Stats Insider: Grand Final by the numbers

It doesn’t matter which team you support. It doesn’t matter what happened to them during the year; whether they were robbed, whether they were rebuilding, or whether they just flat-out weren’t good enough… we all love grand final week!

As your dedicated Stats Insider writes this column, ‘The Olympic Spirit’ by John Williams plays in the background… for anyone unfamiliar with this piece of music it is very common around finals time. Google it, play it and feel the hairs on the back of your neck tingle, and the anticipation for Sunday rise! (Of course, ‘This Is Our House’ is on high rotation too!)

Once again the big day is a sell-out. This is it! A sensational head-to-head match-up between Manly, the team that garners the least loving from other NRL fans, and the ‘interloper’ Warriors from across the ditch. This is what every milliliter of blood, sweat and tears all year, and the latter months of last year, were all about. Every one of the players involved this week deserves their place – these two teams have proven their might – but now only one squad can emerge to wear a coveted Premiership ring.

Let’s face it, we will all pick a side: whether it’s Manly because they are the Australian contingent (and yes we are aware the Warriors have an Australian coach and a handful of Aussie players); or the Warriors – because we swore never to support Manly.

You can’t but help choose a side emotionally… but what if we were to align with a side based on cold, hard numbers? If we match the two sides up against each other in their positions and compare relevant stats from this year, which unit gets the edge?

Let’s find out…

Fullback

Sea Eagles: Brett Stewart (19 games) – The Manly custodian has averaged 94 metres a match in 2011. He has 14 tries, 14 try assists, 13 line-breaks and 10 line-break assists. Add 55 tackle-breaks, seven offloads and 97 supports. He has 25 errors and has an effective tackle rate of 75.7 per cent, missing just 16 this year. He has 18 try saves.

Warriors: Kevin Locke (23 games) – The Warriors’ fullback averages 127 metres a game. Locke has scored six tries, has 10 try assists, 10 line-breaks and nine line-break assists. You can add 97 tackle-breaks, 22 offloads and 39 supports. The Kiwi has 24 errors and tackles at 77.6 per cent effectiveness. He has missed 49 tackles this season and has 20 try saves.

Verdict: Stewart gets the nod here despite tallying fewer metres, tackle-breaks and a slightly worse effective tackle percentage. Why? Well, he outpoints his rival in the key areas of tries, try assists, line-breaks and line-break assists despite playing fewer games but the big stat here is supports. Stewart is the king of being in position to receive offloads. Should one come off on Sunday – it could be the difference.

Running Score: Sea Eagles 1, Warriors 0

Wingers

Sea Eagles: Michael Robertson (20 games) & Will Hopoate (18 games) – The last time Michael Robertson played in a grand final he scored three tries while Hopoate has had a whirlwind rookie season. Robertson averages 80 metres, Hopoate 143 although it’s helped along by some games at fullback. Robertson has 11 tries and eight line-breaks plus 42 tackle-breaks and 10 errors. Hopoate has banked 14 tries, 14 line-breaks, 64 tackle-breaks and made 14 errors.

Warriors: Bill Tupou (16 games) & Manu Vatuvei (18 games) – The Warriors’ flyers will be plenty involved this weekend, especially ‘The Beast’ Vatuvei. Tupou averages 112 metres this season, Vatuvei 110. Tupou has five tries, five line-breaks, 55 tackle-breaks and 12 errors. Vatuvei has amassed 11 tries, 10 line-breaks, 62 tackle-breaks and 25 errors.

Verdict: The numbers clearly give the Sea Eagles the edge here. While Robertson’s metres are down he makes up for it elsewhere and Vatuvei’s error rate is huge concern.

Running Score: Sea Eagles 3, Warriors 0.

Centres

Sea Eagles: Jamie Lyon (24 games) & Steve Matai (21 games) – Lyon has averaged 70 metres a match, has eight tries, 15 try assists, seven line-breaks, 11 line-break assists, 59 tackle-breaks, 23 offloads and 25 errors. He tackles at 82 per cent effectiveness. Matai is tackling at 72.1 per cent effectiveness, averages 111 metres a game, has nine tries, five try assists, 15 line-breaks, four line-break assists, 76 tackle-breaks, 17 offloads and 19 errors.

Warriors: Krisnan Inu (17 games) & Lewis Brown (21 games) – Inu averages 91.6 metres, has 11 tries, one try assist, nine line-breaks, zero line-break assists, 67 tackle-breaks, 25 offloads and 23 errors. He tackles at 73.7 per cent. Brown is pumping out 107 metres, has five tries, four try assists, five line-breaks, three line-break assists, 44 tackle-breaks, 15 offloads and 15 errors. He tackles at 80.6 per cent.

Verdict: Sorry Warriors fans… It’s another whitewash to the Sea Eagles. The Manly centres have been statistically better this season although Inu has had his moments.

Running Score: Sea Eagles 5, Warriors 0.

Halves

Sea Eagles: Kieran Foran (25 games) & Daly Cherry-Evans (26 games) – Foran is averaging 62 running metres, 165 kicking metres, has eight tries, 16 try assists, five line-breaks, 13 line-break assists, 64 supports and 24 errors. He tackles at 79.6 per cent effectiveness. Cherry-Evans runs 61metres a match, kicks 369 metres, has bagged six tries, 18 try assists, eight line-breaks, nine line-break assists, 48 supports and 24 errors while tackling at 85.9 per cent.

Warriors: James Maloney (26 games) & Shaun Johnson (15 games) – Maloney is averaging 69.5 metres running, 371 metres kicking, has 10 tries, 15 try assists, 15 line-breaks, five line-break assists, 43 supports and 23 errors while tackling at 74.7 per cent. Johnson runs 67.1 metres, kicks 194 metres, has scored six tries, 17 try assists, six line-breaks, eight line-break assists, 17 supports and 15 errors. He tackles at 71 per cent effectiveness.

Verdict: There will be plenty who’ll argue this but the Warriors get on the board after taking out the halves battle. Johnson outpoints the Dally M Rookie of the Year Cherry-Evans thanks to similar or better numbers in fewer games, while Kiwi rep Foran ties Maloney in terms of ‘winning’ key categories for their position.

Running Score: Sea Eagles 5.5, Warriors 1.5

Props

Sea Eagles: Joe Galuvao (26 games) & Brent Kite (22 games) – Galuvao is averaging 34.5 minutes, 90 metres, 18.8 tackles and has three offloads and 30 tackle-breaks. He is tackling at 89.4 per cent. Kite averages 48.8 minutes, 90 metres, 25.2 tackles and has 18 offloads and 11 tackle-breaks. He is tackling at 90.7 per cent.

Warriors: Sam Rapira (20 games) & Jacob Lillyman (25 games) – Rapira is averaging 42 minutes, 89.4 metres, 24 tackles and has 16 offloads and 15 tackle-breaks. He is tackling at 86.8 per cent effectiveness. Lillyman averages 43.2 minutes, 91.8 metres, 21.5 tackles and has two offloads and 19 tackle-breaks. The Queensland Origin rep tackles at 90.6 per cent.

Verdict: Split decision. Kite’s stats are the leader of the bunch but an argument can be made that both Warriors props have Galuvao covered.

Running Score: Sea Eagles 6.5, Warriors 2.5

Hooker

Sea Eagles: Matt Ballin (26 games) – Ballin has three tries, three try assists, three line-breaks and three line-break assists plus just nine errors. He averages 75.7 minutes and 40.1 tackles and is tackling at 89.6 per cent effectiveness

Warriors: Aaron Heremaia (23 games) – The Warriors rake has two tries, one try assist, three line-breaks, one line-break assist plus 10 errors. He averages 54.4 minutes, 27.9 tackles and has an 83.7 per cent effectiveness.

Verdict: Ballin just about wins every category here in the head-to-head. Another point to Manly.

Running Score: Sea Eagles 7.5, Warriors 2.5

Second Row

Sea Eagles: Anthony Watmough (23 games) & Tony Williams (19 games) – Watmough averages 75.7 minutes, 120.2 metres, 32 tackles and has 27 offloads and 71 tackle-breaks. He is tackling at 89.1 per cent effectiveness. Williams averages 50.9 minutes, 75.6 metres, 10.3 tackles and has 17 offloads and 64 tackle-breaks. He is tackling at 80.9 per cent effectiveness.

Warriors: Feleti Mateo (27 games) & Simon Mannering (27 games) – Mateo is pumping out 63.9 minutes, 116.7 metres, 20.1 tackles with 83 offloads and 114 tackle-breaks. His effective tackle rate is 81.5 per cent. Captain Mannering is at 77.4 minutes, 81.4 metres, 31.4 tackles and has 32 offloads and 37 tackle-breaks while defending at 89.3 per cent effectiveness.

Verdict: Another split decision. Watmough takes top spot here with his high work rate, holding off Mateo who makes a big charge thanks to mountains of offloads and tackle breaks… but both the Warriors boys outpoint Williams. T-Rex isn’t a stats monster… although he does do major damage in spurts.

Running Score: Sea Eagles 8.5, Warriors 3.5

Lock

Sea Eagles: Glenn Stewart (22 games) – Stewart returns from his break averaging 76.3 minutes, 92.5 metres, 34.5 tackles with 36 offloads and 46 tackle-breaks. He tackles at 89.8 per cent.

Warriors: Micheal Luck (25 games) – Luck has managed 69.4 minutes, 41.9 metres, 39.6 tackles with 10 offloads and 12 tackle-breaks. He tackles at 93.4 per cent effectiveness.

Verdict: Stewart helps the Sydney side hammer home a significant statistical advantage.

Final Score: Sea Eagles 9.5, Warriors 3.5.

So there you have it. The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles have it all over their opponents in head-to-head stats ‘combat’. Even if we were to move onto the interchange list the Warriors couldn’t peg back the deficit. For the record, Lance Hohaia probably earns the Warriors a point but the stats from the remaining forwards on each side are comparable, reinforcing a maroon wash.

But will that be how things pan out come fulltime at 6.50pm on Sunday? Can’t wait to find out!