The Cumberland Throw

Stat Attack – Flipping That Opening Round Coin

New season. New Hope.

Sounds like familiar territory for Eels supporters.

Given how poorly the team started last year, Parramatta will definitely be looking to kick off with a win. But how do you go about predicting an opening round result?

Do you base a tip on trial results or form, the finish from the previous season, or historical opening round outcomes?

Most “experts” will tell you that early season form is a bit of a lottery, and with that being the case, the opening round could literally be the toss of a coin.

Delving into the archives to see how the Eels have started each campaign over the past ten years would seem to confirm the even money theory.

Year Opponent Venue Score Win/Loss
2018 Panthers Panthers Stadium 14-24 Loss
2017 Sea Eagles Lottoland 20-12 Win
2016 Broncos Parramatta Stadium 4-17 Loss
2015 Sea Eagles Parramatta Stadium 42-12 Win
2014 Warriors Parramatta Stadium 36-16 Win
2013 Warriors Parramatta Stadium 40-10 Win
2012 Broncos Parramatta Stadium 6-18 Loss
2011 Warriors Eden Park 24-18 Win
2010 Dragons Parramatta Stadium 12-18 Loss
2009 Warriors Mt Smart Stadium 18-26 Loss


The last ten years have yielded a 50% success rate. Even the dreaded away clash to start the season has returned two wins and two losses.

So maybe we should look at some patterns?

If recent history is anything to go by, the Eels are “due” to open their 2019 account with a win. The last four seasons have seen the Eels go W-L-W-L, so if that trend continues, a W should be in the column by around 6pm Sunday afternoon.

How about something for the punters looking at backing the points?

On average, the Eels score 22 points in their opening round whilst conceding 17 points. That’s a decent average and this current squad look like they have the capability of putting on a decent score.

Moving away from historical data, is it worthwhile analysing trial form to come up with a winner?

Of course we’d all love to get a similar result to the final 2019 trial and that big win over the Panthers. No doubt things will be very different when the teams are competing for Premiership points, and especially given that neither side fired a tactical shot in that trial.

And why would they?

If you’re clashing for the real honours two weeks later you’re not going to show your hand when there’s no prize.

Yet it’s hard to ignore the very encouraging signs for the 2019 edition of the Eels.

Holding a team scoreless speaks a lot about attitude and commitment. On the back of a “warm up” trial against the Raiders, won by the NRL squad but surrendered by the Wenty Ron Massey Cup players, the Eels preparations for 2019 should have the fans comfortable about an improved season.

On that front, is it fair to base any predictions based on an abysmal 2018?

If team selections pan out the way we think, the Eels will go into Sunday’s game with only seven players who played in the same game in 2018. French, Hoffman and Evans are all expected to start at Wenty. Hayne, Auva’a, Norman, King, Scott and Matagi are no longer at the club and Ma’u won’t be seen till round six due to injury. Only Michael Jennings, Moses, Alvaro, Mannah, Moeroa, Brown and Takairangi are likely to run out against the Panthers two years in a row.

With so many changes to the 17, we should probably ignore last year and base any predictions on the team who’ll don the jersey this week. And there’s a glaring feature.

The Eels will field the youngest and most inexperienced spine in the NRL. Gutherson (age 24, 66 games), Dylan Brown (age 18, 0 games), Mitchell Moses (age 24, 105 games) and Reed Mahoney (age 20, 9 games) – it’s impossible to ignore such stats in arguably the most important positions.

With this mind, experts are already starting to write off the Eels. But this stance ignores the unknown and the enthusiasm of youth. It’s an inclusion that could inject the type of energy that was missing in 2018. Perhaps there may even less structure in the Eels approach.

The most recent Eels spine to have similar stats was back in 2009. Hayne commenced the season with 59 games, Keating had 24 games, Robson had a grand tally of 6 games and Mortimer was yet to debut. That’s actually half of the total NRL appearances that the 2019 Eels spine will boast, yet the 2009 team only fell one game short of a title.

Of course, there’s no wild Premiership predictions coming your way about this season, but it’s a good example as to how inexperience doesn’t necessarily hold a team back.

Whatever method you’re using to predict the Eels result this week, I’m sure that you’re looking forward to this week as much as I am.

I’ll be out at Panthers Stadium on Sunday, and I hope there’s lots of Blue and Gold out there too.

Yours in Blue and Gold


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16 thoughts on “Stat Attack – Flipping That Opening Round Coin

  1. Milo

    Interesting read Colmac; having seen the comparisons to 09 we could assume a decent run at the end of the season….having said that i just hope Peni’s indiscretion along with Mau and Stefano being injured does not hurt us…..i think we were in for a win before these issues came up. If we are good enough we should win. Just cannot believe we have another player doing this…..very very frustrating.

    1. Bob jay

      Not frustrating just plain stupidity, some players never learn and his team mates pay the price , no sympathy from me for the player ,mines reserved for all those hes affected , complete idiot !!!!!!!!

  2. Bob jay

    Just a question , say peni incurs say a 50 k fine from parra thats money we dont payout so does that come of the cap , also if the nrl fines a player does the nrl take that money because that would mean their taking money off the club that would not come off the cap because it was the players money paid to him by the club so the nrl would get the cash and the nrl would be in fact taking the clubs money , just musing .

    1. sixties

      Interesting question.
      The first thought is that nothing changes. But then we have this no fault stand down with the clubs likely to be compensated if they have a lengthy period that they have a player stood down. What if a club breaches a player of their own accord and stands him down for an extended period? Don’t the NRL want such strength from clubs? Do they offer cap compensation in such instances?
      Maybe these things should be clarified for fans.
      Of course, the best solution is players making better decisions.

  3. BDon

    Last year the Panthers tried an up tempo start, Wallace at dummy half looked a million bucks, his forwards were running hard in numbers but they kept dropping the ball and made us look good. When they held it, they were doing 50/60 mtr sets to our 40. Second half didn’t surprise when they reduced errors and heat took hold. Expect them to try the same plan, but I reckon we might improve with Paulo and Ferguson giving us better momentum, and i hope a better kicking game is evident. Also our roster is now younger and better. Then again, i’m biased.
    Interesting about the 2009 spine Colmac, I think Moses might be the key in 2019. Improve his decision making, consistency and kicking game and the other 3 have nothing but upside.

    1. rowdy roddy

      Well said, I would also add to the 1st round Penrith game last year that we lost Mitchell twice for periods of 10 minutes during that game. We led 10 Nil the first time when he was sin binned and a head knock just after halftime cost him and us another 10-15 minutes. During this time Corey scored an early try then went to sleep for the rest of the game.

    2. sixties

      I agree BDon. Moses will be a key factor in our premiership performances. We don’t need him to produce 10/10 performances. Just a fair whack of 7 or 8s!

  4. Longfin Eel

    And remember the baby Eels of 2001! History will tell you that Parra does quite well with a bunch of youth in the team, and this year I think it is crucial to rebuilding the team. We saw the back end of last year produce some good, promising results when we injected some of the young players. A few more rookies this year, along with some of the more experienced players stepping into senior roles should reshape this team. This team is ready for Moses and Gutherson to take charge and to mould the team as their own. If they can do that then anything is possible. If they fail, then it’s yet another lonely season.

    1. sixties

      Longfin, the importance of Gutherson and Moses can’t be understated. They carry the only experience in the spine. Having watched Dylan Brown since Harold Matts, I am really looking forward to his debut.

  5. DDay

    “A bit of a Lottery” is right Colmac, impossible to predict how teams will go. Penrith have had significant distractions and injuries. They were slow out of the blocks last year, the Eels going to a 14-0 lead before capitulating to a second half. The younger, hungrier Eels roster will want to prove themselves and finish the job is my hope.
    I’ll be interested to see if BA goes conservative and replaces Peni with Gower or rolls the dice with another rookie in the form of Kaufusi

    1. Anonymous

      I was thinking Kaufusi at first however when you consider the lack of experience in this side I believe that he would be wise going for Gower round 1.
      Should read John Eel

      1. sixties

        DDay and John,
        I agree re Gower. If we weren’t already fielding two debutants and Reed having so few games, Oregon might have been a chance.

  6. rowdy roddy

    Great choice of stats and creative analysis of the same Colmac!
    Have you ever considered creative writing political propaganda champ? The current Federal and State Governments would love the way you would be able to put the right spin on their mutually precarious predicaments.

    You’ve convinced me Colmac. I’ll have my money on the Mighty Parramatta Eels this Sunday. I was already confident even after the team was announced but thanks for giving me another reason other than my bias. Now I’ve got your bias too.

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