Stats Insider: Is Round 1 an early finals indicator?

The saying goes ‘one swallow doesn’t make a summer’ – which in rugby league terms means one win doesn’t make a season. But statistics from the past 50 years suggest the eight teams who won in Round 1 have a much better chance of making the grand final in 2010 than those who failed.<br><br>A whopping 71 per cent of the grand finalists since 1960 won their opening clash of the season, leaving early favourites&nbsp; Parramatta and the Bulldogs in a fight against the odds to make the first Sunday in October.<br><br>Joining the Bulldogs and Eels in the Round 1 losers pile are the Cowboys, Sharks, Raiders, Rabbitohs, Warriors and Sea Eagles. Conversely, the Dragons, Broncos, Storm, Panthers, Knights, Titans, Roosters and Wests Tigers are on the right side of history’s page.<br><br>The figure is closer to 80 per cent when you only factor in the eventual premiers – giving the eight teams off the starting blocks even more optimism for 2010.<br><br>Of course, it is certainly possible to start slow and still make the grand final; the Eels proved this last season with their spectacular late-season run. They lost 26-18 to the Warriors in the opening round, yet managed to find a way to the finals before pushing all the way to the grand final.<br><br>But history shows the Melbourne Storm, who won 17-16 over St George Illawarra in Round 1 last year, got the job done in the decider.<br><br>Recent premiers who managed to come back from a Round 1 defeat include the 2008 Manly Sea Eagles and the 2006 Brisbane Broncos – but on both occasions their opponents in the big one had been Round 1 winners.<br><br>In the past 50 years there has only been one season where two Round 1 losers have managed to oppose each other for the premiership. If you support two teams in the octet of losers from Round 1 or, if your tip for grand finalists are both in that list, the 2005 decider between the Wests Tigers and North Queensland is the only precedent in half a century to sight.<br><br>In other stats news, the top statistical issues from the opening round were:<br><br>* Cronulla, Melbourne and the Wests Tigers were the most ill-disciplined, with 10 penalties conceded each, while North Queensland, Brisbane and Canterbury were the most disciplined, conceding just four penalties each. Trent Barrett, Ryan Hinchcliffe and Chris Heighington are the worst individuals with three penalties conceded each.<br><br>* South Sydney and Manly had the most accurate long-kicking games, finding space 100 per cent of the time.&nbsp; Brisbane was the least accurate, finding space just 33 per cent.<br><br>* Penrith ran for the most metres, eating up 1505 against the Raiders, while the least amount of go-forward came from Parramatta who ran for just 1019 metres against the Dragons on Friday night. Rooster Shaun Kenny-Dowall was the best individual with 242 metres, while the best forward was Panthers skipper Petero Civoniceva with 169 metres.<br><br>* The Warriors kicked for more metres than any other team with 783 against the Titans, while South Sydney’s 414 metres from the boot were the fewest. Dragon Jamie Soward was the most prolific individual with a whopping 621 metres.<br><br>* The Roosters and Newcastle shared the most offloads with 18 apiece, while the Panthers played a ‘football-up-the-jumper’ style with just six offloads all night. Newcastle’s Cory Paterson had seven offloads to be lead individual.<br><br>* The Gold Coast managed to win despite tallying 18 errors – the most of the round – while the Dragons ground out a win against the Eels after committing just three errors against the Eels. Titan Greg Bird and Bulldog Jamal Idris were the worst offenders with five errors each.<br><br>* The Cowboys missed the most tackles in the round, 46 all up, while the reigning wooden spoon Roosters missed just 17 to be the most effective in defence. Warrior James Maloney wears the unwanted tag of most misses with eight.<br><br>* Brisbane and the Roosters made the most line-breaks with nine each, while St George Illawarra only breached the Eels once to record the least amount of breaks. Cowboy Willie Tonga tops the individual list with three busts.