State of Origin 2: The definitive stats preview

Tim Gore Columnist

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    Buckle yourself the hell in, because this game is going to go off.

    For the first time in over a decade the NSW team have the smell of blood in their noses and will be looking to put their big, vicious feet on the throats of the stunned Queenslanders and choke the last life out of the Maroon dynasty.

    There has been massive bloodletting north of the Tweed, with four debutantes coming into a side that is led by four of their best ever players who – now all well into their 30s – you can bet are determined to show the sky blues one last time just who is the best.

    They will be completely focused on taking victory and forcing a decider on their home turf – and on their terms.

    State of Origin 2 coverage
    » Match report: Maroons win to force series decider
    » Five talking points from Queensland’s last-gasp win
    » Check out all the highlights from the thrilling Game 2
    » WATCH: Andrew Johns unleashes a furious rant about the Blues’ woeful second half

    The chances of a blow out in this game are close to nil.

    Let’s look at the stats to see just how close this one is going to be and where it will be won, and lost.

    Where was State of Origin I won?
    That was the biggest ever loss for Queensland on their home turf. Further, their captain had an off night. That has got to have stung bad.

    NSW made 155 more metres than QLD. QLD had to make 40 more tackles than NSW and ended up missing eight more tackles, conceding three more line breaks. QLD had no answer for Andrew Fifita who made 18 runs for 183 metres, 11 tackle breaks, one line break assist and a try.

    Boyd Cordner State of Origin NSW Blues NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Basically QLD were too old and too slow. They were in the arm wrestle until just before half time when their more advanced years and deficit of match fitness told and Mitchell Pearce scored. The Maroons re-joined the arm wrestle after half time but once James Tedesco scored in the 51st minute the jig was up.

    My statistical preview of game one clearly showed this issue. However, I foolishly decided that the leadership of Cam Smith and Cooper Cronk would assuage those issues. They didn’t.

    Queensland have now renewed their squad and they are angry. But is it enough to turn the tables on a rampant and confident NSW side?

    Let’s look at the stats category by category to see which side has the edge.

    Age and minutes in the legs = Equal
    These categories were a clear win for NSW in SOO1 and probably ended up being the most decisive factor. However, the seven changes QLD have made have evened the statistics right up.

    NSW Age Minutes QLD Age Minutes
    James Tedesco 24 75.6 Billy Slater 34 77.5
    Blake Ferguson 27 78.5 Valentine Holmes 21 80
    Josh Dugan 27 75.4 Will Chambers 29 78.4
    Jarryd Hayne 29 70.3 Darius Boyd 29 79.4
    Brett Morris 30 80 Dane Gagai 26 80
    James Maloney 31 80 Johnathan Thurston 34 81.3
    Mitchell Pearce 28 79.9 Cooper Cronk 33 77.9
    Aaron Woods 26 55.2 Dylan Napa 24 45.5
    Nathan Peats 26 77.8 Cameron Smith 34 80
    Andrew Fifita 27 54.3 Tim Glasby 28 41.9
    Josh Jackson 26 76.7 Gavin Cooper 31 80.5
    Boyd Cordner 24 78.8 Matt Gillett 28 74.9
    Tyson Frizell 25 64.8 Josh McGuire 27 63.1
    David Klemmer 23 58.1 Michael Morgan 25 80.8
    Wade Graham 26 76.6 Josh Papalii 25 80.1
    Jake Trbojevic 23 75.2 Coen Hess 20 61.2
    Jack Bird 22 80 Jarrod Wallace 25 60.6
    Total 444 1237.2 Total 473 1223.1(1179 SOO1)
    AVG 26.1 72.8 27.8 72(69.35 SOO1)
    Forwards 25.1 68.6 26.9(29 SOO1) 65.3(60.5 SOO1)
    Backs 27.5 77.5 28.9(26.3 SOO1) 79.4(79.3 SOO1)

    Although each Queensland player is still on average 1.7 years older than his NSW opponent, how that is distributed through the side has changed. The QLD forwards for Game 2 are on average 2.1 years younger than the pack for Game 1.

    The backs, however, are 2.6 years older. Replace Corey Oates with Billy Slater, and Jacob Lillyman with Coen Hess and those averages get effected quickly. However, what was a distinct difference last start has closed right up.

    The age profile has also been impacted by a few birthdays. In the three weeks that have elapsed James Maloney, Tyson Frizell, Will Chambers, Cam Smith and Billy Slater have all had birthdays. Did you know that Slater and Smith were born on exactly the same day? 18 June 1983.

    In regards to metres gained, Queensland revamped side has closed that gap right up too. Although – like Aidan Guerra and Nate Myles – Coen Hess has been chosen from his club side’s bench, his 61.9 minutes a game are big. Only Dylan Napa and Tim Glasby average less than 60 minutes a game. That’s down from four of their roster in Game 1.

    Runs and metres = NSW
    Again, these stats will be vital to who wins and – again – on paper NSW has the edge.

    NSW Runs Metres QLD Runs Metres
    James Tedesco 16.9 172.5 Billy Slater 15.1 124.4
    Blake Ferguson 14.6 134.7 Valentine Holmes 17.2 184.4
    Josh Dugan 16.9 157.2 Will Chambers 13.5 121.2
    Jarryd Hayne 11.1 87.5 Darius Boyd 13.7 114.4
    Brett Morris 11.9 104.3 Dane Gagai 13.1 112.4
    James Maloney 9.8 74.1 Johnathan Thurston 12.4 83.6
    Mitchell Pearce 11 66.7 Cooper Cronk 8.8 61.5
    Aaron Woods 17.1 159.8 Dylan Napa 12.2 105.3
    Nathan Peats 4.5 35.8 Cameron Smith 8.1 52
    Andrew Fifita 17 157.8 Tim Glasby 9.7 87.9
    Josh Jackson 12.3 106.7 Gavin Cooper 9.7 85.8
    Boyd Cordner 16.1 154.2 Matt Gillett 11.1 90.2
    Tyson Frizell 10.5 101.8 Josh McGuire 17.1 154.5
    David Klemmer 16.3 156.5 Michael Morgan 9.8 73.3
    Wade Graham 12.7 113.7 Josh Papalii 15.1 150.8
    Jake Trbojevic 14.1 134 Coen Hess 10.5 101.8
    Jack Bird 13.7 120 Jarrod Wallace 15.2 142.9
    Total 226.5 2037.3 Total 212.3 (201 SOO1) 1846.4 (1803 SOO1)
    AVG 13.3 120 12.5 (11.8 SOO1) 108.6 (106 SOO1)
    Forwards 13.4 124.5 12 (11.9 SOO1) 107.9 (108 SOO1)
    Backs 13.2 114.5 13 (11.7 SOO1) 109.4 (103.8 SOO1)

    Queensland has done some catching up where hit ups are considered but are still 14 worse on average. Further, they average 190.9 fewer metres a game than NSW. Four of the Queensland pack average fewer than 100 metres a game. Only Nathan Peats in the NSW pack averages less than 100 metres a game.

    From these stats Queensland must muscle up in defence to hold the NSW big boppers or – like SOO1 – this could get ugly.

    Tackles and missed tackles = equal

    NSW Tackles Missed Tackles Missed tackle to tackle ratio QLD Tackles Missed Tackles Missed tackle to tackle ratio
    James Tedesco 3.3 1.4 42.40% Billy Slater 5.6 2.3 41%
    Blake Ferguson 4.5 2.1 46.60% Valentine Holmes 2.4 0.6 25%
    Josh Dugan 4 1.2 30% Will Chambers 17.6 2.5 14.20%
    Jarryd Hayne 8.3 1.4 16.90% Darius Boyd 7.7 0.8 10.40%
    Brett Morris 6 0.8 13.30% Dane Gagai 12.9 3 23.20%
    James Maloney 13.4 6.1 45.50% Johnathan Thurston 13.9 4.4 31.60%
    Mitchell Pearce 20.7 2.3 11.10% Cooper Cronk 13.9 1.1 7.90%
    Aaron Woods 25.4 1.3 5.10% Dylan Napa 21.1 3.4 16.10%
    Nathan Peats 41.3 2.2 5.30% Cameron Smith 42.2 2.1 5%
    Andrew Fifita 27.7 1.3 4.70% Tim Glasby 25.1 1.5 6%
    Josh Jackson 33.1 2.1 6.30% Gavin Cooper 31.8 1.9 6%
    Boyd Cordner 31 2 6.40% Matt Gillett 37.9 4 10.50%
    Tyson Frizell 28.2 1.5 5.30% Josh McGuire 35.9 2.2 6%
    David Klemmer 22.3 1.8 8% Michael Morgan 13.2 2.8 21.20%
    Wade Graham 27.5 3.2 11.60% Josh Papalii 24.8 1.3 5.20%
    Jake Trbojevic 36.3 1.1 3% Coen Hess 22.5 1.3 5.80%
    Jack Bird 12.1 3.6 29.75% Jarrod Wallace 34.4 2.1 6.10%
    Total 345.1 35.4 Total 362.9 37.3
    AVG 20.3 2.1 10.30% 21.3 2.2 10.30%
    Forwards 30.3 1.8 5.90% 30.6 2.2 7.20%
    Backs 9 2.4 26.60% 10.9 2.2 20.20%

    The good news for Queensland is they have the extra tackling stamina to cope with NSW extra hit ups. The side averages nearly 18 more tackles a game than NSW. Notably these extra tackles come in the backs though. Further, QLD average two extra missed tackles a game. Their average missed tackles has actually gone up with the mass changes to the side.

    Queensland will be trying to exploit James Maloney’s turnstile defence – Chris Sandow would be amazed at Maloney’s average of 6.1 misses a game. Maloney missed nine tackles in SOO1. As well, Wade Graham has 3.2 and Jack Bird 3.6 misses a game. Further, Josh Dugan may have made some superb try saving tackles in SOO1 but he needed to. He missed eight tackles in the first game. He will be targeted.

    Jarryd Hayne NSW Blues State of Origin NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    What these stats show is that the QLD attack will be squarely focused on the NSW backline and their missed tackle ratio of 26.6 per cent – and most likely at the side with Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson.

    While Johnathan Thurston’s 4.4 average misses seem like the big target, the NSW players will actually have their sights on three players: Dylan Napa (3.4 misses), Michael Morgan (2.8 misses) and Will Chambers (2.5 misses). Their missed tackle ratios are bad. In SOO1 Napa missed four tackles, Chambers six and Morgan eight.

    Had Milford been fit I’m not convinced the Cowboys’ five-eighth would have been in the QLD team this time around. Further, Matt Gillett misses more than QLD supporters would like. Look for Andrew Fifita to try and catch him one-on-one.

    Attacking and scoring = NSW – just
    Once more we see from the raw stats that the QLD changes have closed the comparative stats right up:

    NSW Tackle breaks Line break assists Line breaks Try Assists Tries QLD Tackle breaks Line break assists Line breaks Try Assists Tries
    James Tedesco 7.9 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.1 Billy Slater 4.7 0.8 0.6 1 0.5
    Blake Ferguson 3.1 0.2 0.8 0.1 0.6 Valentine Holmes 4.4 0.4 0.4 0.3 0.2
    Josh Dugan 6.3 0.2 0.6 0 0.2 Will Chambers 1.4 0.6 0.3 0.3 0.3
    Jarryd Hayne 1.3 0.3 0.5 0.3 0.5 Darius Boyd 3.1 0.7 0.2 0.5 0.1
    Brett Morris 3.4 0.1 0.4 0.1 0.3 Dane Gagai 5.5 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.1
    James Maloney 1.4 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.3 Johnathan Thurston 2.7 0.7 0.3 1 0.3
    Mitchell Pearce 2.3 0.6 0.5 0.7 0.5 Cooper Cronk 1.1 0.6 0.2 0.7 0.4
    Aaron Woods 0.8 0 0 0 0 Dylan Napa 1 0 0 0 0
    Nathan Peats 0.5 0.7 0 0.7 0 Cameron Smith 0.8 0.7 0 0.5 0
    Andrew Fifita 4.3 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1 Tim Glasby 0.8 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1
    Josh Jackson 1.2 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1 Gavin Cooper 1.4 0.1 0.2 0 0.1
    Boyd Cordner 1.6 0 0.3 0 0.3 Matt Gillett 2.1 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1
    Tyson Frizell 2.3 0.1 0.1 0 0.1 Josh McGuire 1.3 0 0 0 0
    David Klemmer 1.7 0 0 0 0 Michael Morgan 2.9 0.3 0.5 0.6 0.4
    Wade Graham 2.2 0.3 0.6 0.3 0.3 Josh Papalii 3.3 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.3
    Jake Trbojevic 1.1 0.2 0.3 0 0.3 Coen Hess 3.1 0 0.6 0 0.8
    Jack Bird 4 0.4 0.2 0.3 0.1 Jarrod Wallace 1.4 0 0.1 0 0
    Total 45.4 4.2 5.5 3.3 3.8 Total 41(36 SOO1) 5.5(4 SOO1) 4.4(3.5 SOO1) 5.6(3.7 SOO1) 3.7(3 SOO1)
    AVG 2.7
    Forwards 1.75 1.5 1.7 1.2 1.2 1.9 1.3 1.7 1 1.4
    Backs 3.7 2.7 3.8 2.1 2.6 2.9 4.2 2.7 4.6 2.3

    NSW have a slight advantage in tackle breaks with 4.4 more. They also have an extra line break in them. However, the averages only see them with a 0.1 try advantage over the Maroons. And Johnathan Thurston is no slouch when it comes to getting his players across the try line. Putting him and Billy Slater back into the side has added 1.5 line break assists, a line break, two try assists and three-quarters of a try.

    The QLD attack will have far more teeth in this game than it did in SOO1.

    Miscreants and fumblers = QLD
    Whoever gives away the most penalties and drops the most ball will probably be the loser. However, as the three-all penalty count showed in SOO1, referees swallow the whistle in big matches. Although I thought a number of obvious penalties were incorrectly let go in the name of a quick game, most of the fans loved the refs getting the hell out of the way.

    However, that plays right into the hands of QLD who will be playing Bellamy Ball and trying to slow the ruck speed down as much as possible. If Matt Cecchin swallows the whistle the game might get bogged down.

    How costly was Justin O’Neil’s dropped ball in SOO1? It was one of just ten errors in the game. QLD made two more than NSW and those two extra possessions meant a great deal in the context of the game. The weather in Sydney on Wednesday looks good so the handling should be good.

    NSW Penalties Errorsv QLD Penalties Errors
    James Tedesco 0.5 1.4 Billy Slater 0.3 1.2
    Blake Ferguson 0.3 1 Valentine Holmes 0 1
    Josh Dugan 0.3 0.8 Will Chambers 1.3 0.9
    Jarryd Hayne 0.4 1 Darius Boyd 0.2 0.2
    Brett Morris 0.3 0.9 Dane Gagai 0.3 0.8
    James Maloney 1.8 1.3 Johnathan Thurston 0.7 0.9
    Mitchell Pearce 0.7 0.9 Cooper Cronk 0.5 0.6
    Aaron Woods 0.3 0.3 Dylan Napa 0.2 0.3
    Nathan Peats 1 0.7 Cameron Smith 0.8 0.4
    Andrew Fifita 0.8 1 Tim Glasby 0.4 0.1
    Josh Jackson 0.9 0.7 Gavin Cooper 0.4 0.8
    Boyd Cordner 0.2 0.7 Matt Gillett 0.2 0.8
    Tyson Frizell 0.5 0.2 Josh McGuire 0.5 0.3
    David Klemmer 1 0.6 Michael Morgan 0.5 1.2
    Wade Graham 0.8 0.8 Josh Papalii 0.2 0.3
    Jake Trbojevic 0.8 0.2 Coen Hess 0.6 0.8
    Jack Bird 0.6 1.5 Jarrod Wallace 0.9 0.1
    Total 11.2 14 Total 8 10.7
    AVG
    Forwards 6.3 5.2 4.2 3.9
    Backs 4.9 8.8 3.8 6.8

    These stats say that, on average, NSW will gift QLD six extra possessions in the game through errors and penalties conceded. As pointed out above, we can expect the refs to go easy on the whistle so that six extra sets will probably look more like three. However, the stats clearly show that NSW could get a bad case of the dropsies. It is very hard to hold the momentum if you don’t have the ball.

    This could be a decisive stat.

    Experience = Queensland

    NSW Origin Games QLD Origin Games
    James Tedesco 2 Billy Slater 28
    Blake Ferguson 5 Valentine Holmes 0
    Josh Dugan 10 Will Chambers 5
    Jarryd Hayne 21 Darius Boyd 27
    Brett Morris 12 Dane Gagai 5
    James Maloney 8 Johnathan Thurston 36
    Mitchell Pearce 16 Cooper Cronk 20
    Aaron Woods 12 Dylan Napa 1
    Nathan Peats 1 Cameron Smith 40
    Andrew Fifita 8 Tim Glasby 0
    Josh Jackson 6 Gavin Cooper 2
    Boyd Cordner 7 Matt Gillett 16
    Tyson Frizell 3 Josh McGuire 6
    David Klemmer 7 Michael Morgan 6
    Wade Graham 3 Josh Papalii 7
    Jake Trbojevic 1 Coen Hess 0
    Jack Bird 3 Jarrod Wallace 0
    Total 125 Total 199
    AVG 7.3 11.7
    Forwards 5.3 8
    Backs 9.6 15.9

    The QLD side has 74 more State of Origin games experience than NSW. However, 75.9 per cent of QLD’s accumulated games are from Slater, Boyd, Cronk, Thurston and Smith. There are also four debutants in the Maroon side. There are none in the NSW team. The QLD three man front row rotation has just one cap between them. The three big boppers for NSW share 27 caps.

    Leadership = Queensland
    This is still a major factor in this game and this series. I thought it would be decisive for QLD in Game 1. It wasn’t. However, reinforcements have arrived. The cool, focused and experienced QLD leadership team of Cam Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Darius Boyd bring composure, control and excellent decision making in their arsenal of skills.

    Boyd Cordner, conversely, must try to keep his boys focused on maintaining Coach Daley’s game plan, keeping the errors down and stopping brain explosions. They must keep it simple, all the while ignoring the barbs that will be sure to come from the QLD camp.

    The Verdict
    The NSW pack is simply better than the QLD pack. They are younger, bigger, stronger and more dangerous. They ripped the QLD pack apart in Game One. However, QLD has rejuvenated their side and, while it does not have the venom of the boys in sky blue, their pack can tackle, wrestle and hold their own.

    If they can do that on Wednesday night then the QLD backline is better. Under the generalship of Thurston and Cronk they will mercilessly, clinically and precisely target the NSW outside backs.

    James Maloney NSW Blues State of Origin NRL Rugby League 2017

    However, if the QLD pack gets badly beaten like last time the series will be all over.

    But I’ve got a feeling we are going to a decider.

    Queensland by eight.

    Some stats of interest
    • Of the eight times that NSW have won Game 1 away from home, they have won six of those series (1985, 1986, 1993, 1996, 2003, 2014) by winning the next game at home. However, in 1983 and 1987 they lost the next two games to lose the series.

    • NSW have only had two clean sweep series wins, but both featured the first and last games being played in Brisbane (1986, 1996)

    • NSW’s 24-point winning margin was the second biggest Game 1 winning margin in State of Origin history. The biggest was QLD’s 30 point victory in Game One 1989. That was Laurie Daley’s debut match for NSW.

    • Every time in Origin history that the winning margin in Game 1 has been twelve points or greater, the victorious side from that match has won the series.

    • This will be the 19th game two held in Sydney. NSW have won 13 of the 18 played to date, including the last three. The last time Queensland won a game two in Sydney was in 2009.

    • The average score for Game 2s held in Sydney is 16-12 to NSW.

    • Game 2s are the lowest-scoring games in the series on average.

    • This is the first time a game two has been held in Sydney since 2014 – when NSW last won a series.

    • Of the 34 series played, the side that has used fewer players during the series has won 22 times. QLD has a big head start this series in regard to players used.

    Tim Gore
    Tim Gore

    Tim has been an NRL statistician for ABC Radio Grandstand since 1999, primarily as part of their Canberra coverage. Tim has loved rugby league since Sterlo was a kid with lots of hair but was cursed with having no personal sporting ability whatsoever. He couldn't take a hit in footy, was a third division soccer player making up numbers, plays off 41 in golf and is possibly the world's worst cricketer ever. He has always been good at arguing the point though and he has a great memory of what happened. Follow Tim on Twitter.

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