The only thing more reliable than March bringing rugby league back is the slew of season previews that each and every media outlet feels the need to produce. I’m no different in this regard and here is what is likely to be the longest post I’ve ever compiled.
This year’s season preview takes a look at each team and is a mix of my usual statistics, a bit of SWOT analysis and some good old fashioned taking a wild punt and hoping it’ll make you look wise come October.
(A SWOT analysis is where you look at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. There’s only one threat in the NRL, and that’s the other fifteen teams, so it’s more of a SWO analysis)
Last year, I did a report on each NRL club featuring a bit of history, a few statistics and some graphs. The series didn’t do super well in terms of clicks but also didn’t take a lot of effort to produce.
One thing I did enjoy putting together were the class graphs. These use a slow moving Elo rating system called Eratosthenes to track the long term performance of clubs. You can see a full listing of all current ratings here.
If you’ve got the right kind of stuff between your ears (that is, if you’re a massive nerd), each picture tells each team’s thousands of words history in the NRL. To that end, I’ve updated all sixteen clubs’ graphs to the end of the 2017 season for your nerdy consumption.
This headline (the actual article is fine) from Tim Gore typified the attitude when the draw was released in November last year:
Not only were the NRL never going to redo the draw, it speaks to the tendency that the they can do no right in the fans’ eyes (“Release the draw earlier! No, not that one, a different one”).
Looking at last year’s ladder and having a whinge that your team has to play three top four teams twice is peak gronkery. It’s fuelled by emotion and we can do better. So here you go: a quantitative analysis of who has the toughest draw in the NRL.
Can we predict a premiership winner from their Elo ratings?
Embed from Getty Images
Obviously, yes. That’s what the Stocky is for and this site would pointless if this was not true. But what if we wanted to look into the future before a single game has been played? I think that the Elo ratings of premiership winning teams might have a common pattern to them that show up if we take a closer look at their long term performance, or class, ratings with Eratosthenes.
We’ll need some premiership winners to review. To do this analysis I’ve tried to pick one premiership per club (to avoid autocorrelation) and pick a premiership that stands on its own. That eliminated a number of
premierships years for Melbourne and multiple premierships for Manly and Brisbane. I also biased it towards more recent premiers where possible. I was left with the following list:
Twitter follower, David Olsen, posed a question to me:
Apparently, I do a reader mailbag now. Good for me.
My first thought was “How the hell am I going to do this?”, closely followed by “Can I be bothered?” The answers were “with less effort than I feared” and “yes, yes I can”.
Embed from Getty Images
To whom it may concern:
The ancient Romans had an important position known as the Censor. Primarily, the role involved taking the census to maintain a list of citizens. There was also a moral component, ensuring that citizens acted in line with community expectations. Punishments were meted out for those who did not comply.
I humbly suggest that the NRL would benefit from such a system. Any person whose mere presence brings the sport into disrepute should be forced out, never to return to the rugby league elite. I’ll get the list started:
I mostly started this blog as something to occupy my brain when work was quiet. Pro tip: spreadsheets are a great way to cover up that you’re not working. I’d actually stopped watching rugby league closely around 2004 but had gone to a few games in the last few years, reigniting a spark somewhere in the back of my head. I went to five games in the last six years and watched a handful on TV but this year, I probably watched well over a hundred games and went to seven. I’ve found it a good distraction from the real world and I’m glad I did it.
Here’s how the year has panned out.
Embed from Getty Images
State of the (Northern) Union
The game is a lot faster, more athletic and visually spectacular than I remember. Queensland Cup is pretty good, not withstanding the Hunters’ poor performance last Sunday. Despite the Storm’s dominance, there were plenty of close games in the NRL and, unlike say AFL or NFL, the game is never quite over until the final whistle. In fact, there’s not a lot wrong with the rugby league product in 2017. Fans seem to agree with four of the year’s top six rating programmes being the three State of Origin bouts and the grand final, even if all are down somewhat off their peaks and attendances are sliding.