There is a growing thought around rugby league that Beau Scott will call time on an outstanding career at the end of either 2018 or 2019.
“Wait. Beau Scott? I came here for Ray Stone!”, I hear you protest.
You might think a player of Scott’s talent, experience, grit and complete disregard for the misery he inflicts on his opponent would be near impossible to replace. And to be honest, you’d be right. To be even more honest, Beau Scott told me he doesn’t even like you.
Yet even when Beau eventually does hang up the boots, the Parramatta Eels just might have his protege already waiting in the wings. A player who is tough as nails, takes no prisoners, and seems to almost emulate the playing style of our veteran hitman.
Enter one Raymond Stone.
Hello darkness, my old friend.
Ray Stone is a gritty, mean, machine of a footballer. He’s an aggressive tackler, he’s known to ‘cut blokes in half’ in defence, and his hits are often creepily described as ‘bone rattling’. A stocky backrower, Stoney also has himself a huge motor, already earning impressive representative honours (including both Junior Kangaroos and Australian Schoolboys) before he’s even turned 20 years old. Despite a quiet showing at Maitland, other than the good Dr. Gower, I thought Ray Stone and Reed Mahoney were the most impressive players on the park at the Wenty trial a couple of weeks ago.
All of this makes Ray Stone seem ready made for the NRL; but I figured you’d want a closer look.
So in order to examine Ray Stone’s potential value to our NRL squad, I decided to look at a few different statistics. In the tables below, you’ll see Ray’s tackle efficiency (as a % of all tackles he made), his tackles per game numbers, and his metres per hit up. I’ve included Stoney’s statistics both from his 2017 u/20s (NYC) campaign and his 2017 Wentworthville (ISP) season, comparing them to the Eels’ 2017 individual NRL player statistics. For interest’s sake, and to somewhat illustrate some of the difference between competitions, I’ve also included Peni Terepo and Marata Niukore‘s ISP statistics (which I’ve italicised in the tables below).
The first thing that probably jumps out at you from the first table on the left is how far down Ray’s numbers are, particularly for a forward. For NRL standards, anything under 90% for anyone playing in the middle third of the park is considered sub par (sorry Rory O’Brien). As such, excuses are generally accepted for halves, centres, fullbacks and wingers who typically defend wider, against more agile attacking opposition.
But let’s dig a little deeper. Looking at that same table, and potentially as a result of being asked to make less tackles in the top grade (21.5 per game in ISP compared to 18.5 in NRL), Peni Terepo’s tackle efficiency actually improves moving from ISP to NRL (jumping from a respectable 86.1% to an impressive 95.4% respectively). Admittedly this is a very limited sample (a single player), but it might hint at a sliver of good news for Ray Stone’s NRL credentials. We can rule out Terepo’s position affecting these numbers (as it doesn’t change between the two grades), so either he applies himself considerably more in NRL (possible), or the nature of the defensive structures in ISP lead to a drop of some players’ tackle effectiveness. This second theory is further supported by the fact that Ray Stone’s NYC tackle effectiveness is another 2 percentage points lower than his ISP numbers, and the NYC is not exactly a competition that was known for resolute defensive structures. Either way, it suggests that overall, ISP tackle numbers are more an indication for tackle effectiveness, rather than an indicative measure.
In better news for Ray Ray’s prospects, let’s take a look at what’s behind door number two. In my Watchlist coverage of Marata Niukore, I didn’t actually give Marata credit for his outstanding tackling numbers in the ISP competition. Funnily enough, Ray Stone’s ISP tackling numbers are identical, both averaging a robust 29.1 tackles per game; putting each of them on par with Daniel Alvaro’s very impressive NRL numbers. Again, it would be wrong to assume that such statistics can automatically translate into the top grade, but it does give a strong indication of work rate, willingness and involvement of each player in the Wenty colours.
While I’ve got you, hats off to Danny Alvaro who lead the Eels in 2017 with 0.79 tackles for every minute he was on the park. Comparatively, other defensive stalwarts such Kaysa Pritchard, Cameron King and Nathan Brown made 0.60, 0.55 and 0.52 respectively. To give you further idea of his dominance, The Polar Express’ average would equate to more than 63 tackles a game if he were to somehow maintain it across 80 minutes. All this at a ludicrous 95.6% tackle efficiency? Good. Gosh. Man.
But I digress, and this post is supposed to be about Ray Stone; not Beau Scott, Daniel Alvaro or Peni Terepo … but since you brought up Peni Terepo again, I was surprised to notice than Ray Stone ran for ever so slightly more metres per run than Peni did in their respective ISP appearances last year. This tends to suggest that Stone’s running game would be just as at home in the top grade as Terepo’s, even if Ray was occasionally playing a little wider of the ruck, and noting that Terepo’s numbers do drop off when he makes the jump to NRL. Stoney’s numbers also again drop off a little in the NYC, making on average one metre less per run.
There’s some interesting reading in the statistics on the left, so feel free to have a look around. Once again, sorry to the friends and family of Rory O’Brien.
Yet whilst statistics tell an important story, with a player like Stone there’s a tale beyond the table. As a young forward on the rise, the ability to place himself in and around the ball and complete the one percent plays in both attack and defence is an important quality that he brings to the team. Perhaps Stone could be compared to a hybrid of Ray Price and Beau Scott – a perpetual motion hitman of sorts.
I thought it best to end this Ray Stone analysis with a couple of quotes from Sixties, remarking on his impact in pre-season training:
“Stoney is another 20s graduate enjoying his first NRL pre-season. Like Reed [Mahoney], he’s more than met the mark from a conditioning perspective. It can be challenging to meet the physical demands at the senior level but Ray has looked at home in the squad.”
“The quality that Stone has demonstrated at training is that he’s prepared to make effort on effort. It’s a valuable characteristic for a footballer to possess. Undoubtedly, the hard as nails back rower is a big part of the future of the Eels. He played a number of games of ISP last year, and I expect 2018 to be a continuation of his learning curve at that level.”
Whether that quality and effort earns him a Top 30 contract, or potentially even an NRL berth in 2018 is yet to be seen. Nonetheless, mark this kid down as another special talent coming through our ranks.
Here at the Throw, we’ll be watching.
Go you Eels,
Photos courtesy of the Parramatta Eels; statistics courtesy of Champion Data.