Cowboys 'best converters' in the NRL

The North Queensland Cowboys are the potential sleepers of the 2009 competition with NRL.com’s exclusive statistics revealing they are the premiership’s most proficient team at converting line breaks into tries. <br><br>Despite running third-last in actual line breaks made this season, the seventh-placed Cowboys have the best conversion rate in the league, turning over half of those breaks into four-pointers.<br><br>With a 51.28 per cent ratio, the Cowboys are easily the best team in the competition at turning chances into points, and with the likes of Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen in the mix their potential for explosive attacking football is always just around the corner.<br><br>The boys from up north have made just 39 line breaks in 2009, ahead of only South Sydney (38 line breaks) and the Sydney Roosters (33) – but they have claimed 20 tries from those breaks. <br><br>Should they start to get through the line more often (the Bulldogs have 59 line breaks to lead the NRL), it could see them return to their 2005 form that saw them make the premiership decider. <br><br>“It is pleasing to know that stat, particularly with the amount of line-break potential we have in the team with guys like Johnathan Thurston, Willie Tonga, Matt Bowen and even Aaron Payne at hooker,” Cowboys general manager of football Dean Lance says.<br><br>“It is pleasing to know that when you do make a break you are a good chance at converting it; but we are certainly not getting carried away with our football at this stage.”<br><br>Lance, a former NRL first grader and top-level coach himself, credits the hard work head coach Neil Henry and his staff have put in after a rocky start to the year which saw the side lose four of their first five games. The side has since won five of six starts to make a climb up the competition ladder.<br><br>“Having people prepared to back up and also running the right lines at the right times certainly helps, and that comes from the coaching and drills these guys do at training,” Lance says. <br><br>“I can see the team is improving and while we are not getting carried away the last five games have been a big improvement on the first five games of the year and obviously something is going right, which is great to see.<br><br>“I am sure the coach is drilling the right attitude into the players. Every coach will tell you when a break is made it is a matter of being prepared to push forward and back them up rather than just sit back and watch them run like I used to do. It’s all about getting numbers there and having players in motion around the ball, so when the break is made there are options.”<br><br>While awareness and willingness to support are no doubt crucial to making the most of opportunities, sometimes instinct and pure speed can be just as vital.<br><br>“A player like Matt Bowen can read these things. He knows where Thurston or Travis Burns might go before they do it, which is something great players have,” Lance confirms.<br><br>“I’m sure the Melbourne Storm has the same ethic of pushing forward and being available when a break is made… you see a guy like Billy Slater always pushing up the middle. It’s all about having the talent available to sniff out the opportunities.”<br><br>One would be forgiven for thinking Lance had access to the stats – as it is indeed Melbourne who sit in second place on the conversion table, having scored 19 tries from 45 line breaks to post a 42.22 per cent success rate.<br><br>“If we are in the same category as the likes of Melbourne in terms of attack, we’re happy with that, but we have along way to go to reach our potential,” Lance says. <br><br>“We are still coming from a place down on the ladder. Consistency is what we are about and it’s our aim.”<br><br>At the other end of the table it comes as no great surprise to see the Parramatta Eels languishing with just a dismal 23.81 per cent conversion rate. <br><br>The Eels have managed just 10 tries from their 42 breaks this season – a huge contributing factor to their 14th place on the NRL ladder.<br><br>“Not taking opportunities is obviously a concern,” Eels coach Daniel Anderson stresses. <br><br>“As a team and as a club we need to take our opportunities. There is no doubt that we have to improve. Stats or no stats, it’s obvious we have to be better.<br><br>“When you are in the bottom half of the table you probably don’t get given that many opportunities. If you have a look at the opportunities per game for the teams in the top four or five, they probably create more opportunities than we do so it’s even more important we take our chances.”<br><br>Anderson said a lack of belief in a squad could really hamper a side’s ability to capitalise on breaks, but added it also took particular skill to set up support runners once a side broke through the initial line.<br><br>“It can come down to confidence and anticipation and a lack of speed,” he admits. <br><br>“If you are a confident team you will anticipate that things are going to happen. If your confidence is down you tend to sit on your heels a little bit. <br>Having outright speed helps too, as then you have someone that can just hit the gas if a break occurs.<br><br>“But there is also skill in knowing how to set up support. Tim Mannah made a clean break against Manly a few weeks ago and we didn’t anticipate him to make that break. He ran probably 40 metres looking around for somebody to come with him but we hadn’t anticipated it. <br><br>“Even then, Tim has got to make it possible for his support players to be given the ball. You do work on it at training but it’s a very difficult skill to practice. It is a skill that in the heat of the game you have to be composed enough and show some control.”<br><br>Anderson isn’t surprised that the likes of the Cowboys and Melbourne lead the way in making the most of chances.<br><br>“Billy Slater has more try assists than most people as he is brilliant at anticipating breaks and opportunities but he is also blessed with fantastic speed to take advantage of any of those situations as well,” he says.<br><br>“Then they have a guy like Greg Inglis who is quicker than most in the competition, so they know if they make a break they can kick or pass out to his side of the field and invariably he is going to be there. Athleticism is certainly a huge part of success in this game and some teams are blessed with more than others.”<br><br><b>Line Breaks To Tries Ratio</b><br>1.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Cowboys: 20 tries from 39 line breaks = 51.28%<br>2.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Storm: 19 tries from 45 line breaks = 42.22%<br>3.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Bulldogs: 24 tries from 59 line breaks = 40.68%<br>4.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Sea Eagles: 18 tries from 45 line breaks = 40.00%<br>5.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Warriors: 18 tries from 46 line breaks = 39.13%<br>6.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Panthers: 19 tries from 49 line breaks = 38.78%<br>7.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Knights: 22 tries from 58 line breaks = 37.93%<br>8.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Titans: 20 tries from 54 line breaks = 37.04%<br>9.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Dragons: 20 tries from 57 line breaks = 35.09%<br>10.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Rabbitohs: 12 tries from 38 line breaks = 31.58%<br>11.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Roosters: 10 tries from 33 line breaks = 30.30%<br>12.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Wests Tigers: 15 tries from 50 line breaks = 30.00%<br>13.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Broncos: 14 tries from 48 line breaks = 29.17%<br>14.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Raiders: 12 tries from 43 line breaks = 27.91%<br>15.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Sharks: 10 tries from 40 line breaks – 25.00%<br>16.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Eels: 10 tries from 42 line breaks = 23.81%<br>