The Gold Coast Titans are defying the stats to ride high at the top of the NRL table. Copyright: Ian Knight/NRL Photos. Credit: Ian Knight Copyright: NRL Photos
As you've probably noticed, the start of the 2014 Telstra Premiership has been a bit of a nightmare for tipsters and punters alike. Take the competition leaders Gold Coast, for example. If you looked at the stats they have tossed up after six rounds, they should be lucky to be in the top eight, let alone leading the competition!
Incredibly, the Titans currently sit at the top of the NRL competition with a points differential of -7. Apparently it is the first time since the Bulldogs in... wait for it… 1953 that a team has led the comp at this stage of the season with a minus in the points column!
If you have a quick look at some of the major stats that teams live and breathe by, coach John Cartwright must think he's won Lotto with his team sitting on top of the comp.
Before I go any further I need to point out that I think the Titans are a very good football team and they have quality right across the park in the likes of Greg Bird, Albert Kelly and David Taylor, but their stats would get any coach scratching their head as to why they are where they are.
The Gold Coast currently make more handling errors per game than any other team, with an average of 12.7 per game - this means they are completing their sets at less than 72 per cent per game. As most coaches will testify, you need to complete at more than 80 per cent to win most games in this tough competition.
They are also last in line breaks and try assists, last with tackle breaks and ranked 14 out of 16 for clean line breaks.
The defensive stats don't get much better, with the Titans currently missing a whopping 33.2 tackles a match - ranking them second in the league for most misses - and they are second last with tackle effectiveness at 86.7 per cent.
Penalties are said to be often massive momentum changers in today's game, but the Titans currently defy this as well. They are one of the most undisciplined teams in the competition, conceding over nine penalties per game. Amazingly Ashley Harrison is the most penalised player in the competition with seven and not surprisingly Nate Myles has given away five.
Let's look at what they are doing well. They are running the ball almost better than any team. They sit third in all runs and fourth in the most run metres. This means the Titans are coming at you non-stop for 80 minutes and even when they do make errors and turn the ball over, the second you give it back they come at you again.
Their forward pack is tough and very experienced and scattered with Origin and Test players. Their halves are young but they can run the football, and their outside backs are all quick and brave.
They also get out of dummy-half well, with their outside backs getting involved in the play, while the rotation of Beau Falloon and Paul Carter gives them a constant threat, particularly when they're close to the line looking to catch teams out with a try from dummy-half.
In attack, the Titans run an average of 1501 metres per week which has them just behind the underachieving Cowboys who are ranked first. Incredibly, their much-improved livewire half Albert Kelly runs more meters than any other player in the competition with an average of 175 metres per game. They also currently have seven players that run over 100 metres per game.
They have made the most offloads in the NRL with over 14 per game and the powerful Greg Bird currently leads that stat within their team with nine.
In defence they make on average 323 tackles per game, which is the second most in the NRL. Their workaholic tough guy Nate Myles leads them in this department with over 37 tackles per game.
The Titans are a tough, uncompromising team and when you play them you certainly know you've been in a scrap. They thrive on the fact that they can win ugly, but they also have the brilliance of Kelly, Aidan Seizer and William Zillman to create tries off the back of offloads.
In the end though, the Titans are on top and it's about other teams trying to find ways to beat them. I know for certain they are finding ways to win in tough circumstances and if they can turn some of these negative stats into positives, there is no limit to what they can achieve.