Warriors statistics paint an insightful picture

JD time Roar Rookie

By JD time, JD time is a Roar Rookie

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    2017 New Zealand Warriors’ picture promised plenty of light but has instead painted a darkened portrait.

    So where should Stephen Kearney look to change things up for 2018? Team statistics suggest the Warriors need to increase their risk/return levels on attack, and find efficiencies and effectiveness in their defence.

    The following assessment is based on 2017 footage, and NRL.com rankings, according to counts of offloads, errors, all metres run, tackle breaks, line breaks, tackles, missed tackles and the all important four-pointer.

    There is some comparison to the Warriors’ 2011 rankings which offers surprising insight.

    Now, we all remember 2011, when the mighty Warriors stormed their way to a grand final. What was different then?

    Do you think: A: they made the most errors, made the most tackles, AND missed the most tackles; or B: made the most metres and threw the most offloads?

    Well whether you chose A or B, you are right, because the 2011 Warriors were more adventurous with the ball, and it bore fruit. They risked the offload more (1st in 2011 to 14th in 2017), and made more errors (1st to 15th), but it didn’t hamper results because they compensated for it by making the most metres (1st to ninth) and scored more tries (3rd to 13th).

    They also busted more tackles (second to 15th) and completed more line breaks (3rd to 10th): they were likely throwing better passes and running great lines, but most importantly they were supporting the ball carrier.

    They were the Warriors we know and love. How about the error count, surely it is terrible this season?! The error count is massively lower (1st: being worst in 2011 to 15th:second best!), but so is every attacking measure, by at least six ranking positions.

    Kieran Foran New Zealand Warriors NRL Rugby League 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/David Rowland)

    For the Warriors to regain their status as the most entertaining side in the NRL, they need to be throwing the offloads again. However, they have been missing an essential ingredient: a man in support.

    How many times has there been a half break this season and the player has no support? Clearly, it is not being practised and needs to be on the training paddock to appear on game day.

    But they give away way more penalties! Incorrect – discipline in the form of penalties conceded (5th to 12th) and possession (49% to 50%) is better than in 2011. But it means nothing if other disciplines are missing – such as supporting the ball carrier – turning half breaks into missed opportunities and letting frustration build.

    This can kick off a snowball effect, leading to the silly, niggly penalties and blinkered defensive organisation, symptomatic of the second half efforts this season.

    They say defence wins titles. The statistics say they are defending less (1st to sixth) and are not missing as many tackles as the 2011 vintage (1st to 13th). So this suggests that the 2011 team was fitter because they had to tackle more and still won games, but it is evidence that in 2011 they had a more efficient and effective defensive line.

    Technically they need to employ a one-man low, one-man high system when taking down the big forwards.

    They often tackle with two men high, so the ball carrier’s legs can keep pumping, requiring a third player to take the legs, usually Simon Mannering (how many times!).

    The damage here is three fold: metres eaten by the pumping legs, numbers of defenders drawn into the tackle and inefficient tackle technique burning up valuable energy. Also, the Warriors need to improve their “manning up” communication.

    Point to the guy you are marking, and tell the guys around you. If you’re both marking Jarrod Croker or Joey Leilua, then who’s marking Jordan Rapana or Nick Cotric? RTS or a ‘sweeper’ needs to usher the troops to where they are needed, a simple numbers game.

    Ultimately, the 2017 Warriors can tackle, but it is ineffective and inefficient, and lacking essential communication. Opponents are making easy metres, and exploiting their defensive systems given the field position and numerical advantages that the Warriors offer them.

    Finally, the total 2017 New Zealand Warriors’ statistical rankings are shaping up to be worse than in 2016. Throw the baby out with the bath water? Shut up. Only two key things really need to change: support on offence and technique on defence.

    Let’s trust that the coaching staff read into the statistics and put plans into action for next season.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • August 28th 2017 @ 6:49am
      mushi said | August 28th 2017 @ 6:49am | ! Report

      Whilst I disagree with some of the assessment of the stats, this team was seemingly built to support the ball carry with crafty guys and then they changed coaching regime that want’s a structured manufacturing of points. Warriors front office that made this change have failed the fan base.

      I’m not sure the currnet coaching staff will adjsut their gmae plan, rather they will probably make over the roster and then get fired by the front office jsut as they get the team they want and the Warriors will then hand over that roster to a coach wanting to play free flowing. Rinse. Repeat.

      On some of the stats things it’s always dangerous to just compare two seasons.

      Ie offloads = more points. I looked at this over many seasons, games and teams and you tend to find it doesn’t have any correlation with points on a game to game basis – at the end of the day it’s just a pass and some teams get more out of it and others less, also they tend to be used more when you’re getting belted and trying to (fruitlessly usually) conjure up a miracle that just leads to lost opportunities.

      Also on defence you’ll find that metres gained is strangely better correlated with defensive advantage than attacking (it is an good indicator of both though better than most stats on either side). This makes sense if you think about field position being important. It’s easier to manufacture points from line breaks than it is to consistently defend sets starting at the half way. So it doens’t surprise me that the team which had better metres gained

      I smirk when we look at halves effective tackle percentage when lamenting how poor they are defensively and yet ignore that most of the guys we talk about have the best long kicking games in the comp and as such are actually the best players at preventing points being scored (which I thought was the point of defence).

      In my mind Jamie Soward was the best defensive player in the NRL the year the Dragons won the comp and yet I wouldn’t be surprised if there was footage of a tackling dummy making a line break agaisnt him. He basically was subtracting a tackle from the attacking set compared to the average kicker.

    • August 28th 2017 @ 7:05am
      Cedric said | August 28th 2017 @ 7:05am | ! Report

      stats are great but what you want is a team with an attitude!
      Steve Price said on Sunday they need some big boys, I couldn’t agree more. I think it was about 4 years ago, I said the Warriors should be buying Vaughn and Boyd from the Raiders.
      Warriors need to buy 3 big props, Gavet needs help. 1 more good 2nd rower as Harris, Mannering and Pulu need backup and Thompson is more a reserve grader and Afoa is a couple of years away from being in the 13.
      Also 2 good centres, Kata and Ashford did not perform to well.
      5 Good players, maybe 2.5 million dollars. Do they have that ready to spend?

      • August 28th 2017 @ 7:25pm
        Aem said | August 28th 2017 @ 7:25pm | ! Report

        Edge forward, no. Even losing Hoffman and (hopefully) Thompson, plus Niukore and Faitala-Mariner (their two leading prospects on the edge) last year, they’ve still got surplus in the area – one of their few talents coming through the grades right now (Papalii) is being developed as an edge forward, plus Bunty, Pulu, Mannering & Harris – then you’ve got the (still young) guys like Bell and Ogden who have been very good in NSW cup this year.

        Middle forward, yes yes, oh my god yes. Paul Vaughan was the signing they needed to make instead of Foran last year – the biggest knock (other than hiring Stephen Kearney) I can make on Doyle at the Warriors. He went flashy when they needed muscle. They need several big guys, unless Vete and/or Lisone magically step up alongside Gavet, and Satae comes good quickly (Vete & Satae are the best hopes, I think). Losing Sipley thanks to Kearney was frustrating. The biggest issue here is the quality just isn’t left in the market. The Dogs might have to shed one or two, but they’ll likely end up at the Dragons and/or Knights, who have cash are specifically looking for middles, and won’t involve moving countries. Former Warrior Jeremy Latimore might be worth a punt… as could a couple of reserve graders out there – but even at that level most of the eye-catching talent is locked up.

        Centre… they need one, that’s for sure. Kata isn’t NRL standard. Ayshford has actually been good at the Warriors though, no idea what you’ve got against him (other than preconceived notions?). There are rumours still that Israel Folau might be in play for ’18 at the Warriors, but I don’t believe them… and if they come true no doubt Kearney will drop Ayshford and leave Kata out there to keep conceding tries, undercutting the team yet again. Jeremy Hawkins would be the more realistic signing at centre, and he’s been amazing in QLD cup this year. Nicoll-Klokstad also had a great year at centre in ’16, and should be an option there… but there’s no planning at the Warriors so he’ll continue to sit in the back three and wait for injuries.

    • Roar Guru

      August 28th 2017 @ 9:05am
      The Barry said | August 28th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      Interesting look at the stats.

      This comment is a massive generalisation and there’s probably more holes than Swiss cheese. I used to play casual touch footy with a group of Pacific island guys and almost to a man they naturally played the razzle dazzle style. Flick passes, around the back, no look passes, between the legs. Even the big units.

      It was explained to me that a lot grew up playing touch where you handed over the ball when you were touched once so the onus was on not dying with the ball. So in my admittedly narrow experience that sort of adventurist approach is part of their early exposure to the game.

      Warriors sides always gone better when they’ve had a coach that has been able to harness that and combine it with some structure or discipline. On paper that 2011 Warriors side wasn’t a great team but I remember them playing some entertaining footy that year as well as a tough GF qualifier against the Storm. They did get pretty lucky with their semi final draw from memory.

      I don’t think a lot of their layers are necessarily suited to a pure, disciplined, structured, percentage approach which seems to be Kearney’s style because it’s not how they learned the game.

      As I said sweeping generalisations and stereotypes but maybe something there.

      Of more concern is that in 2011 the Warriors made the GF in all three grades. That was also a period wher their u20s side was regularly making and winning the u20s comp. what’s happened in the meantime?

    • August 28th 2017 @ 10:47am
      Albo said | August 28th 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

      How’s their stats on dumb play ? Like not kicking the ball with a gale behind you all half, except from a kick off with a one point lead and a minute to go , and then kicking the ball dead ? We have seen this rubbish dumb play for years from the Warriors. Can you coach smarts into players ?

    • August 28th 2017 @ 11:14am
      AGordon said | August 28th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

      Ignoring the stats aspect of this piece, it seems clear the Warriors don’t have a defined style with buy in from the players. The whole organisation needs to think about how they should play, given their current roster and future prospects, then plan accordingly.

      If they decide their style will be throwing more passes, I don’t think Kearney is the guy to coach them because he’s in love with the Melbourne Storm method. If they decide to change style to keep it tighter and more structured, keep Kearney and get rid of two thirds of the team.

      The 2011 Warriors were not a great side but had tons of confidence. That’s the ingredient missing from the current mob, mostly because they are either not suited to the style of play they’re attempting or because they’re not fit enough to match expectations in the game plan.

      In any event, without some sort of review, the Warriors will be staring a wooden spoon in the face next year.

    • August 28th 2017 @ 7:11pm
      Aem said | August 28th 2017 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

      Kearney just tried to emulate (badly) a Brisbane game plan with a roster that was entirely unsuited – because he’s a bad, bad coach. A decent coach would have played to the strengths of his players.

      You can’t play low-risk footy if you can’t defend like champions on a consistent basis. And you need to be able to construct regular points from more than one (Johnson-sized) source. And if you can’t make inroads up the middle of the park, you’re done.

      Dead on about supporting the ball. It seems as though the Warriors have got worse year-on-year since 2011 in this area. Considering just who they’ve had in their team during that period, it’s a stunning misuse of talent.

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