Stats Insider: NRL's best try-scoring strike rates
T-R-Y time! Let’s face it: as much as we respect the great feats of endurance, and the big hits and solid defence players contribute every weekend in the NRL, we simply love to see tries.
And even more to the point, we love to see star players score them – and score them often.
Last week, off the back of Billy Slater’s blistering start to the year, we delved into the greatest try-scorers in the history of the game in each position. ‘The Kid’ now has nine tries in five games in 2012 and continues to grow his status as the most prolific try-scoring fullback in history. But what about Slater’s career strike rate? Perhaps this is the real measure of a try-scoring freak.
Some players seem to score every game – so much so that Bulldogs fans go away disappointed if Ben Barba isn’t on the scoresheet. Manly fans often feel the same when Brett Stewart hasn’t dived over for at least another four-pointer.
So let’s have a look at the best of all-time, using 30 tries as a minimum requirement.
The equation is simple: tries scored, divided by games played gives you a number of how many ‘tries’ per game. You can think of it like a percentage also… if a strike rate is 0.75 then that player is 75 per cent likely to score in each game they play… not bad.
Best Strike Rate All-Time *
1. Les Brennan: 32 tries from 24 games = 1.33
2. Harold Horder: 152 tries from 136 games = 1.12
3. Johnny Graves: 79 tries from 77 games = 1.03
4. Reg Gasnier: 127 tries from 125 games = 1.02
5. Fred Tottey: 77 tries from 76 games = 1.01
=6. Alan Ridley: 64 tries from 64 games = 1.00
=6. Ron Roberts: 51 tries from 51 games = 1.00
=6. Jack Troy: 38 tries from 38 games = 1.00
=6. Bob Lulham: 85 tries from 85 games = 1.00
10. Dave Brown: 93 tries from 94 games = 0.99
What an impressive list… all but Dave Brown averaging at least a try a match and Brown was just a whisker off doing the same.
Here is a little bit of information about the top five.
Les Brennan was a winger who played for South Sydney in 1954 and 1955. He proved to be a try-scoring phenomenon in his debut season when he scored 29 of his 32 tries. It still ranks as the record for most tries in a debut year and is third on the all-time list for tries in a season. (He obviously wasn’t as prolific in season two but nonetheless Rabbitohs fans must have loved watching him.)
One could argue the true number one and real try-scoring king was Harold Horder.
He stayed above a try a game for 136 games – now that’s a record.
Horder is still regarded as one of the game’s best ever wingers, having played for South Sydney and North Sydney between 1912 and 1924.
He was the top try-scorer in 1913, 1914 and 1917 and by all reports made slashing tries from distance seem easy.
Johnny Graves was another Rabbitohs star winger, playing from 1947 to 1952. He proved a great ‘partner in crime’ for Clive Churchill and to this day holds the grand final try-scoring record after touching down four times in 1951. He scored 28 tries that year, equal fourth-best in one season.
Reg Gasnier deserves special mention for maintaining his rate over nine seasons (1959-’67) with St George. ‘Puff’ the Magic Dragon, an immortal of the game, would cut opposition teams to shreds time and again. He also scored 15 tries in 16 games for New South Wales and while his 26 in 39 Tests for Australia isn’t as prolific, it’s also legendary.
Fred Tottey played for Eastern Suburbs on the wing from 1930-’37. Such was his dominance in scoring he went 15 games in a row scoring at least one try – still a record.
So there you have the all-time list, obviously dominated by the guys from yesteryear. Glean from that what you wish – we know it was a different game – but the reality is their achievements are brilliant.
But what of our current stars? Who leads the way?
Best Strike Rate Current Players *
1. Brett Stewart: 115 tries from 143 games = 0.80
2. Akuila Uate: 54 tries from 72 games = 0.75
3. Ben Barba: 43 tries from 58 games = 0.74
4. Brett Morris: 77 tries from 112 games = 0.69
=5. Nathan Merritt: 123 tries from 181 games = 0.68
=5. Manu Vatuvei: 93 tries from 137 games = 0.68
=7. Billy Slater: 133 tries from 208 games = 0.64
=7. Timana Tahu: 110 tries from 171 games = 0.64
=7. David Williams: 35 tries from 55 games = 0.64
=10. Shaun Kenny-Dowall: 68 tries from 108 games: 0.63
=10. Matt King: 60 tries from 96 games = 0.63
Illawarra product but Manly star Brett Stewart is the greatest of the modern players when it comes to strike rate. He is 14 per cent more likely to score a try each game than Slater and holds an 80 per cent chance overall. Impressive stuff!
Whether or not he maintains top spot remains to be seen, with the likes of Uate and Barba behind him. Both have played far fewer games but already appear to have ‘spiders’ on them sometimes, as opposition teams can’t seem to get a hand on them.
The surprises on the list are perhaps Tahu, Williams and King. Tahu and King were prolific as youngsters but after time away from the sport were perhaps a little forgotten. To remain this high on the list is quite an effort. ‘Wolfman’ Williams is ahead of the likes of Greg Inglis (0.62), Josh Morris (0.62), Michael Jennings (0.60), Jarryd Hayne (0.53) and Matt Bowen (0.50) – all known try-scorers.
Matt Duffie gets a special mention in the current player list. With just 24 tries he doesn’t make the minimum requirements but has a 0.65 strike rate. And Souths rookie Andrew Everingham is at 1.33! But he has four tries from just three games.
Now, just for a bit of fun, what about the other end of the scales? Which current players seem to NEVER score?
Scott Anderson has played 67 games without a ‘meat pie’. Mitchell Dodds is at 36 games, while Joel Edwards (31), Mitchell Allgood (28), Ricky Thorby (22), Ben Ridge (19), Atelea Vea (19), Ryan James (18), Tinirau Arona (18) and Matt Groat (15) all still on the duck egg after more than a handful of games.
Matthew Bell has one try in 114 games, Matthew White one in 101 games and Tim Mannah one in 78 games to be batting 0.01, while Bryce Gibbs has them covered with three tries from 157 games to be 0.02.
Former Bulldog Mark Brokenshire holds the record for the most premiership games without a try. His career of 103 games failed to net a single try-scoring celebration… but no doubt plenty of ‘nudie runs’!