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Why winning streaks are so rare

Daniel Anderson NRL.com Fri, Apr 06, 2012 - 10:00 AM

Keeping your best 10 players on the field is key to making finals football. Copyright: NRL Photos

ABC Grandstand commentator Daniel Anderson is writing all year for NRL.com about the trends and issues in the game.

Why is it so hard to compile a win streak?

Currently the Brisbane Broncos have won three in a row, as have the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs and Cronulla Sharks with our competition pacesetters, Melbourne Storm up to five. Out of 16 NRL teams, they are our streak champions.

Each week we see a team that has been very good suddenly become very ordinary. While it’s placing stress on tipping selections in competitions from week to week, consider the coaching staff and front office management trying to coerce a supporter base into attending games, sponsoring clubs and buying merchandise.

The salary cap is a huge influence. The combination of ‘franchise players’, seasoned NRL combatants and rookie stars determine your finishing position. Obviously, franchise players absorb a high percentage of your salary cap. If you’re fortunate you can pick up a seasoned player for less than his perceived worth and rookies just jump out of the ground sometimes on ‘beer and chips’ money.

Whilst Slater, Cronk and Smith would take up a huge chunk of the Storm’s salary cap cake, when they all play the Storm win about 80% of their matches. If one is out, this drops to about 65%, two out about 40%, and all three out, write your own ticket.

I like the best 10 players scenario. Take a look at your favourite club and nominate their best 10 players. Compare all NRL clubs’ best 10 players and see how you match up.

If I write down the Cronulla Sharks’ best 10 players, it is likely that nine or all 10 have played in their three-match winning streak. Add to this that their ‘franchise player’ Paul Gallen has delivered three incredible games and you can understand their win streak.

Look at the inconsistent or erratic clubs that have win/loss/win/loss as their season streak and you will likely see a team that has about six or seven of their best 10 players available and the franchise player is playing below his benchmark form or has not played at all.

The variable which provides the inconsistency is usually the players required to fill the 17 man squad who are light on experience. The NRL provides a pathway for young players to showcase their abilities.

Experienced players are vulnerable in the salary cap era but young players cannot maintain the emotional, mental and physical energy required to compete every week. Young players have good days and not so good days.

The Sydney Roosters, Penrith Panthers, Canberra Raiders, North Queensland Cowboys, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Newcastle Knights and New Zealand Warriors have all experienced the W/L/W/L routine in some form.

A three match win streak catapulted Cronulla from 15th to 6th. Coaching staff not only need to cajole franchise performances from franchise players but they must invest their time in preparing the young players for the rigours of the NRL weekly grind. Which of these teams will find consistency and embark on a win streak that makes them playoff certainties?

I haven’t even touched on the defending premiers, the 2012 premiership favourites in February or Jarryd Hayne’s Eels. All of these teams have shown they can compile that win streak too.

If your best 10 players participate in a minimum of 20 NRL games in 2012, I’m confident your club will be playing September football.

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