Why a three-quarter season review? We could ask Penrith the very same question but for me, it’s because I was too busy with life around round 12 and I will be on holidays and away from the computer by round 25, so this is the only real opportunity I get to pull together a post reviewing the season that’s been until sometime in late October. I think now is a good time to do it anyway because the narratives are established and we’re just close enough to peak over the fence into how the conclusion to the 2018 NRL campagin might play out.
I’m going to try and limit my word usage and let the graph and/or table do the talking. Feel free to use the contents page to jump around:
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Sometimes I take reader requests, although sometimes I can’t always meet the brief.
And sometimes I read or hear someone ask a question and think, “hey, that’s an interesting idea. I’ll take a look.” A while back on Inside Sport’s Dead In Goal podcast, Jeff Centenera asked how much Origin affects team form. We normally associate heavy Origin loading as corresponding with poor performance of the club team, devoid as it is of its star power and typically relying on inexperienced youngsters to fill the gaps. Being a Broncos fan, I am as familiar with this phenomenon as it is possible to be without actually playing the game.
But I thought that was a question worth working through.
Not being a typical NRL round weekend, I find myself at a loss for a Thursday post so I thought I’d toss a bunch of little things out there – six, to be specific – and see what sticks. I don’t expect this to be a regular format but it might come in handy to get smaller ideas out there, especially seeing as all anyone is reading these days seems to be long form works of analysis and history.
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The biggest problem I face in trying to work through rugby league analytics is a lack of useful, reliable, easy to source data to analyse. For this post, I had to do it myself.
I recorded 1,000 sets of six from the 2018 season so far, ranging from a Titans-Warriors pre-season game and finishing during the Titans-Bulldogs game in round 15. A thousand may sound like a lot but given there are about 80 sets of six per game, it’s about a dozen games worth of material. We are working with a relatively small sample size and that the probabilities we estimate may not precisely align with reality. If I had the time and patience (a salary could substitute for time and patience), I could go through the entire history of the NRL and do a better job. This site’s motto is “you get what you pay for”.
But today is not about solving problems once and forever. There are a number of ways to solve a given problem and the techniques and data presented here are hopefully what will be a foundation to build upon. This post is about demonstrating that rugby league can be analysed statistically and useful conclusions can be drawn.
We’re talking about the clubs, not actual people, so it probably won’t be as depressing as the title implies.
This started out as an examination of which rugby league club could claim to be the best expansion team, in the same vein as the Vegas Golden Knights who disputed the NHL’s Stanley Cup in their first season. It would surprise no one to discover that the Melbourne Storm are the best expansion team of all time in rugby league, taking all of two seasons to win a premiership and then winning another
four two in just twenty years of life. That kind of precociousness is hated in children and it seems would also apply to the Victorians.
Instead, what I found more interesting was how many clubs had fallen by the wayside. The original Northern Union was founded in 1895 with twenty-two clubs while the New South Wales Rugby Football League was founded in 1908 with just nine members. How many of those were still standing after all this time?
For the first time in a long time, it looks like we may have a well balanced Origin season. Indeed, the balance may even be a little Blue for my liking but when three of the last generation’s four best players retire from representative football, and they all happened to play for the same state, then the scales will shift perceptibly.
By now, you would know who’s playing for both Queensland and New South Wales in the first of rugby league’s three biggest games. You might even have formed an opinion as to which side is looking the goods. Consensus seems to have settled on this being the Blues’ year. But why settle for the thoughts of experts who have spent the last forty-eight hours tweeting out the leaked Blues lineup, when I’ve crunched the numbers for you?
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Let’s get it done off the bat: Ruan Sims didn’t follow the rules. She had to be at the game and she wasn’t. I don’t blame her. It was a punish of a game to have to sit through for anyone other than Eels fans.
I don’t think the actual votes cast are going to matter much. If you think anyone from Parramatta or Manly is getting a Dally M nod this year, you’re an even bigger idiot than I am. Manly will be lucky to still be a first grade club by 2019 the way they’re going.
It is, however, unlucky and unfair that this befalls specifically on Sims and no one else. As a current player, she has the easiest to verify whereabouts. I have no doubt in my mind that she is neither the first nor alone amongst her judging colleagues to have submitted votes by watching a replay. Braver men might come forward to admit that they have done this as well and stand themselves down. Then we could have a sensible discussion about how the player of the year should be awarded, but that seems grossly unlikely in the current climate of hyperbolic overreaction.
In that spirit, let’s throw the whole thing in the bin and start again with something better.