reputation in the process.

A man in white kicks a rugby union ball
England’s Jonny Wilkinson kicking a field goal at the 2003 Rugby World Cup.(AAP: Dean Lewins 


While the value of a long field goal relative to a try in rugby league — 2:4 — is approaching the ratio in rugby union — 3:5 — there’s no need to fear a Wilkinson-style approach in the NRL.

Ultimately, the penalty for a miss will prevent the two-pointer from taking off, as Reynolds explained on Thursday night.

“The timing was right,” he said.

But it’s clear players are prepared, and the change could prove decisive in close games.

Most potently, it could open up the possibilities as the clock winds down.

A team trailing by two late in the game — the most common margin of all — gains another avenue for getting a result.

Take the match between the Tigers and Souths last year.

With a scrum on their own 20 and barely a minute on the clock, Wests would have needed only a solid set to get within field goal range. But they went wide through the hands and struggled to get a roll on.


Scoring evolution

Increasing the value of the try from three points to four in 1983 is perhaps the most dramatic modern rule change.

But not long before, the field goal was central in another controversial scoring tweak.

Rugby league’s rule makers decided to limit the number of tackles in a set during the 1960s.

It made Eric Simms, South Sydney’s accomplished fullback, a potent point-scoring force.


He kicked 29 field goals in 1968, then valued at two points a piece.

Another rule change was quickly implemented.

So, in 1971, the single-point field goal was born.

Fifty years on and the new rule has given kickers a lift again, even if it’s come too late for one of them.

The retirement of Michael Morgan, the man who helped bring a title to Townsville, due to a chronic shoulder injury was the third historical milestone this week.

Though playing alongside Jonathan Thurston for much of his career meant he only kicked five, he was clearly a field goal innovator.


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