Matthew Lloyd was one of the game's great goalkickers.
Matthew Lloyd was one of the game's great goalkickers.

Could ghost crowds cure footy's age-old yips?

Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd says 50,000 screaming Bombers fans at Marvel Stadium would usually equate to a four-goal advantage against interstate clubs such as Fremantle.

That intimidating roar will be replaced by a ghost atmosphere when the Dons host the Dockers in front of no spectators on Saturday.

"The most intimidating place I played at was Football Park in Adelaide. If you (nailed) your first kick you could hear a pin drop, and if you missed the noise would ramp up tenfold," Lloyd said.

"Suddenly it would play on your mind and could get inside your head. You start forgetting your routine, it eats into your confidence and then you're wondering 'What if I miss the next one?'

"When Fremantle come to Marvel it's a massive thing, it's a four-goal advantage before you even start."

Coronavirus could be the antidote to the one part of football that has never improved - set-shot goal kicking.

AFL goal accuracy reached its lowest point this century in 2019 with West Coast to only club to register above 50 per cent.

Lloyd and Cameron Mooney said that playing in front of empty stadiums would remove a layer of distraction, particularly at hostile grounds and for players without a reliable routine.

But Lloyd - who would famously toss up a chunk of grass before every set-shot - said when he was "in the zone" it made no difference and pointed out that scoreboard pressure would remain the same.

"When I was kicking really well I wouldn't have actually known there was a crowd there," the three-time Coleman Medallist said.



Mooney said he "went to water" after kicking 2.3 in Geelong's 2008 Grand Final loss to Hawthorn.

"I'd kick 17 or 18 from 20 at training and then I'd get in front of goal (in a game) and I was just a mess," the three-time premiership star said.

"It would frustrate the hell out of me. I'd take a mark and you'd hear the whole crowd start to murmur.

"You'd hear your supporters go, 'Oh sh*t' and you'd hear the opposition go, 'You're gonna miss' and you'd start to get to shakes.

"I had the little man on my shoulder and he was there for a good 12 months. There were moments in 2009 where I tried not take a mark inside 50m.

"I played really high because I didn't want to be the guy who stuffed it up at the end after all the boys did the hard work."

Lloyd said fatigue was another key factor crippling conversion, with players required to run harder than ever before.

But that could also be watered down with the AFL looking at shortening quarters to help cram in games.

Former St Kilda goal kicking coach Ben Dixon said set-shot accuracy should climb through the roof without crowds, also predicting a slicker brand of footy.

Former Eagle Xavier Ellis said the fan lockout could have the opposite effect on goalkicking, concerned the change might upset the rhythm of spearheads such as Josh Kennedy.