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How do the Wallabies' backs measure up in the stats?

Does Adam Ashley-Cooper deserve a spot in the Wallabies? (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)
Roar Guru
28th June, 2015
55
1496 Reads

Another Roarer wrote an interesting article on Kurtley Beale on the site recently.

He suggested that despite Beale’s poor tackling record, he is still valuable to the Waratahs due to the other skills and abilities he possesses, and I agree with his hypothesis.

After all, it was the same argument brought forward when Adam Ashley-Cooper was a liability in defence as well.

So I decided to look at the net positive value of each backline player (except the scrumhalves) in the Brumbies and the Waratahs.

Additionally, I included competitors to Beale in the number 10 and 12 positions who are not in the squad for comparative purposes.

I use a quantitative based methodology, and since there aren’t good statistics on passing available to me I excluded the scrumhalves.

The methodology I use spreads the results out per run and per game.

The statistics I used were:

• Tries
• Try Assists
• Line Breaks
• Line Break Creates
• Tackle Busts / Defenders Beaten
• Offloads
• Pilfers
• Turnovers Forced
• Successful Counter Rucks
• Tackles Made
• Tackles Missed
• Penalties Against the player
• Errors
• Number of Games Played
• Number of Ball Carries

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There is one notable omission, kicking. There are no available statistics that provide the quality of the kick.

I omitted goal kicking statistics because the various goal kicking percentages are similar, and they are skewed by kickers only choosing kicks within their range. Others are used for long distance kicking.

I use the number of ball carries for attacking measures which makes different players attack threat comparable per run. For example, what is the average number of positive outcomes per run?

I present the results in groups, where the results are statistically close and the difference is not materially significant.

The results for attacking outcomes per run
Group one: Israel Folau 1.01 per run, Quade Cooper 1.01 per run.

Folau is amazing because he produces more positive outcomes per run, and makes more runs than anyone else. You can have more than one positive outcome per run because you can make a line break, beat multiple tackles and offload in a single run.

Group two: Taqele Naiyaravoro 0.85, Joe Tomane 0.83, Mat Toomua 0.80

Group three: Rob Horne 0.75, James O’Connor 0.73, Bernard Foley 0.71

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Group four: Samu Kerevi 0.68, Jack Debreczeni 0.65, Tevita Kuridrani 0.64, Adam Ashley-Cooper 0.62

Group five Karmichael Hunt 0.59, Jesse Mogg 0.59, Henry Speight 0.58

Group six: Kurtley Beale 0.54, Nick Cummins 0.52, Christian Lealiifano 0.50

Group seven: Mitch Inman 0.39, Kyle Godwin 0.27

Then, I adjust for errors and spread it across each possession (in this case run). The adjustment is a subtraction per error.

The results for net attacking outcomes per run
Group one: Cooper 0.89, Folau 0.88

Group two: Naiyaravoro 0.73

Group three: Toomua 0.68, Tomane 0.67, Horne 0.66

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Group four: O’Connor 0.61, Kerevi 0.59, Kuridrani 0.55

Group five: Ashely-Cooper 0.46, Foley 0.45, Speight 0.44, Cummins 0.43

Group six: Beale 0.39, Debreczeni 0.36, Hunt 0.35, Inman 0.34, Mogg 0.33, Lealiifano 0.29

Group seven: Godwin 0.20

Mogg and Foley have dropped in comparative terms the most when errors are accounted for.

These statistics show the most dangerous attackers catering for errors are by position, 10 – Cooper and Toomua, 12 – Toomua and Kerevi, 13 Kuridrani and Ashley-Cooper, Wing – Naiyaravoro, Tomane and Horne and 15 – Folau and O’Connor.

So far only the attack has been catered for.

I need to cater for defence which includes missed tackles, tackles made, pilfers, forced turnovers, counter rucks. I also need to adjust for penalties.

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These will be combined with the attack statistics on a per game basis. On average 80 percent of tackles are made so I divided tackles by a player by to equate one tackle to a beaten tackle.

All these statistics are then equated on a per game basis. Obviously players who are more active (i.e. more runs, more tackles) benefit on a per game basis.

The results for each players net positive per game
Group one: Folau 9.82

Group two: Kerevi 6.80

Group three: Cooper 5.60

Group four: O’Connor 4.81, Horne 4.73, Foley 4.71, Inman 4.55

Group five: Ashley-Cooper 4.29, Tomane 4.26, Naiyaravoro 4.15

Group six: Beale 3.95, Speight 3.62, Kuridrani 3.60, Lealiifano 3.25

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Group seven: Debrezceni 2.92, Godwin 2.73

Group eight: Toomua 1.90, Cummins 1.56, Mogg 1.30

Group nine: Hunt 0.44

It is clear that the Brumbies and Force backs have dropped in positive contributions per game since the game plan is forward-based, and the backs are used for kicking.

Toomua was also brought down due to a significant number of missed tackles, errors and penalties per game. He also has a low number of tackles per game.

These statistics show the most players adding the most net value by position are 10 – Cooper and Foley, 12 – Kerevi, O’Connor and Inman, 13 – Ashley-Cooper and Kuridrani, Wing – O’Connor, Horne, Toane and Naiyaravoro and 15 – Folau and O’Connor.

An examination of pure playmaking skills needs to be made.

The statistics that these are based on are try assists, line break creates and offloads.

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On average 80 percent of tackles are made, so I divided offloads by a player by one tackle to a beaten tackle from this offload. This should be awarded as part of the playmaker’s skill set when they execute a ball carry.

Creating plays per possession
Group one: Cooper 0.26, Debreczeni 0.23

Group two: Folau 0.18, Hunt 0.18, Beale 0.17, Foley 0.17, Mogg 0.15, Toomua 0.14

Group three: O’Connor 0.11, Lealiifano 0.07

The rest of the players have negligible scores and are not considered playmakers.

The result is very interesting because Folau may be considered a secondary playmaker despite having a poor long pass.

Folau has more than twice as many try assists than tries, and half as many line break creates as line breaks. He is also a prolific offloader of the ball in the tackle.

The result also shows Beale is as much of a primary playmaker as Foley is for the Waratahs.

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Creating plays per game
Group one: Folau 1.82

Group two: Beale 1.63, Debrezceni 1.42

Group three: Foley 1.25, Cooper 1.2

Group four: O’Connor 0.79, Kerevi 0.84

Group five: Inman 0.75

Group six: Mogg 0.68, Hunt 0.67, Ashley-Cooper 0.62

Group seven: Toomua 0.52

Group eight: Lealiifano 0.43, Kuridrani 0.42

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The conclusion I reached from this last result combined with the previous is that neither Toomua or Lealiifano should be considered for the role of primary playmaker for the Wallabies.

Also, these last two results show why Beale is so important to the Waratahs since the playmaking duties are split with Foley.

If you consider Folau and Kerevi as ball carriers who can contribute as secondary playmakers, I believe Kerevi is a genuine option for 12.

However, the kicking options have not been considered and it is reasonable that if Kerevi is chosen at 12 then O’Connor may need to be an option on the wing.

After the semi-finals Foley struggled to create breaks once again without a second playmaker.

However even with two playmakers, Toomua and Lealiifano both also struggled to create breaks. Additionally Toomua could not contain Nonu at and his defensive frailties this year continued.

Beale, however, is even more of a liability in defense. This all points to moving away from a second playmaker system.

Cooper as the 10 with Kerevi the 12, Kuridrani the 13, Folau the 15.

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The best wingers are Tomane, and Horne, however O’Connor may be needed as a second playmaker on the wing and as a useful kicking option.