The Cumberland Throw

Stat Attack – Summer Edition: Unlocking A Key Statistic

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.

Sixties

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.

Daniel Alvaro offloads (courtesy Getty Images)

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.

 

Tackles Ineffective Eels Opposition
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?

Big Junior – capable of creating second phase footy

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.

Colmac

https://i0.wp.com/thecumberlandthrow.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Champion-Data.png?resize=194%2C79

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.

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Chief
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Chief

I would like to apologize to sixties and the ct team in hope for a fresh start and great new year /season

Trouser Eel
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Trouser Eel

Looking forward to a positive new year Chief.

poppa
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poppa

well said Chief, we look forward to your positive input

colin hussey
Guest

Nice article Colmac, and gives a clearish picture of where the eels need to improve their game in. Junior gives us size and grunt, and does have a nice offload as well, but so does Tim and Alvaro in the prop arena, Evans a real mystery in that regard but has been known to get the ball away. The likes of Terepo also need to look at that factor, at least with 3 known ball players available for the front row it will put pressure on the opposition defence. The back row players, such as Tepai who is dangerous off… Read more »

sixties
Admin

Here’s an interesting stat Col. Alvaro started last year at 105kg. He will start this year at 115kg.

colin hussey
Guest

The other interesting aspect in that sixties, is that he and several others do not look that much bigger, at least in the photo galleries shown on the eels site of them training. I tend to think that Bev looks a bit more muscly as well. Tells me that this years end of year training has been better managed by the support staff. Could well surprise some of the opposition teams, As for Polar that barnstorming try against the dogs this year when he took 3/4 of their forwards over the line hopefully will be seen again next year and… Read more »

John Eel
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John Eel

One of the big issues for me for 2018 season was the reversal of form for MM. For someone who was so good in 2017 it is hard to rationalise the form of 2018. MM was running around going sideways looking to get the ball away. Opposition defences were hanging back waiting for him to pass. In 2017 he was running at the defence forcing them to make a decision. In 2017 he had runners following him thru, Will Smith and Tep come to mind. What changed? We certainly were not putting defences under pressure for the main part and… Read more »

Glenn
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Glenn

My take there was the forwards were creating very little space for the halves to work in forcing them to run sideways more often.

poppa
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poppa

Yes and the halves were being targeted by opposition and it seemed that Moses was doing more than his share of first up defence. We badly missed the defence of Nathan Brown in his injury plagued season and off course the retirement of Beau Scott…..who made a huge difference to the middle defence when fit and playing the previous year.
Most good halves have a forward running protection, we didn’t.

Interesting question for our statistician is/was the ratio of tries scored by our forwards compared to backs as against other teams.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

That along with extremely slow play the balls.

sixties
Admin

Basically we need to straighten up the attack and earn shifts.

sixties
Admin

There was also the issue of Moses and Norman not working together. Over calling each other. Doesn’t help the support play.

DDay
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DDay

Interesting insight Colmac, thanks. It seems the problem with being mid table in both statistics is you’re not asking enough questions or attack or defence to dominate and statistically, each week the opposition may stronger than you either attack or defence, or both.
Are these stats the cause of losses or the effect of losing – difficult to know but shifting from mid table in these stats surely correlates with putting pressure on your opponent and improved results.

sixties
Admin

My thoughts too DDay. Sitting mid table on both just won’t win enough matches.

BDon
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BDon

We looked like a team trying to work our way into form by playing a lower risk style. Those first 2 games didn’t help at all and we rarely found any attacking form. I can recall thinking that Brown and Moeroa are copping a battering each week and off loads drying up. In 2017 Brown’s off loads were a feature. Good stats Colmac, and explanations, there’s stories in the numbers.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I still believe both of these stats come down primarily to the lack of size, power and smarts in our pack. Secondly, BA’s obsession (and I’m assuming instructions) with low risk play focused on ball possession primarily squashed opportunities for the boys to even try an offload. Our lack of size and power in our pack means no bending and breaking lines, and no field position in attack. Our pack with 3 Eels defenders on our opponents on so many occasions and they still able get the ball away. When was the last time we remember a Parra forward decimating… Read more »

colin hussey
Guest

Anon, the aspect regarding the coach instructing the team to take low risk options, I am not sure how he pushed that concept, that’s not saying he didn’t but more the how much. When the wheels fell off early on I would suggest that he instructed the team to mark up and get their defence in order, the more the team tried the worse it seemed to go, and that’s where the confidence thing really came into play. I do recollect that both Norms and Moses saying quite openly also BA in an interview also spoke of the fact that… Read more »

Leo toohey
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Leo toohey

Your assuming wrong mate ,our halves killed our play all year , i bet no one told mose to do midfield bombs and sook when they didnt work , go to training and watch ,ba is anything but a negative coach its the players not playing to instruction thats causing problems .

Anonymous
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Anonymous

then why weren’t they sacked

Hamsammich
Guest
Hamsammich

Because that’s not how things work with the salary cap

sixties
Admin

Exactly. The Top 30 system literally dictates who is selected. Eg – if a coach wants to drop a half due to form, but his best half is outside the 30, he can’t select them. He must replace the player with a top 30 player who has experience as a half. In 2018, when BA had backline injuries he was able to bring Salmon in to the team, and played Norman at fullback.

Shelley
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Shelley

Thank you for this analysis. I would say an additional factor with these stats is the terrible influence referees in the first half of the season had on the game. The game was slower with more stoppages, this favoured teams like Panthers, St George, Warriors and the Tigers who liked to offload as this was the only way to make a break in the game. It was no surprise to me that when the referees backed off and more fatigue came into the game the above 4 teams dropped quickly down the ladder. It hurt teams like Parra and the… Read more »

Parrastew
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Parrastew

I completely agree with Shelly. Parra seemed to set up a fast and mobile pack for 2018 that could keep the pace up for 80 minutes. Which is what the NRL portrayed the 2018 game would be, then the season started and the refereeing made it into a very stop start game giving the big packs the rest time they needed and the opportunity to pound the smaller packs into the ground. This lead to injuries and lost confidence, it is an excuse for a poor season but would have been interesting to see Parras season if the game was… Read more »

Glenn
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Glenn

The Cowboys pack, being amongst the biggest, also suffered so was it the refs? Don’t know the real reason but doubt it was just the refs, something just didn’t click with both teams and hopefully it’ll be fixed for the new season. By all reports our forwards have become bigger but I would still like them to offload more and not play bash and barge football.

Spent yesterday looking at the old grand finals and a feature of all teams, other than tough defence, was the offloading by the forwards in particular.

sixties
Admin

Hence this post which highlights second phase play Glenn. I think we’ll see a bit more of it.

sixties
Admin

Every year there seems to be a crackdown on the rules – which is fair enough in principle but never taken through an entire season. There’in lies the inequity for teams. You play teams in the early season under one interpretation, then late in the season your opponents have different interpretations. Were you advantaged or disadvantaged by your draw? You shouldn’t be asking such a question.

Rocket
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Rocket

I agree. The way the game was adjudicated and the injuries in 2018 went a long way in deciding the season.

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

Actually Rocket you hit the nail on the head, injuries. Someone did a comparison with injuries and the team’s place on the table. Guess what, it matched almost exactly. The only difference was first and second with the least injuries were second and first on the table. Every other team matched exactly and Parra, having the worst injuries, was also last on the table. So hopefully bigger forwards means less injuries.and less injuries equates to better table position.

sixties
Admin

It virtually matches every year. The premiers will have a great run with injuries. The bottom teams – not so good.
In 2018, the Dragons went with a virtually unchanged 17 for over half the comp. Then Origin and injury kicked in and their results matched.

sixties
Admin

Shelley, spot on. We tried to Reser but we couldn’t. It was too late. Dan Alvaro started the season at 105, got up to around 108 when he was injured. We lost our bigger forwards to injury to compound it. Every player looks bigger this year.

Milo
Guest
Milo

I could not agree more with Shelley and co. The refs allowed the game to be slowed down in the first half of the season; the usual edict from NRL for certain indicators to be controlled was again the issue for me. Please do not start me on the refs…if there is another rule ‘interpretation change’ mid season i will dead set give the game up. Parra also contributed to this with some poor attack at times being predictable and hence our defence in repeat sets also was an issue. The souths game was one example for me; we did… Read more »

BDon
Guest
BDon

Milo, I reckon Manu Mau got caught close to the line without support a number of times. His hard running and step had caused the wider defence to splinter and one more pass was the go. Moeroa’ s straight running at end of year post injury the same. Red zone defences were restricting us and these chances were rare and like gold. Mau’s absence for last part of season probably masked that he had upped his game but his year seemed ordinary. He was also a big improver in staying alive for the scramble, which at times seemed non-existent.

Milo
Guest
Milo

BDon injuries were not good to us; I also think Gutherson was missed too. I see the point about Mau and Tepai; i think our lead up plays at times were not good. I alo wanted more direction from the halves……Mannah was also missed at times when injured and the lack of size was also an issue.

sixties
Admin

Manu is also looking bigger right now, and looking to be even more so by kick off.

sixties
Admin

Very astute Milo. The team trained for players in motion in 2018, but it just never clicked into matches. Halves? Lack of confidence? Lack of decent possession? Field position?
I think a couple of extra players with skill and size, and greater size in the pack will help.

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

Well you’d have to be blind Freddy not to know the Eels forwards rarely pass/offload the ball and I’ve been screaming out for ages about this. Is this the fault of the forwards or instructions from BA? Even renowned offloaders like Brown have appeared to offload less each year he has been here while others that offloaded in the juniors rarely do now as in Moeroa. Additionally our defence at times leaves you perplexed. When they come up against renowned offloaders, as in Fifita, they might have 3 wrapping him up but none are locking up the ball so he… Read more »

sixties
Admin

Glenn, they trained for the forwards to pass and they trained the offload. The problem seems to be having players with the confidence to do this. When they aren’t confident, you either see the ball tucked under the arm or even the other extreme – the offload at the wrong time.
I honestly believe that the recruitment of Lane and Paulo, and the encouragement of others to offload, will see more second phase in 2019.

poppa
Guest
poppa

One final thing and it is worth mentioning, statistically our forwards weight is not that different to the biggest packs, Canberra I imagine being the biggest. We had no authority in the forwards and it seemed especially in the heat for the first few rounds that we were the first to fold and as such our defence faltered. Now I am not critical of the new trainer last year because on face value we all thought that the aerobic type conditioning of an AFL background sounded like a good idea. Our forwards did look like they were “light on” and… Read more »

colin hussey
Guest

Pops, my understanding regarding the AFL trainer was that he was brought in to take advantage of the fitness areas that AFL players have, with that code being more of an athletic style of game with running and high ball catching, mark and stop. Sure there were some rough aspects in many of the take outs but, nothing like RL with the impact, short running contact game with almost every play, kicking as such and marks are very much foreign to RL. That coach was ok had the Ref’s boss not changed the rules and ordering crack downs in certain… Read more »

sixties
Admin

Lachie was brought in for his expertise, not his AFL background. He develops core strengths, optimal athletic movement, prehabilitation programs. If you check out his Twitter account and links, you’ll see the sports science involved in his profession. The addition of Jimenez has brought the Melbourne Storm hard edge to the players conditioning. He demands that the players find more.

Gianni.
Guest
Gianni.

Great work Col very interesting.