Stats Insider: Why defence will win the 2010 title

The common saying is defence wins the big matches – and generally this is true. If your team doesn’t have their defensive line in order come this time of year, the chances of being the side to hoist the premiership trophy are slim to nil. <br><br>Consider this: The past four grand final-winning sides averaged somewhere between 11.5 and 16.3 points scored against them during the regular season of their triumphant year. <br><br>Over the past 11 seasons, since the introduction of the McIntyre final-eight system, the average mark for the grand final-winning side defensively sits at 17.8 points conceded.<br><br>If we use this mark of 17.8 only St George Illawarra and the Eels have the goods defensively to win the title in 2010. <br><br>With just an average of 10.6 points conceded each game so far this season, the Dragons are by far the defensive standouts. <br><br>Melbourne, with an average 15.8 points conceded also fit in this window, but with zero chance of featuring in this season’s grand final, the Dragons and Eels appear the teams to beat. <br><br>The Panthers and Wests Tigers are the closest teams with a chance to pull under the ‘championship’ average over the last eight games in 2010, with 18.8 and 20.1 points respectively per match currently put past them. <br><br>The Sea Eagles (20.4), Broncos (20.7), Bulldogs (20.8) and Rabbitohs (20.9) are also potentially just a few tough defensive displays away from getting in the grid. <br><br>But fans of the other sides need not give up hope just yet – over these past 11 seasons, some premiers have gotten away with brittle regular-season defence.<br>&nbsp;<br>The 2001 Knights side is the biggest case in point – they conceded an average 24.6 points to be the ‘worst’ defensive premier in the time span.<br><br>And the 2005 Wests Tigers… well, they got the job done despite allowing an average 24 points by them a match. <br><br>If teams want to use this as a guide, every side barring the Cowboys is still defensively good enough to get themselves some premiership bling!<br><br>However, this is certainly the exception rather than the rule. And it must be noted that in 2001 the Knights’ defence conceded just 13.3 points a game in the finals and the 2005 Tigers just 10 points a game.<br>&nbsp;<br>What about the flipside? What have title-winning teams averaged in attack over the past 11 seasons?<br><br>The lowest average for a grand final-winning team in terms of points scored in a regular season goes to the 2006 Broncos, who posted just 20.7 points each week.<br><br>In 2010, eight sides are above this average.<br><br>The Panthers lead the way this season with an average 25.7 points scored but they are closely followed by the free-flowing Rabbitohs at 25.3 points per match.<br>&nbsp;<br>The Broncos (22.4), Dragons (22.2), Roosters (22.2) and Sea Eagles (22) are all very evenly matched offensively at this time, and the Warriors (21.3) and Titans (21.3) also are above the ‘low’ mark of the past 11 years. <br><br>But if you average out the past 11 premiership winners, the mark is at 26.5 – and not one side is currently at this level.<br><br>The 2010 attacking standard is well below the highs of the 2004 Bulldogs, who piled on 31.7 points a game, or the 2001 Knights who were at 30.1. <br><br>What does all of this tell us? Well, the 2010 season looks like a defensive one, sending us back to the beginning of this column – defence will win the big matches both in the run home, and in the finals.<br>&nbsp;<br>The Dragons, Eels and Panthers have set a pretty good standard so far this year but the rest of the sides need to lift over the next two months, or face oblivion.<br>&nbsp;<br>It’s all well and good to throw in one great defensive performance – the Warriors last weekend certainly come to mind – but to be truly great teams need to be consistently tough to break. <br><br>Mathematically all sides but Melbourne can still make the top eight and with Rivalry Round kick-starting the run home, we are in for a real treat as the pecking order is established.<br><br>Those looking for momentum need to start the climb NOW. <br><br>Average Points Against<br>DRAGONS: 10.6<br>STORM: 15.8<br>EELS: 17.6<br>PANTHERS: 18.8<br>WESTS TIGERS: 20.1<br>SEA EAGLES: 20.4<br>BRONCOS: 20.7<br>BULLDOGS: 20.8<br>RABBITOHS: 20.9<br>RAIDERS: 21.9<br>TITANS: 22<br>ROOSTERS: 22.1<br>WARRIORS: 22.4<br>KNIGHTS: 23.1<br>SHARKS: 23.6<br>COWBOYS: 27.1<br><br>Average Points For<br>PANTHERS: 25.7<br>RABBITOHS: 25.3<br>BRONCOS: 22.4<br>DRAGONS: 22.2<br>ROOSTERS: 22.2<br>SEA EAGLES: 22<br>TITANS: 21.3<br>WARRIORS: 21.3<br>STORM: 20.8<br>WESTS TIGERS: 20.6<br>BULLDOGS: 20.3<br>KNIGHTS: 19.9<br>COWBOYS: 18.1<br>RAIDERS: 16.2<br>EELS: 15.4<br>SHARKS: 14.2