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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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