Six contenders but the Storm, Sharks or Sea Eagles will win in 2017

Tim Gore Columnist

By Tim Gore, Tim Gore is a Roar Expert

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    Come next Thursday all eyes will be back on the 2017 NRL Premiership. Barring major injuries, there are six sides that could possibly win the title: the Cowboys, Broncos, Rosters, Sea Eagles, Sharks and the Storm.

    However, when you look at the stats it becomes clear that the current top three are the sides most likely.

    When all the statistical categories are examined they average out the best.

    Metres gained and conceded

    Team

    Metres Gained

    Rank

    Metres conceded

    Rank

    =/-

    Sharks

    1506

    2nd

    1365

    5th

    +141

    Cowboys

    1472

    4th

    1333

    3rd

    +139

    Sea Eagles

    1374

    13th

    1306

    1st

    +68

    Broncos

    1519

    1st

    1464

    14th

    +55

    Storm

    1428

    8th

    1393

    7th

    +35

    Roosters

    1452

    5th

    1454

    13th

    -2

    NRL Avg

    1404

    1404

    As you can see, the Cowboys and the Sharks have the best metres gained to conceded aggregate. Those metres alone go a long way to winning a lot of games.

    While the Sea Eagles have a +68 aggregate, they don’t make enough metres to be genuine contenders even though their defence is superb. The Broncos are great at gaining metres but very good at conceding them, which isn’t ideal. The Roosters also concede far too many metres.

    There’s the Storm almost bang on average for metres gained and conceded. However, they are on the happy side of the average in both categories.

    Attacking stats

    Team

    Tries scored

    Rank

    Line Breaks

    Rank

    Tackle Breaks

    Rank

    Storm

    70

    1st

    83

    1st

    469

    5th

    Sea Eagles

    65

    2nd

    71

    3rd

    398

    10th

    Roosters

    60

    5th

    66

    5th

    419

    7th

    Broncos

    58

    7th

    61

    8th

    502

    3rd

    Sharks

    54

    9th

    69

    4th

    412

    8th

    Cowboys

    54

    9th

    59

    9th

    482

    4th

    NRL Avg

    55

    61

    422

    These stats really start sorting out the sheep from the goats. In regards to effective attack the Storm are towering above the other contenders. Only the Sea Eagles are close to them in regards to tries scored but, as we’ve seen above, their metres gained are well below par and they are the worst of this bunch for tackle breaks.

    Manly Sea Eagles NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    The Roosters stats are ok. With a bit of improvement their attack could become quite deadly.

    The Broncos, Sharks and Cowboys aren’t scoring enough tries. However, as we’ve seen time and again, if a side’s defence is good enough they can still grind out wins.

    Defence

    Team Tries conceded Rank Line breaks conceded Rank Missed Tackles Rank Missed Tackle % Penalties conceded rank
    Sharks

    39

    1st

    42

    1st

    450

    13th

    8.8%

    110

    2nd

    Storm

    42

    2nd

    43

    2nd

    409

    6th

    7.4%

    119

    1st

    Sea Eagles

    46

    3rd

    48

    4th

    384

    3rd

    8.6%

    107

    3rd

    Cowboys

    49

    5th

    68

    12th

    447

    12th

    9.3%

    92

    11th

    Roosters

    50

    6th

    63

    9th

    421

    8th

    7.6%

    93

    10th

    Broncos

    51

    7th

    55

    7th

    481

    15th

    9.1%

    81

    14th

    NRL Avg

    55

    61

    422

    96

    As you can see, tries conceded is a huge factor in being successful. The six contenders are only interrupted by the Bulldogs ranked fourth best for tries conceded. However, the Storm, Sharks and the Sea Eagles are the best.

    Why are these three so much better than the others? Firstly, their missed tackle percentages are better. However, the main reason is their penalties conceded.

    They are the three most penalised sides in the NRL so far this season. When their line is threatened they conceded a penalty to give themselves more time to reset their defence.

    At the beginning of the season referees boss Tony Archer said that the sin bin was going to be brought back in to deal with repeat offenders.

    While there have been 28 sin binnings so far this season – 11 more already than for all of 2016 – only one (Clay Priest, Raiders, Round 1) has been for repeated infringements. The rest have all been for punching or professional fouls.

    Basically, the Sea Eagles, Storm and Sharks called Archer’s bluff. They knew his refs didn’t feel even vaguely supported enough by their hierarchy to do something as controversial as sin bin for repeated offences.

    That those three sides concede the least tries is no coincidence. And the NRL hierarchy know it and allow it.

    Why? Who the hell knows! But sides are being allowed to cheat and their reward is a spot in the top four.

    It once more raises the curious case of James Maloney. In 14 games so far this season Maloney has already conceded 24 penalties. At this rate he will break 40 penalties for the season. He has not been out of the top three most penalised players for the past five years. However, he has not been sin binned once.

    Does that make the referees stupid or gutless? Or both?

    Whatever… Jimmy Maloney is laughing! And the message is clear: do what it takes to hold your line. Lie on the player, go the third man flop, pull a leg, put hands on the ball, rake the ball out, pick a fight. You might be penalised but you are almost certain not to be sin binned – and you probably won’t let in a try!

    Repeat sets

    Team

    Drop outs taken

    Rank

    Drop outs forced

    Rank

    Dropout aggregate +/-

    Errors

    Rank

    Sea Eagles

    29

    12th

    35

    2nd

    +6

    139

    1st

    Cowboys

    24

    7th

    36

    1st

    +12

    157

    7th

    Broncos

    27

    10th

    29

    5th

    +2

    151

    4th

    Storm

    25

    8th

    22

    11th

    -3

    174

    13th

    Sharks

    17

    3rd

    30

    4th

    +13

    190

    16th

    Roosters

    20

    5th

    24

    9th

    +4

    182

    15th

    NRL Avg

    25

    25

    162

    The side that best controls the ball most often wins. Further, a side that can force repeat sets on top of that is in a great position. Given those concepts it is easy to see why the Sea Eagles are ensconced in the top three. However, that the Storm and Sharks are well down the list for these stats indicate that they may not be as vital as all that.

    Playmakers
    A side that has the most effective and settled combinations has a huge advantage over other sides. Which of the top six is best off?

    Play maker 1 Play maker 2 Play maker 3 Play maker 4 Total
    Storm Billy Slater
    Line break assists – 11
    Try assists – 12
    Cooper Cronk
    Line break assists – 7
    Try assists – 11
    Cameron Munster
    Line break assists – 13
    Try assists – 8
    Cameron Smith
    Line break assists – 6
    Try assists – 5
    Line break assists – 37
    Try assists – 36
    Sea Eagles Daly Cherry Evans
    Line break assists – 11
    Try assists – 13
    Tom Trbojevic
    Line break assists – 7
    Try assists – 7
    Dylan Walker
    Line break assists – 6
    Try assists – 7
    Blake Green
    Line break assists – 5
    Try assists – 5
    Line break assists – 29
    Try assists – 32
    Roosters Luke Keary
    Line break assists – 11
    Try assists – 13
    Mitchell Pearce
    Line break assists – 7
    Try assists – 10
    Latrell Mitchell
    Line break assists – 5
    Try assists – 5
    Michael Gordon
    Line break assists – 4
    Try assists – 3
    Line break assists – 27
    Try assists – 31
    Broncos Anthony Milford
    Line break assists – 7
    Try assists – 10
    Darius Boyd
    Line break assists – 8
    Try assists – 7
    Ben Hunt
    Line break assists – 5
    Try assists – 6
    Benji Marshall
    Line break assists – 4
    Try assists – 2
    Line break assists – 24
    Try assists – 25
    Cowboys Michael Morgan
    Line break assists – 4
    Try assists – 10
    John Asiata
    Line break assists – 2
    Try assists – 5
    Jake Granville
    Line break assists – 2
    Try assists – 4
    Lachlan Coote
    Line break assists – 6
    Try assists – 3
    Line break assists – 14
    Try assists – 22
    Sharks Ricky Leutele
    Line break assists – 5
    Try assists – 5
    Chad Townsend
    Line break assists – 4
    Try assists – 5
    Valentine Holmes
    Line break assists – 5
    Try assists – 4
    James Maloney
    Line break assists – 5
    Try assists – 4
    Line break assists – 19
    Try assists – 18

    When it comes to settled and effective combinations the Storm are way out in front.

    Surprisingly Slater is their lead creator so far this year, just in front of Cronk.

    The Sea Eagles combination of Daly Cherry-Evans and Turbo Tom Trbojevic is working out very well, and is supported ably by Walker and Green.

    Luke Keary and Mitchell Pearce have quickly formed a good combination and operate well behind a strong pack.

    The Broncos are suffering from issues with form and injury, but there is lots of quality in their playmakers.

    The Cowboys are adjusting quickly to life without Johnathan Thurston, with Michael Morgan taking the reins. However, they are some huge shoes to fill.

    Then we come to the Sharks playmakers. Who knew Ricky Leutele was their most effective ballplayer so far this season. There is plenty of room for improvement here.

    Results against top eight sides
    Beating bottom eight sides can be like chasing Uder from the Simpsons: easy. The form of flat track bullies isn’t really relevant to the pointy end of the season. The real test comes when you have to play the other top sides.

    Team

    Played vs top 8

    Won

    Lost

    Storm

    8/16

    6

    2

    Sharks

    9/16

    5

    4

    Roosters

    7/16

    4

    3

    Sea Eagles

    7/15

    3

    4

    Broncos

    7/16

    3

    4

    Cowboys

    7/16

    2

    5

    This table shows that the Storm know how to win the big games. Their loss to the Roosters was without many of their stars. Their loss to the Sharks in Round 6 was a tough one and they were missing Munster and Jesse Bromwich.

    The verdict
    If you average out each sides overall rank for each of these categories it looks like this:

    Average rank

    Storm

    2.33

    Sea Eagles

    2.5

    Sharks

    3.33

    Cowboys

    4.1

    Roosters

    4.33

    Broncos

    4.33

    So the top three are justified in their spots, with the Storm the stand out among them.

    Given this, the good money must be on the Storm being the first losing grand finalist to win the following year since the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles prevailed in 2008 – over the Storm.

    And there’s a good chance it will be against the Sharks.

    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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    The Crowd Says (103)

    • July 6th 2017 @ 5:56am
      Jeff dustby said | July 6th 2017 @ 5:56am | ! Report

      I don’t which team I hate most out of those 3

      • July 6th 2017 @ 6:16am
        Oto shark said | July 6th 2017 @ 6:16am | ! Report

        Lol, start by using some stats and put them in tables , then add the scores to help rank which team you hate most.

        • Columnist

          July 6th 2017 @ 7:12am
          Tim Gore said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:12am | ! Report

          That sounds like an excellent method!

    • Roar Guru

      July 6th 2017 @ 6:49am
      BigJ said | July 6th 2017 @ 6:49am | ! Report

      Hey Tim, remember last year with i wrote an article based on past stats that Manly would make this years grand final???. It would be expected yet a little weird that they make it again this year. To refresh your memory.

      Stat’s enough! Manly will make the grand final in 2017.

      • Columnist

        July 6th 2017 @ 7:15am
        Tim Gore said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:15am | ! Report

        I remember it. I remember thinking “BigJ is off his face crazy…”

        • Roar Guru

          July 6th 2017 @ 10:03am
          BigJ said | July 6th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

          You laughed at me, you all laughed at me, well who is laughing now!!! Well nobody yet, i not really looking forward to the i told you so moment, but if its a 2007 grand final rematch with the same result ill take it. Go the Storm!!!!!!!!

          • Roar Guru

            July 6th 2017 @ 10:20am
            The Barry said | July 6th 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

            Your “statistical analysis” as I recall consisted of you realising that Manly had made the GF in 1987, 97 and 07 and proclaiming that Manly would make the GF in 17.

            That’s not really statistics though J, it’s coincidence. Correlation does not necessarily equal causation.

            It’s like ra-a-a-ain on your wedding day…

            • Roar Guru

              July 6th 2017 @ 10:36am
              BigJ said | July 6th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

              Just when my opinion of you could not get any lower your also an Alanis Morissette fan. I cant stand that bloody stupid song. But its a fantastic coincidence that they make the grand final in 77, 87, 97 and 07. Just going with the pattern Barry. Have a nice day

              • Roar Guru

                July 6th 2017 @ 10:47am
                The Barry said | July 6th 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

                Haha…believe me I’m not a fan it’s an awful song but I thought apt given your presentation of coincidence as statistics. Just as Alanis presented coincidence as irony.

              • Roar Guru

                July 6th 2017 @ 11:34am
                BigJ said | July 6th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

                I see your point and upgrade you back to my previous opinion of you. That Morissette was just the worst!!!

              • Roar Guru

                July 6th 2017 @ 12:22pm
                The Barry said | July 6th 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

                I’m all the way back to the dizzying heights of what you previously thought of me!!

                Thanks man!
                ???

              • Columnist

                July 6th 2017 @ 7:40pm
                Tim Gore said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

                Dizzying heights…

    • Roar Guru

      July 6th 2017 @ 7:00am
      eagleJack said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:00am | ! Report

      After reading most of the pre-season that Manly were bottom 4 certainties, with many saying they’d “win” the spoon, I’m just glad to be reading a stats report, after 17 rounds, giving them a chance for the premiership.

      Barrettt has done a sensational job with the squad at his disposal, given the significant chunk of salary cap cash on the sidelines before a ball was kicked.

      Whatever happens Manly can call this a successful year. I don’t think they’ll be in the running for the premiership (they’ll need a lot of luck), but with such a young squad likely to be together for years, I don’t think one is far off.

      • Roar Rookie

        July 6th 2017 @ 7:39am
        Hard Yards said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

        I agree EJ. There’s still a lot of the season to go. It would be a big call to say Manly will win the comp – they’ve had some good wins; against the Cowboys up North e.g., but the Cows were off that night. I wouldn’t call the Boys the most dominant side in the competition today – they let in 16 easy points in the first 20 minutes last weekend against the Warriors. You don’t do that if you’re the best side out there. But I agree with you that will instill fear within a year or two. The Sharkies are very strong and Melbourne play a beautiful game.

        • July 7th 2017 @ 8:13am
          Wild Eagle said | July 7th 2017 @ 8:13am | ! Report

          Manly flogged the Sharks at home and put at least 16 easy points on the Storm at Brookie so I don’t think letting the Warriors put 16 easy points on them proves much either way H.Y .

          Anything The Eagles can win in the semis would be a great bonus this year but I’m not ruling out the chance of a shock title. Our 40 nil drubbing of the Storm convinced me not to rule anything out.

        • July 7th 2017 @ 8:24am
          bearfax said | July 7th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

          I agree that it would be a big call for Manly to win. But H.Y. you’re using double standards here.

          What other team hasnt leaked points badly at certain times this season at certain times. And saying Manly won against North Queensland because NQ were off the boil, denies Manly the credit that they outplayed them with Thurston on the field in NQ, something few sides have done in recent years. They probably would have beaten any side that day.

          Using the same argument you could say the Storm met a Manly side off the boil, when they ran roughshod in the first half, then almost lost the game when Manly came back at them. The Storm led 30-12 just before half time in their game before Manly came back to lose 30-26, and almost pipped the opposition with a final minutes that almost won Manly the game. What of Manly’s defeat of the Roosters, their thrashing of the Sharks both away. The same Sharks side that they beat 35-18, then thrashed the Roosters 44-12 the following week. Did Manly win because the opposition werent playing well. No doubt SOO will come up as an excuse.

          Every team has on games and off games. Qualifying that a team won because the opposition were off the boil to exemplify a belief that the winners have somehow been fortunate is selective interpretation. If they win, they are good enough full stop.

      • Roar Guru

        July 6th 2017 @ 8:30am
        The Barry said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

        Hey EJ – I’ll put my hand up and admit to being one of those that thought the Eagles were a bottom four club.

        Happy to admit I was wrong. Happy to go one step further and say they’re one of the best teams in the comp to watch. Koroisau is looking more and more settled at 9. DCE is the form player of the comp. Walker is getting back to his best form from 2014. They’ve done it largely without Turbo so having him back could really kick them along.

        Lussick has cut some rubbish out of his game. Jurbo is as good a front on hitter as there’s been in twenty years plus has ball skills at the line. Taupau is always fun to watch.

        One query is the edge backrowers, particularly with Sironen out. Winterstein and Wallace don’t look great, particularly considering Wallace is ranked behind L Brown. I think when the Stewart and Masai millions are feeed up that Barrett will be going hard for a backrower – surprised they didn’t have a big dip for Gillett earlier in the year.

        Not sure they will go all the way this season because of a couple of weak spots in their team that is think might get found out in semi final footy. But I’ll be happy to admit if I get that wrong too. One thing you know about Manly is they’re never down for long.

        These sorts of seasons that come off the back of 1-2 poorer seasons are probably the most enjoyable.

        Good luck for the rest of the season.

        • Roar Guru

          July 6th 2017 @ 8:45am
          Jason Hosken said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:45am | ! Report

          Hey TB – who is Wallace? You mean Kennedy?

          Anyway, fair point, Sirro a massive loss and the Eagles aren’t deep for backup forwards and outside backs. It’s one reason why Taufua is such a big loss – gets the side moving from own half. Wright might land a few more goals but I’d rather Jorge in the big games.

          Just on Jurbo – I don’t reckon I’ve ever seen him turned on his back. Will pay closer attention v Storm in the coming weeks…

          • Roar Guru

            July 6th 2017 @ 8:49am
            The Barry said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

            Sorry mate I did mean Kennedy. Jarod Wallace and Jarod Kennedy got mixed in my mind.

            Lucky I didn’t call him Hayne…?

          • Roar Guru

            July 6th 2017 @ 8:57am
            The Barry said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

            PS I’ve just admitted I was wr-wr-wr-wr-incorrect and wrapped the daylights out of Manly and that’s what you pick up on? ?

            • Roar Guru

              July 6th 2017 @ 12:05pm
              Jason Hosken said | July 6th 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

              Only coz it rattled my brain – I searched new signings, thumbed Big League, rang up the club, snap chatted Bozo, emailed Zorba…then thought, lets ask Baz but not before linking with The Barry 🙂

      • July 6th 2017 @ 8:37am
        Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

        EJ – I’d be hoping that Manly give it a good shake this year. Manly are currently on a roll and there is nothing like confidence and momentum. You can’t buy these two ingredients. Everybody expected the Raiders to build on their success in 2016 this season but it just hasn’t happened. Sometimes the planets align and you are provided with an opportunity that needs to be taken.

    • Columnist

      July 6th 2017 @ 7:12am
      Tim Gore said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:12am | ! Report

      I was one of those bottom four/spoon predictors. Egg is quite hard to remove from ones face…

    • July 6th 2017 @ 7:38am
      KingCowboy said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:38am | ! Report

      I love a good stat, who doesn’t but just going off the old eye test, I think the Cows are a massive show with Morgs and Martin in our halves! In all seriousness, Storm are going to go very close, like they do every year. Slater is a massive in for them from last year. Sharks, Roosters, Cows and Donkeys are also going to give it a shake. I just don’t think Manly have the forward firepower come September but who knows. Should be a cracking end to the season!

      • Columnist

        July 6th 2017 @ 1:06pm
        Tim Gore said | July 6th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

        I thought Morgan was superb against the Raiders. Totally controlled the game. I reckon Cows are still a shot.

    • July 6th 2017 @ 7:46am
      Oingo Boingo said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      I’d be interested to see how the West Tigers stats stacked up , Pre 2005 grand final ?
      Stats are fine , but they give a 100% definitive outcome.
      Some teams peak at the right time , im hoping the Roosters are that team this year , because if a grand final was played this week they would be no where near winning it.

      • July 6th 2017 @ 7:47am
        Oingo Boingo said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

        Should say ” don’t give “a 100% outcome .

        • Columnist

          July 6th 2017 @ 7:45pm
          Tim Gore said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

          Roosters could definitely challenge…

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