Let’s put the metaphorical stethoscope up the chest of rugby league and discover a few home truths, shall we?
Consider it the Round 14 Rubdown Part 2 that Part 1 implied would come, but never did, just like Harold Holt.
So how is your team travelling at the half-way mark of the 2013 competition? The following long list of charts means that I can get away with writing hardly anything, which is not the usually the best approach to take for a blog, but which gives you a good insight into their relative performance nonetheless.
You be the judge.
The first thing you notice about the first chart is the amount of tries the Panthers and Warriors have scored given their place on the ladder. The second chart shows that they can let a few in too! The key message here is that if they can make up for some poor early performances and make the top 8 for the finals, then anything can happen (particularly the Warriors, whose performance against the Roosters was pure power and skill).
How well is your team controlling possession and making metres relative to the opposition? Some of the answers might surprise you. For example, do the Cowboys really get that much ball per game? What the hell do they do with it? Is James Tamou directing traffic or something?
And do the Roosters and Titans really have such poor control? The Panthers seem to be able to keep the pressure up on the opposition, on average, which explains their try-scoring rate. But the Warriors? How do they score so often with nearly the worst possession stats in the league?
Who has the stickiest hands in the NRL? Not the Roosters in the general ‘centre’ region, that’s for certain. As you can see below, the Broncos hold onto the ball tighter than Ricky holds onto a grudge. They also have the lowest error rate. The Sharks’ result is somewhat of a surprise, though, as is the observation that the top half of the table doesn’t represent the current top eight at all!
Having a look at what all this possession and errors add up to – metres gained, and relative ‘punch’ when making them.
Contrast the net gains made by the top two teams below against the truly appalling numbers being posted by the Tigers and Eels.
Note also that the Rabbitohs, Storm and Manly are on top of net metres as well as penetration (metres per run in the 2nd chart below):
Which shows that the Broncos ruin their good work in holding onto the ball by not holding onto the ball carrier!
As for the all important halves, I like to track their defensive rates – high defensive involvement allows the bigger forwards, who are needed as ball carriers, to be a little fresher than if they were making extra tackles. The following chart tells the story quite succinctly. The top four are up there, but two of the resurgent teams, the Panthers and Warriors are deficient in this regard. The Bulldogs have always placed highly, reflecting that, for the first quarter of the season they were a top eight team in a bottom eight team’s clothing:
On the attacking side of things, the Titans are the clear devotees of running rugby league, with both half and 5/8 high on the runs list (maybe they can open the batting in the Ashes).
The other point to note is the low placings of the Sharks and Knights in the 5/8 runs department – possibly one reason they were overlooked for State of Origin (given Maloney at the Roosters runs more often, and both Pearce and his understudy, Reynolds, run less often).
I hope you get something out of those charts.