Stats Insider: Tigers still as lethal as ever

Johnathan Thurston might be the best in the league at assisting team-mates into space but exclusive statistics show it’s the Wests Tigers duo of Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah who have the potential to push their team back into finals contention, such is their penetration.<br><br>While the obvious attacking statistics of tries scored, try assists and line breaks are often highlighted, the little-known but just as important line-break assists category shows the Wests Tigers pair rank second and third respectively, with opposition teams seemingly unable to contain them.<br><br>Players who can break the line rightfully get the plaudits – but they are usually just as quick to throw praise towards their team-mates, be it the forwards who make the hard yards or the playmakers who pull the defences away.<br><br>Predominantly it is these playmakers who lead the line-break assists leader board as they force extra defenders to commit to them, but still have the skill and or sleight of hand to promote the football to another player with the space to cause maximum damage.<br><br>With just nine rounds remaining before the finals it is Dally M Medal favourite and Australian and Queensland halfback Johnathan Thurston who tops the line-break assists list with 18 – but Marshall and Farah are right behind with 17 and 15 each.<br><br>Cronulla’s skipper Trent Barrett (14) and St George Illawarra’s captain Ben Hornby (13) round out the top five.<br><br>“The stat is indicative of your ability as a ball player and it’s pleasing to have our guys up there,” Wests Tigers and current Australian coach Tim Sheens says. “The runners need to know where to run but you need to be able to put them in the right hole. The guys with the ball have to work at speed and have good perception and picking the right player is critical.<br><br>“Having the option to run yourself is also important and it is a decision-making process where the players with the right ability to read play generally come up with good stats.”<br><br>Sheens stresses you can’t underestimate the ability of the ball players to be able to break the line on their own, as without their own penetration skills the opposition defences will just hold off and place traffic on the running options. <br><br>“You have to test the line yourself and use the runners around you to draw the defence off you as well… that adds to your elusiveness,” he tells NRL.com. <br><br>“Do you pass, run or kick? They are the only options and those who make the right decision often and have the ability to play what’s in front of them are the better ball players who usually lead the stats. <br><br>Now, the stats can be a little misleading as the mistake rate can counterbalance the good stats and the stats don’t show if it would have been better to run, or pass, or kick instead of the option taken – but if you are a pivot and have no line-break assists and no line breaks yourself, then you have issues. <br><br>“I am glad my two guys are up there in the list. With the amount of figures the boys have you can see their influence on our game is great.”<br><br>With just eight games left in the regular season for the Tigers, the time is now to make a charge for the finals. <br><br>The side is already up against it, being back in 14th position six competition points from eighth spot, but their 54-20 hammering of South Sydney showed what they can do if they remain focussed.<br><br>Sheens and his men have not given up on a late charge into post-season play and the fact both Marshall and Farah are in good form gives them reason for optimism.<br><br>“There is no doubt if you are not creating opportunities and getting into position to score points then you have something to worry about,” Sheens says. <br><br>“We are a team that has been noted to have skilful players in the halves and also in the forwards and we work hard at that. But we also need to finish these chances off and also stop the opposition from busting us open. <br><br>“We see the last eight games as a second competition, which presents us with an opportunity to make the play-offs, and these figures are very important for us to continue to create opportunities. We just need to control the urge to pass when it is not on.”<br><br><b>Line-break Assists Top 10</b><br><br>1. Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys) 18; 2. Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers) 17; 3. Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers) 15; 4. Trent Barrett (Sharks) 14; 5. Ben Hornby (Dragons) 13; =6. Karmichael Hunt (Broncos) 12; =6 Terry Campese (Raiders) 12; =8 Ben Roberts (Bulldogs) 11; =8 Jamie Soward (Dragons) 11; =8 Matt Orford (Sea Eagles) 11.<br><br><b>Your Club’s No.1</b><br><br>Broncos: Karmichael Hunt 12; Bulldogs: Ben Roberts 11; Raiders: Terry Campese 12; Sharks: Trent Barrett 14; Titans: Scott Prince 9; Sea Eagles: Matt Orford 11; Storm: Billy Slater 10; Cowboys: Johnathan Thurston 18; Eels: Feleti Mateo 8; Panthers: Frank Pritchard 7; Dragons: Ben Hornby 13; Rabbitohs: John Sutton, Issac Luke 9; Roosters: Braith Anasta 8; Warriors: Lance Hohaia, Russell Parker, Joel Moon 4; Wests Tigers: Benji Marshall 17.<br><br><b>Best By Position</b><br><br>Fullback: Karmichael Hunt (Broncos) 12; Wing: Chris Walker (Titans), Luke Covell (Sharks), Sam Perrett (Roosters) 3; Centre: Esi Tonga (Titans) 7; Five-Eighth: Trent Barrett (Sharks) 14; Halfback: Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys) 18; Prop: Richard Fa’aoso (Knights) 4; Hooker: Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers) 15; Second Row: Glenn Stewart (Sea Eagles) 8; Lock: Feleti Mateo (Eels) 8.