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NRL Telstra Premiership 2009

Stats Insider: Why the bottom eight are struggling

Benjamin Everill NRL.com Fri, May 06, 2011 - 3:10 PM

Scott Prince has been forced to do it all himself at the Titans for much of the season in the absence the injured Nathan Friend. Copyright: Getty Images

Today we look at the eight bottom teams and the reasons why some are under-performing, some are just hanging in there – and some continue to battle week to week…

WARRIORS
Currently 9th, 4-4 (2010 finish – 7th)

The Warriors are reasonably placed to make a run at the top eight, which they’ll be happy about considering they haven’t really played with any degree of consistency. They have won two games in a row and while the victory over Melbourne was great, last week’s over Penrith wasn’t brilliant by any means.

They know they need to improve to move into contention. To get this improvement they need to work on field-position issues. Last year the Warriors averaged 1313 metres a game, good enough for a spot in the finals. This year they’ve dropped to 1273 metres, ranked 12th in the comp.

In terms of metres-conceded they were letting oppositions advance just 1248 metres a week last year, ranking them second best in the NRL. But in 2011 things have been different, conceding 1351 metres a game – the fourth most.

SOUTH SYDNEY
Currently 10th, 3-5 (2010 finish – 9th)

The Rabbitohs are hovering around the position they finished last year – but they have greater statistical problems by comparison.

In 2010 they were the top line-breaking team in the league, with 5.5 a game. This gave them multiple opportunities to score points (even though they didn’t always capitalise). This season they are breaking through just three times a match, ranking them 14th in the NRL.

Also, they continue to miss the most tackles in the league – just as they did in 2010. Plus, they are scoring fewer points, while letting more in!

With some major injury issues, and potential fallout given Chris Sandow’s announced move to the Eels from 2012, this side has its work cut out for it if it’s to move up the ladder.

GOLD COAST
Currently 11th, 3-5 (2010 finish – 4th)

The difference between the 2010 top-four Titans and the 2011 struggling outfit lies in their attack. It’s amazing how missing a player like Nathan Friend, who does so much so discreetly, can have such a major impact on the side’s ability to post points.

In Friend’s absence (he’s played just three of eight games) too much pressure has fallen on Scott Prince to create large amounts of space; when Friend plays he creates extra centimetres here and there with his precision ruck control.

The Titans are down on points scored (16.6 from 21.3), metres gained (1337 from 1379), line-breaks (3.4 from 4.3), offloads (10.4 from 10.9) and tackle-breaks (28.6 from 33.6). They are also making more errors, with 14 a game (15th in the NRL) compared to 12.1 last year.

PARRAMATTA
Currently 12th, 3-5 (2010 finish – 12th)

Eels fans who watched the game against the Dragons last week must be rejoicing about the signing of Chris Sandow from next year. Even if Russell Crowe’s tweet on his salary isn’t totally accurate it just goes to show how desperate the Eels are to fix their spluttering attack.

Parramatta were awful last year, on the back of being unable to score points, averaging just 17.2 a match. Well, now they are diabolical with the ball in hand, averaging a dismal 13.2 a match to be the worst in the NRL. (At least last year they were only second worst…)

Also, their average offloads have plummeted from a league-high 17.2 a match to just 5.5 – by far the worst in the NRL. They need a spark from somewhere… and fast.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Currently 13th, 2-6 (2010 finish – 2nd)

Goodbye Todd Carney – goodbye Roosters attacking mojo!

This side made the grand final last season on the back of ‘Carney carnage’ – but without him they are now being forced to find new ways to post points, something they’ve struggled to achieve.

In 2010 they averaged 23.3 points scored a game. So far this season they have dropped down to 17.6 each week. Their line-breaks have also taken a beating, down from 5.2 a match to 3.8. Someone has to step up.

CRONULLA
Currently 14th, 2-6 (2010 finish – 14th)

While they’ve retained their position on the ladder the Sharks have actually improved this season. Some solid recruitment, plus a return to form from some players, has helped tremendously.

The biggest plus for the Cronulla boys has been a far better attack. Last year they averaged just 14.8 points a match, which was the fewest in the NRL. This year they have lifted this to 18.4 points – although the loss of Albert Kelly to injury is a massive blow going forward. Nathan Gardner also needs to stay fit for their attacking resurgence to continue.

Elsewhere the Sharks have actually reeled in their offloading game a little – with the jury still out on whether or not this is a good thing. Last year with 14.1 a match they were ranked second. This year it’s just 12.9, for sixth most.

PENRITH
Currently 15th, 2-6 (2010 finish – 5th)

What isn’t going wrong at Penrith? Last season’s surprise packets were expected to at least put up a fight again this year… but alas, they haven’t come close to their 2010 form.

In 2010 they led the NRL in attack, scoring an impressive 26.1 points a match. But in 2011 they are ahead of just the Eels, with a paltry 16.2 points a week.

They are also leaking more points. The big fall has coincided with the decline of one of the most potent kicking games of all time – 38 per cent of their tries came from kicks last year (42); so far just 23 per cent have come from the boot this year (5).

CANBERRA
Currently 16th, 1-7 (2010 finish – 6th)

It’s hard to talk about how disappointing the Raiders have been. A young, exciting side with talent to burn coming off the back of an impressive finals run last year… they had the makings of premiership contenders. But now they will be lucky to avoid the wooden spoon.

The Green Machine are struggling across the park – although one area stands out. Their running metres in 2010 were the best in the NRL – tallying 1408 metres a game they were even better than the Dragons! This season however they average just 1152 metres, ranking them last in the competition. This 256-metre shortfall is killing them.

Add to this the metres missing from injured Terry Campese’s kicking game and there’s a good chance they may need to start planning for 2012 even this far out.

Yesterday we brought you an exclusive insight into the reasons why the top eight teams are flying high in 2011, including the key areas they have improved on from last season.