Rugby League IQ: the untold stat

Michael Roar Rookie

By Michael, Michael is a Roar Rookie


32 Have your say

    When deciding between the great players of our game and the greatest players of all time there is one statistic that sets them apart – rugby league IQ.

    While it is difficult to calculate and record, it is no less important than the more measurable statistics such as tackles, run metres and so on.

    Rugby league IQ relates to those one percenter plays that decide close games. Not the flashy flick passes that are on highlight reels for weeks on end, but the subtle kick to the corner on the last when your side is ahead by two with a minute left.

    Let me give you an example. Benji Marshall versus Johnathan Thurston. This seems like a chalk and cheese comparison for some, and others will call it ridiculous. Why?

    Because one is on the verge of immortality and the other has just got his career back on track after several years in limbo.

    Comparing these two players, you have Marshall, the flashy all or nothing player that will be remembered for his 2005 Grand Final flick pass to lead the Tigers to victory over the aforementioned Thurston. Marshall is arguably a more skilful half based solely on what he can do with the football in hand.

    The Marshall step is something the kids grew up watching week in week out from the mid-2000’s. However, Marshall’s downfall has always been what he does at the end of sets and games (granted he has been far more controlled this season).

    Too often did Marschall take the showy option instead of giving the ball back to the opposition and asking them to win the game from their end of the field. If you were to place Marshall on a table between 1 and 10 he would fall somewhere in the middle with regard to rugby league IQ.

    Thurston, on the other hand, has built his career on one percenter plays. He just always seems to be where the ball is, whether it be with the run of play or against it. His ability to take control of games with the right last play option is the sole reason why he will become an immortal.

    The best example of Thurston’s brilliance was a Monday night game several years ago. Eels fans will no doubt remember the game I’m talking about. Semi Radradra went on a rampage in the first half, putting the Eels ahead by roughly 20.

    Cowboys Johnathan Thurston and Jason Taumalolo

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    In most circumstances and against almost any other team in the competition, this would have been enough. However, Thurston came out and played almost the perfect half of football and turned a halftime deficit into a victory.

    This is but one example of his complete dominance of the game, relying solely on his ability to read the game and make the right decision. While Marshall would fall into the mid-range, Thurston would score a perfect 10 on the rugby league IQ scale.

    While comparing two players may not emphasise how important a high score is to a team or the game, we can look at Origin Two last year. New South Wales went into the halftime break 16-6 up with all the momentum in their favour. Yet they eventually went down 18-16 in the final minutes of the game.

    This came down to poor last tackle options and errors. Unlike Thurston and Cooper Cronk (also a 10), the NSW halves combination of Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney failed to control the game. They continually kept the ball in play by failing to find the sideline or running it on the last.

    This was NSW’s eventual downfall. They would go on to lose the series despite being one-nil up and having control of the second game.

    While there are many factors on a rugby league field, this one that sets teams up for success or failure. The one area where a player can constantly grow, and the reason why it takes time for younger players to find their feet in the NRL.

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • May 16th 2018 @ 7:48am
      Forty Twenty said | May 16th 2018 @ 7:48am | ! Report

      I agree with your article here for sure. Plenty of times I’m frustrated when a player can’t see a chance to pass and create something but then there is the harder task of seeing a chance to pass which is a bit too risky and and not throwing it.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 8:54am
        Michael said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:54am | ! Report

        100% the one that gets me is the out the back play. Knowing when to hit the back-rower or hit the sweeping player.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 8:30am
      souvalis said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      So basically,with the loss of the big 3 this year Qld has just had a total lobotomy…

    • May 16th 2018 @ 8:40am
      jimmmy said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

      The great ones all have a high RL IQ. Sterling, JT, Johns, Lockyer ,Smith and of course Walter, the smartest off all . It is that feel for the game , some instinctive knowledge of what is the right thing to do at the right time.
      Benji never had it but he had such wonderful skills in his early days he never really needed it.
      I am a little concerned with the lack of RL IQ in the possible QLD spine for Origin one. Hunt doesn’t have it. He is an excellent organiser, a great tackler and a good runner of the ball. He is probably number one choice but he lacks that RL instinct to know what to do when. Munster is improving all the time and will be the six, but is he the man to close out a game in the final minutes of an Origin game? Macca , the same.
      I reckon Billy is going to have to do the thinking and keep his halves on the right track.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 9:00am
      Michael said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      Agree. Munster will pick up a lot from the players he has had around him at the Storm. I see him as more of a ball runner then controller of the game though (at least in the past). He has definitely progressed his game with Cronk gone.

      Billy should be able to chime in when needed and keep the attack moving forward.

      Not sure about the hooking role yet. Macca and Granville (or whoever they go with) are capable but will be put to the test.

    • Roar Guru

      May 16th 2018 @ 9:02am
      Nat said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      I remember that game. Not only a perfect half of football by Thurston but the making of Gavin Cooper as well. For mine, Dane Eldridge summed up summed up Pearce’s SOO last tackle options perfectly with one line “while Pearce used Billy Slater as target practice”. Just a thought, Marshall as brilliant as he was/is, grew up with a touch footy background while JT played league his whole life and you cannot buy the experience to make good decisions.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 9:23am
        jimmmy said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        I remember a story about JT who was playing a couple of games of footy every weekend while at high achool. He came to school pretty banged up one Monday and the teacher asked him why he did it , especialy since he was was so small and got knocked around so much. His answer was ‘ I just love it eh’.

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2018 @ 11:42am
        Matt H said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

        Billy Slater’s outstanding positional play and speed have made many opposition kickers look silly.

        • Roar Guru

          May 16th 2018 @ 12:50pm
          Nat said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

          I should’ve prefaced that Pearce comment with ‘hilariously’. We all know how good Billy is.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 10:06am
      theHunter said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      Maloney’s record in rep football is definitely not as colorful as JT’s but in Clubland Maloney has played more Grand Finals and has more premierships than JT has ever had. And to think he has done it with different clubs is more impressive than JTs who has stayed in one club and only managed to squeeze in two Grand Finals in 10 years is a bit of an underachievement for a man touted as having an RL IQ of 10.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 12:12pm
        Forty Twenty said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

        The Cows had some woeful years in the first half of JT’s time at the Cows. Some of the rosters were pretty handy as well. The Cows have never finished 1st or 2nd on the table which is surprising as they have the best half back of all time according to plenty of decent judges.

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2018 @ 1:05pm
        Nat said | May 16th 2018 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

        To play devils advocate, if we discount the Melbourne 09 Premiership, surely the player has that wiped as well.
        Interesting though, as per another article today, with all his clubland success, would Jimmy be considered a club legend at any club?

        • May 16th 2018 @ 2:44pm
          theHunter said | May 16th 2018 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

          An NRL Legend or is to be in the NRL Hall of Fame. He deserves that. All this hype especially on JT is basically his contribution to the Maroons dynasty. Maroons is a rep team for a rep game, he has rep players helping him win those games.

          Clubland is where the true character or where his “IQ” strength is tested since now he is playing with the average players beside him. Other great players show longevity in successes and JT only has that in Rep games. His successes in Clubland is nothing compared to the other greats of this game and people want him as an immortal because his greatest achievements are playing along side other rep players doesn’t make sense.

          • May 16th 2018 @ 3:14pm
            Michael said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

            Four Dally M’s two either side of his career.
            Hasn’t missed the finals since 2010. Playing without the greatest team by his side. The backs he has around him this year and for the past few are terrible. Front row isnt great at the moment either. Backrow is decent.
            Two Grand Final wins, three appearances.
            Playing a large part of his career against dynasty type teams. Melbourne and Manly dominated for years.
            He had plenty of success at club level.

            • May 16th 2018 @ 3:39pm
              no one in particular said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

              In the 12 seasons since losing to the Tigers in the GF the Cowboys average finishing position is 7.83. The epitome of mediocrity.

              Injuries aren’t to blame for that record

              • Roar Guru

                May 16th 2018 @ 5:18pm
                Nat said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

                You have well over simplified there NOIP. But if that was your team, you would be highlighting a consistent top 8 team when very very few (only 1 I believe) can claim that record over such a long period.

            • May 16th 2018 @ 4:30pm
              theHunter said | May 16th 2018 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

              2010: they would have gotten the wooden spoon but due to Storms breach of the cap they finished 15th

              All other teams challenged dynasty teams and not just JT. Besides are you telling me that he is not 10 out of 10 enough to atleast have led his team to multiple Grand Finals??? Hayne did that with Eels with an average team and we all know how Hayne can be inconsistent, Soward and co. did it for Dragons but we know what followed later on in his career, Bulldogs played a GF and so did Warriors during the period you say was “against dynasty type teams”.

              If JT is consistent in his one percenters how can you explain how this one-off superstars were able to surpass him during this “dynasty period”.

              Ennis, Barba, Pearce, Maloney, Cronk, Smith, Slater, Greg Inglis, Lockyer have had more Grand Finals in less than the time it took JT for two Grand Finals but there is no hype on them as much as there is for JT being a GOAT. This GOAT mostly stems from his Rep achievements because his club achievements are not as great as people like to make them out to be.

              He was consistently beaten for 10 years by (according to this article’s ratings) average halves but because he was part of a dynasty in a rep team with other great players he is considered to way, way better than everybody.

          • Roar Guru

            May 16th 2018 @ 4:07pm
            Nat said | May 16th 2018 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

            You’re rough Hunter. Along with 4 Dally Ms, 7 positional Dally M, Dally M Captain of the Year. 2 Golden Boots. None of those are based around rep duties and no one else has achieved anywhere near that.

            • May 16th 2018 @ 4:42pm
              theHunter said | May 16th 2018 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

              Nat those Dally M awards are individual awards. Hayne has more than Lockyer or Slater, does that make him better than both of them? Of course not.

              How can a great ‘consistent’, ‘IQ 10’ not play or lead his team to more Grand Final appearances is my question? If he is better than every other half, Soward shouldn’t have won a Grand Final, Pearce and Maloney shouldn’t have won a Grand Final or Maloney and Townsend shouldn’t have gone in to the Finals either.

              The team around him brought him to (eventually) his second Grand Final. Individually he has never inspired his team to a Grand Final. 2005 was Bowen’s year and 2015 was Morgan, Feldt and Coote’s year which was enforced last year by making it themselves.

              JT is overhyped in my opinion.

              • Roar Guru

                May 16th 2018 @ 5:12pm
                Nat said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:12pm | ! Report

                He’s a half. A half can be success without team success but a team cannot be success without a quality half leading the team. Surely as a Knights supporter you understand that.

              • Roar Guru

                May 16th 2018 @ 5:19pm
                Nat said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

                (successful – bloody autocorrect)

              • May 17th 2018 @ 8:40am
                theHunter said | May 17th 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

                I am not a Knights fan, people who love JT tend to think that anyone who thinks his not a deserved immortal must be a John’s fan or a knights fan which I am not..

                “He’s a half. A half can be successful without team success but a team cannot be successful without a quality half leading the team”

                So he is just a half who has more success without team success? Is that what you are saying? He is painted to be the best halfback in the World, but his successes with a team is bettered by many other players.

              • May 20th 2018 @ 8:06am
                Jeffrey Lebowski said | May 20th 2018 @ 8:06am | ! Report

                Go back and look at the knights team Joey played with where he had Buderus who was the best ever hooker before smith his whole career. JT has played with a team that’s always carried a few too many speed bumps. Also the Cows were knocked out 3 years in a row controversially. Disregarding conspiracy theories the psychological toll would have been huge and he still lifted his team to the top. He’s hands down a better half than Johns. Also considering he played his entire career where wrestle slowed the game to a crawl and he was the only half who could open up defences so regularly. He would have been even better in any other era.

              • Roar Guru

                May 17th 2018 @ 4:44pm
                Nat said | May 17th 2018 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

                Ok, who? His 1st Dally M, he takes NQ to a GF,
                His last in ’15 and they win.
                07 Dall M, Finish 3rd and Prelim final. ‘
                14 Dally M, finish 5th and Semi Final.

                In fact, in the 11yrs (excluding 2017) they missed the finals 3x. Name another playmaker with that type of success?

      • May 16th 2018 @ 10:59pm
        Mushi said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:59pm | ! Report

        There is no greater failure in sporting analysis in my mind than using a crude benchmark of team success to assess a specific individual.

        • May 17th 2018 @ 8:56am
          theHunter said | May 17th 2018 @ 8:56am | ! Report

          A teams success gives the personal awards more weight. It shows that the players performance enhanced a greater number of people to success. If you don’t think Team success shouldn’t be used for analysis than Hayne should be classed as way better than Slater or Lockyer since he has more Player of the Year awards despite only making the Grand Final once and the other was when Eels never even made it to the finals.

          JT is a good player but only thrives when he has the right people around him. On his own he performs but he has never inspired his team to a Grand final. That’s one thing I think all great players and immortals should possess.