At TCT we are fortunate to have a professional NRL statistician, Colmac, as a valued member of our team. Not only does Col provide our weekly Stat Attack posts, he’s also a valuable resource when we’re looking to research player, team and match statistics.
When the 2018 season came to a close, I asked Col if there was a stat that was either at the forefront of match/team analysis, or becoming increasingly important for coaches to examine.
Maybe a stat that can not only define a game, but also a team and a season.
I was hoping that what he might provide, was the statistical road less travelled. Perhaps it could generate a thought provoking post.
In response, Colmac has dug into his statistical kit bag and written this post with special reference to our Parramatta team. It adds to the picture of the Eels 2018 season and provides another guide for what the team needs to improve moving into 2019.
In Search Of A Statistic
It would come as no surprise that the stat de jour is the Post Contact Metres. Supporters familiar with the Channel 9 coverage would be nodding their heads, given that this stat has been pushed in their broadcast and analysis over the past season or so.
Of course it is a relevant stat – and it’s there thrust into the spotlight. But it’s not on its own as a statistic. In reality, it’s part of the bigger picture of the “Run Metres” or “Metres Gained” stat. Ultimately, that bigger picture is what coaches, assistants and hardcore footy stats fans (especially fantasy league players) look at.
Given that Sixties was keen to know whether there was a statistic which may be less familiar with fans, but nonetheless important, I decided to steer clear of the ever-popular metres gained.
One stat which I think is pivotal and doesn’t get too much mention is the ineffective tackle stat.
The ineffective tackle stat is the ugly cousin of the much fancied missed tackle stat.
For the uninitiated, the ineffective tackle stat relates to offloads. The tackle has been made, but the play has been able to continue via that offload. A coach would probably look at the ineffective tacklers and want to find out why the defence had hands on the attacker, but the attacker still got a ball away.
There would be big questions asked if your defence has up to three players attempting the tackle but the attacker still delivers an offload. This is a ticket to defensive mayhem as your line would be left short and under pressure.
“Wrap the ball up!!!”. We hear it in the crowd. If we’re not yelling it ourselves, we’re definitely thinking it. Coaches are thinking the same thing as well.
Imagine how frustrating that must be for a coach, knowing that an opposition player has a great offload, doing the preparation to prevent it, but they still get that ball away.
When preparing for the week ahead, the club statisticians and performance analysts compile a quick bullet point stat sheet for the weekend’s opposition.
For myself, being a statistician and beginning my career as a performance analyst for an NRL club, identifying these player traits is essential and a great service for the coaches in prepping for the upcoming game. If I can identify these traits, it will help in nullifying the opposition’s attack and stop any 2nd phase play which can upset our defensive line.
It should always be remembered that there are two sides to team statistics. So if a coach is concerned about the ineffective tackles that his team concedes, he must also examine the ineffective tackles that his attack generates from the opposition.
Naturally, our interest will always return to Parramatta’s performance. So lets have a look at the most recent history and see how the Eels have fared. We will look at 2016 through 2018.
|2016||363 (15.1 per game)||444 (18.5 per game)|
|2017||367 (15.3 per game)||354 (14.8 per game)|
|2018||340 (14.2 per game)||322 (13.4 per game)|
The Eels ineffective rate has had minimal change over the last three seasons. It’s the offloads that we aren’t getting away that is the concern.
From 2016 to 2018, the ineffective tackles generated in the opposition’s defence has been in decline. Even a top 4 finish in 2017 saw a significant decrease in the number of ineffective tackles produced by the Eels attack.
The numbers suggest that the Eels attack has not been producing second phase football.
Should this be a concern? Is it essential to have second phase football as a major component of your attack?
Eels supporters will point to 2009 and a near Premiership built on the back of miraculous offloads and inspirational, spectacular tries. Is that sustainable? Error rates might prove that it’s not.
But is an attack based solely on following structure the answer?
A heavily structured attack becomes quite easy to read. The evidence off these figures is that in 2018, opposition teams strategised that Parramatta would hold the ball, thus making their defensive plans and decisions much easier.
With fewer defenders engaged in the tackle to wrap up the ball, the defensive line was rarely placed under pressure. Even when the ball was offloaded, the opposition seemed to be able to cover any 2nd phase Eels play.
Does this in any way answer some questions about how our 2018 season went? Not entirely, but it is a factor in how we performed as both an attacking side and defensive side.
A couple of comparative stats make for interesting reading.
The team that generated the most ineffective tackles was the Warriors with 447. Everybody’s familiar with their “globetrotter” style so this is probably no surprise. Their ability to place defences under pressure has always been a feature of their play, but this year it carried them into the finals.
The team which generated the least ineffective tackles was the Knights, with a paltry 197. Those numbers weren’t enough to carry them into finals contention.
The team with the most ineffective tackles was the Roosters with 431. This appears to be the great anomaly. However, they were in the top 4 of defensive sides when it came to total missed tackles. This might say more about their ability to scramble in defence.
The team with the least ineffective tackles was Penrith with 271. Though their total missed tackles was still high, their ability to shut down second phase play took them to their best ladder position since 2014.
And the teams with average performances in both ineffective tackles and missed tackles?
Look no further than our Eels and the Cowboys.
Both the Eels and the Cowboys finished around mid table in both statistics. Both teams sat at the foot of the Premiership ladder for most of the competition. They allowed significant numbers for both missed and ineffective tackles. Their defences were constantly under pressure.
The potential lesson for Parramatta going into 2018?
Significant improvement in either ineffective tackles generated, or ineffective tackles conceded could be the path to a finals berth.
Do the Eels have the capacity to make such improvement?
Considering the targeted recruitment of two forwards capable of generating second phase play – Paulo and Lane – it’s obvious that the Eels are looking to address this aspect of their attack.
Sixties has also reported on the contact work at training which focusses on wrapping up the football.
The specific intention seems to be present.
Whether the Eels deliver is another.
Bring on 2019.
Stats courtesy of Champion Data.
All these stats and more can be viewed on our match centre at http://mc.championdata.com/nrl/ including live game stats.