Category Archives: Analysis & Opinion

The Renaissance of South Sydney

On their return to the competition in 2002, South Sydney sucked. A lot. The 2003 and 2006 Rabbitohs were among the worst all-time NRL sides, winning just three games a piece. In 2007, the tide turned with a moderately successful recruitment drive, lifting Souths to a .500 win percentage. Souths would be just on the cusp of finals places for the next few years before securing Michael Maguire as coach and turning into a powerhouse (powerhouse Maguire years marked in cardinal).

souths wins.PNG

In 2012, the Rabbitohs played their first finals series since 2007, appearing in a run of three preliminary finals in a row before winning the grand final in 2014 and breaking a 43 year premiership drought. In 2015, the club was bundled out in the first week of the post-season. Two very average seasons followed.

Read more

Rolling the rugby league dice: the value of the short kick off

At one end of the scale, we have every NRL team. At the top level, we only see the short kick off when the clock is winding down and the team kicking off desperately needs points to remain in contention for the win. At the other end of the scale, we have the Ipswich Jets, coached by Shane and Ben Walker, who will indiscriminately use short kick-offs, short drop-outs and taking the two when it makes no sense to do so because that’s Walkerology. Are the Walker Brothers on to something that everyone else is missing?

Embed from Getty Images

In 2018, I recorded a few outcomes for 1,000 sets of six. This sounds like a lot but it’s actually the equivalent of about twelve games of football. I looked at where the set started, what the end result of the set was (e.g. error, score, fifth tackle kick) and a few other details.

Read more

The April premiership

By the time you read this, it should be April, which means the NRL is on the cusp of handing out the April Premiership, the third most important, and the least existent, trophy of the season.

The term “April premiers” seems to have a few variations in meaning. Typically, it’s a team that starts particularly well and is either on top of the table sometime in April. The premiership can be awarded either at the start or end of the month, depending on the individual. The title also connotes fading badly on the run home. Its awarding can either come out of a semi-humourous hope of rivals that the club will eventually come back to the pack or out of past experience.

Embed from Getty Images

Read more

Which NRL team performs best in the wet?

With the wet start to the 2019 season, there’s discussion about the tactics and competence of teams playing the wet. The Bulldogs seem to have the best reputation for playing in the wet, although I’m not sure where this originated from. After some prompting on social media, I decided to do a bit of investigation.

Over the off-season, I spent some time collecting individual match stats from the NRL website, from season 2013 through to the end of 2018. In that dataset, the NRL identified 176 games where the weather was recorded as “rain”, “showers”, “light rain” or “rain and thunder”.

Embed from Getty Images

Read more

A glance at the NRL with Poseidon ratings

If you read my tips for round 1, you would have seen the Poseidon rating making an appearance. The purpose of the Poseidon rating system is to look at each team’s offensive and defensive capabilities separately, as well as their home and away performance, to see if their winning record is concealing strengths or weaknesses.

The underlying principle is quite simple. We look at how many tries a team scores, at home and away, and how many they conceded, similarly at home and away, and see how that stacks up against the league average over the previous twenty-four rounds.

The league average moves over time. In 2013, the home team scored 3.9 tries on average and the away team 3.2. In 2018, those numbers had changed to 3.6 and 3.1 respectively. While 0.3 tries per game may not seem like much, over a 192 game regular season schedule, that’s 57 tries that have gone missing, or about 316 points, just for the home teams.

Embed from Getty Images

Read more

Who has the softest NRL draw in 2019?

The current format of the NRL doesn’t allow for each team to play each other twice. Doing that would mean extending the season by another six weeks and, even if they players were up for that (which they are not), as an armchair analyst, I don’t think I could cope.

This means that not every team’s schedule is the same. For twenty-four games, each teams plays each other once and plays a second game against nine other teams. The NRL has no particular interest in trying to provide the mythical “balanced schedule” that would be fair for all teams and prefers to use the opportunity to use a doubling up of rivalry games to generate commercial returns.

This might seem grossly unfair, especially if your team has to play the premiers twice, but it is what it is. What I’m interested in looking at this week is how slanted the schedules are and who will have an easier time of the 2019 NRL season and who will have to do it the hard way.

Embed from Getty Images

Read more

A deep dive for each team’s 2019 NRL season

With the first Maori versus Indigenous All-stars game and another edition of the World Club Challenge in the history books, our attention turns to the NRL season ahead.

As with last year, I’m going to do a SWOP – Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Prospect – analysis for each team. My general philosophy for judging a team’s prospects is that where a team finishes on the ladder the previous year is a more or less accurate reflection of their level, give or take a win or two. If no changes are made, we should see a similar performance if the season was repeated. There are exceptions, e.g. the Raiders pathological inability to close out a game should be relatively easy to fix and the Knights’ managed maybe two convincing wins in 2018 but still finished eleventh, but broadly, if a team finishes with seven wins and they hope to improve to thirteen and make the finals, then we should look at what significant changes have been made in order to make that leap up the table.

Read more

« Older Entries