Category Archives: Analysis & Opinion

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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A complete history of the Queensland Cup

Last year, I did a series of graphs which told each NRL team’s history in the top flight since 1998. Despite expectations, it was pretty well received compared to the one I was expecting to generate a bit of interest.

Now that we have all of the Queensland Cup results, I thought I’d run the same exercise. I don’t expect all that much interest but I think it’s a shame that the Queensland Cup doesn’t garner more attention. The days of 30,000 attending the BRL grand final in the 1980s has been replaced by less than 10,000 turning up to the equivalent event in the 2010s, crushed under the homogenisation of rugby league culture in Brisbane and Queensland thanks to the twin-headed Orthrus* of the Maroons and the Broncos.

Part of the solution is to create some meaningful content about it and we’ll see more of it on this website this year. This post is the starting point, literally charting the competition’s history from its inception in 1996 through the turbulent early 00s period and into the relatively stability – dare I say, optimism – of the last ten years.

*It’s like Cerberus but with two heads.

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