Stats Insider: It's a numbers game

Jarryd Hayne wears number one, as does Billy Slater. Nathan Hindmarsh has made 1055 tackles this year, Dallas Johnson 953. Statistics are all about the numbers – but which digits will be the keys to the 2009 NRL Grand Final?<br><br>Amongst the hoopla of this grand final week the coaching staff at both Parramatta and Melbourne must find time to analyse their opposition and work out just which numbers are the weak links and which numbers spell big-time danger for their men.<br><br>There are the raw numbers… like the fact the Eels have scored 95 tries in 2009 and the Storm have scored 106. Then there are the more technical percentages… like the fact the Eels have found space on their clearing kicks 58.2 per cent of the time, while the Storm are up at 60.3 per cent.<br><br>The numbers game is certainly in the Storm’s favour – which can be expected as they did finish the regular season in fourth place, while the Eels were eighth. But the Parramatta boys can certainly find a way to break the Storm if they are committed.<br><br>Coach Daniel Anderson has been in an NRL grand final before (Warriors, 2002) and has won several major titles with St Helens in the UK, so you can bet he’ll be well prepared.<br><br>“I know what our key focus will be but I won’t be telling the media or opposition,” Anderson told nrl.com.<br><br>“We will have a game plan and it will be technical and tactical. It’s not exactly business as usual this week but I’ll analyse as usual and follow the same routines… there won’t be suddenly extra camera angles or a third wheel in there.<br><br>“It will be myself and (assistant coach) Matt Cameron. And we’ll come up with a plan for the boys to execute.”<br><br>So let’s look at a few more crucial numbers for this winner-takes-all encounter…<br><br>The Eels have been more efficient at gaining metres along the ground in 2009, with 1403 metres gained per match compared to the Storm’s 1336 metres. In terms of each team’s major metre-eaters, the Eels rely heavily on Jarryd Hayne (170 metres a match to be second in the NRL), Eric Grothe (122 metres), Fuifui Moimoi (120 metres), Nathan Cayless (105 metres), Krisnan Inu (103 metres) and Nathan Hindmarsh (102 metres).<br><br>The Storm’s big guns in terms of gaining territory are Billy Slater (123 metres), Greg Inglis (122 metres), Steve Turner (110 metres), Jeff Lima (109 metres), Dane Nielsen (107 metres) and Ryan Hoffman (105 metres).<br><br>When it comes to kicking metres the Storm have the slight edge, averaging 658 metres a match compared to the Eels’ 623 metres. Halfback Cooper Cronk is Melbourne’s main kicker, averaging 390 metres a match, while captain and hooker Cameron Smith is a great back-up kicking for 175 metres a game.<br><br>The Eels rely on five-eighth Daniel Mortimer (231 metres), halfback Jeff Robson (144 metres) and Hayne (122 metres). The Eels, however have kicked six 40/20s this season to the Storm’s two. But countering that, they have been charged down 13 times to Melbourne’s seven. Both teams have kicked out on the full five times.<br><br>In terms of attacking kicks, Parramatta have scored 21 tries from kicks and conceded 17 while Melbourne have scored 17 tries and conceded 15 from the boot. When you break down both sides’ abilities to defuse attacking kicks you get the following figures: Parramatta defuses 85 per cent of chip kicks, Melbourne 74 per cent. Grubber kicks reads Melbourne 81 per cent, Parramatta 75 per cent. Melbourne defuse 78 per cent of bombs, Parramatta 66 per cent, while cross-field kicks has the Eels slightly ahead with 61 per cent to 50 per cent. <br><br>As stated earlier, the Storm have scored more tries this season and they also average slightly better in the line breaks category with 5.2 a match compared to the Eels’ 4.9. But they will need to certainly watch Hayne, who has 32 line breaks from 25 games this year. His opposite, Slater has 22 breaks from his 25 games.<br><br>The Storm also rate better in errors with 11.7 a game to the Eels’ 12.3, tries conceded (2.5 to 3.2) and missed tackles (26.7 to 30).<br><br>The Eels do have one major advantage; it’s one that has been the major catalyst to their amazing run to the grand final – offloads.<br><br>The Storm average just 9.9 offloads a match, the second-fewest in the NRL, while the Eels are a clear first in the category with 17.5 offloads a match. Some of the magical tries the Eels have scored have been the direct result of second-phase football, trusting a team-mate will be there to take the pass. Feleti Mateo is averaging 3.1 offloads a game, Inu 2.4, Hindmarsh 2.1, Cayless 1.6, Grothe 1.5, Hayne 1.3, Joel Reddy 1.1, Matthew Keating 1.0 and Jeff Robson 1.0. Conversely the only Storm players to be above an offload a match are Hoffman (1.4), Adam Blair (1.4), Inglis (1.2) and Slater (1.1).<br><br>Another stat where the Eels lead the way is penalties conceded. The referees hammer the Storm 5.5 times on average per match, while the Eels are just a little better at 5.2 a match.<br><br>But back to try-scoring: the Storm have scored 11 tries from dummy-half and conceded none. Parramatta have scored four and conceded two.&nbsp; The Eels have scored eight tries directly from turnovers and conceded two, while the Storm have just three tries turning defence into attack, while conceding two.<br><br>In terms of which side of the field the two sides prefer to target, the breakdown is: Parramatta have scored 34 tries on the left side of the field (11 sideline, 23 fringe) while the Storm have 42 tries on the left (17 sideline, 25 fringe). Melbourne have 23 tries scored up the middle, the Eels 21. On the right side of the field the Storm have 41 tries (17 sideline, 24 fringe) while the Eels have 40 tries (16 sideline, 24 fringe).<br><br>In terms of tries conceded the Storm have leaked just 18 tries on the left side of the field (12 sideline, 6 fringe) while the Eels have leaked 43 tries there (22 sideline, 21 fringe). The Eels have let in 15 tries up the middle, the Storm 10. On the right side Melbourne have conceded 36 tries (18 sideline, 18 fringe) and the Eels 28 (14 sideline, 14 fringe).<br><br>The bottom line here is the Storm will attack the left side hard, going at the Joel Reddy/Eric Grothe defensive combination, while the Eels will go hard right heading for the Greg Inglis/Dane Nielsen defensive combo.<br><br>“Playing on the right side defensively (opposition left-side attack comes at right-side defenders) is hard as most teams pass better right to left,” Eels centre Reddy tells nrl.com.<br><br>“It takes experience to communicate well in defence and the good thing about this season is we have been able to play so many games together so we are improving. The fact the teams keep coming at us has allowed us to get a better understanding of each other and when to come in, or stay out.<br><br>“It is a bit of a scramble out there sometimes but we just need to keep working hard. They might make a break on us but if we scramble hard we might be able to cover it.<br><br>“With a player like Greg Inglis coming at us we know we have to be on our toes and it will be a challenge. But it’s a team effort and as a unit we can be pretty good. We just need to be in his face and not give him room… he is a class player and the less time you give him, the better.<br><br>“If Guru (Eric Grothe) rushes in to cut him off I have to be aware to keep sliding out to cover if he gets the ball away and by now we are pretty good at helping each other out.”<br><br>In terms of distance tries are scored from, the Storm have 41 tries from 0-10 metres, the Eels 26. From 11-20 metres the Storm have 24 tries scored this year, the Eels 23. From 21-50 metres it’s 30 tries for the Eels and 28 for the Storm and tries over halfway reads 15 for Parramatta, 11 for Melbourne.<br><br>Defensively the Eels have conceded 37 tries from 0-10 metres, the Storm 34. From 11-20 metres the Eels have been much weaker, conceding 29 tries compared to the Storm’s 11 while from 21-50 metres the Eels have leaked 16 tries, the Storm 10. The Eels are better defensively from long range, conceding just four tries from over halfway while the Storm have let in eight.<br><br>To finish off, let’s look at the head-to-head stats. The sides have met 21 times, with the Storm winning 12 and the Eels winning nine. Six of the past nine matches went to the Storm – however the Eels have won the past two matches including an 18-16 win in Round 19.<br><br>The past eight games have been very close, with the average winning margin being less than eight points.<br><br>So while some may be predicting another blowout grand final, like the past two seasons where Melbourne beat Manly by 26 points in 2007 and lost to the same side by 40 in 2008, the numbers might just be pointing to a much closer result.<br><br>Bring it on!<br>