A quarter of your club’s season is over! Six games in and perhaps we are already seeing the wheat sorted from the chaff. Maybe the top-eight teams have been established. Perhaps the battle for the wooden spoon will be fought between the Wests Tigers, Eels and Titans… or perhaps one or all of those teams will get on a roll soon and put their poor starts behind them.
Sure it is still early days – but after six games, or a quarter of the season, a visit to the stats will reveal the key changes in your side from last year… for better, or worse. Let’s delve, shall we?
Currently 1st, 6-0 (Finished 2011 3rd)
The Storm are firing on all cylinders early. The only team not to drop a match, they look headed towards a second consecutive minor premiership such is the form of Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater particularly. They are averaging 33 points a game this year, up from 21.2 last season, or 6.2 tries a match compared to 3.6 last year. They are actually down a little on metres gained average (only barely) but are making 6.5 line-breaks a match compared to 4.2 last year.
Surprisingly they are averaging slightly fewer tackle-breaks but have improved their error count.
In defence the Storm are slightly worse off at 13.2 points conceded compared to 12.9 but they are only bested by the surprising Sharks. Melbourne are conceding fewer metres (down to 1221.8 from 1337.3) and are missing fewer tackles in 2012, just 23 a match (down from 27.5).
The bottom line: On track for the GF.
Currently 2nd, 5-1 (Finished 2011 4th)
No Darren Lockyer – no worries. Well, at least that's the case at this early stage for the Broncos, who despite obvious lapses in games, are winning. They are scoring more points (22.3 from 21.4), making more metres (1405.2 from 1391.5), more line-breaks (5 from 4) and more offloads (13.2 from 10.3).
They are making slightly more errors and a fraction fewer tackle-breaks; however in defence they are a little better, conceding fewer points, metres and offloads. They are leading the league in fewest missed tackles – the first time in recent memory they’ve been anywhere near that. They miss just 22 tackles a game compared to 32.6 last year.
The bottom line: If they can safely negotiate Origin they are top-four shoo-ins.
Currently 3rd, 4-2 (Finished 2011 9th)
The new, improved Bulldogs with Des Hasler at the helm appear to be headed back to the semi-finals in 2012 with a higher rate of scoring (21.7 points up from 18.7) and a better defence (conceding just 16 points a game down from 20.4). The Bulldogs are also making more metres (1351.7 from 1307.5) and conceding bucket-loads less metres (1352 from 1464.9) to their opposition. In 2011 they were ranked last in metres conceded so the change is significant.
They are offloading more, plus making more line-breaks and tackle-breaks. They are also ranked first in the NRL at restricting offloads now, at just 6.8 a game (down from a massive 12.8 last year) and are missing fewer tackles.
The bottom line: Des Hasler’s magic sees them ahead of schedule in their resurgence.
Currently 4th, 4-2 (Finished 2011 13th)
The biggest surprise packet early in the new season is for sure and certain the Sharks. Unbelievably, they rank first in the NRL for limiting points conceded, with just 12.8 a game – a huge change from the 23.2 they leaked last season.
But if the Sharks fans are getting ahead of themselves they should start tempering the emotions a little. They still can’t seem to score many points. They average just 14.3 a match, which is less than last year’s poor 17.8.
If they can get the playmakers really clicking, they should remain a factor as they lead the NRL in metres gained at 1499.3 (up from 1342.7). They are also up in numbers for offloads and tackle-breaks – but they are making more errors than last season while missing fewer tackles.
The bottom line: With Gallen and Carney at least set for Origin duty they’ll dip a little mid-season.
Currently 5th, 4-2 (Finished 2011 11th)
The Roosters might be the statistical anomaly in the top eight at this stage. They are conceding a few less points a match than last season (18.3 down from 20.8) but they, like the Sharks, aren’t really posting many. The Roosters have won four games averaging just 14.3 points a game, down from last year’s 17.4.
They are making more metres and tackle-breaks, conceding fewer offloads and missing more tackles – but the significant change is a heap more offloads. The Roosters lead the NRL with 14.3 offloads a match, up from 11.9 last year.
Disturbingly though they are ranked 15th for errors, the same as last season but with 14 a match they are even worse than 2011’s 12.6. Put it down to their 64 per cent completion rate – the worst in the league.
The bottom line: All it will take is a few more passes to stick for the Roosters to claim some big scalps.
Currently 6th, 3-3 (Finished 2011 15th)
The Raiders have been up and down so far this season and if they can get some injury luck might just return to the finals. They are averaging more points but more importantly are miles ahead of last year defensively. This year they’ve conceded an average 16.7 points per game which is so much better than 2011’s 26 points each week.
The next massive difference is their metres gained. The Raiders are second in the NRL right now, averaging 1441 metres – last year they were ranked dead last with just 1270 metres each week. Also, they are conceding fewer metres with 1265.8 down from 1368.
They are making more line-breaks and tackle-breaks, and fewer errors and missed tackles.
The bottom line: Campese’s organisation is crucial in driving the side downfield. If he can stay injury-free they’ll be thereabouts come September.
Currently 7th, 3-3 (Finished 2011 1st)
The reigning premiers are sitting there or thereabouts in their title defence but obviously the stats are falling from a season where they finished number one. The Sea Eagles are tallying fewer points (19.7 from 23.4) while conceding more (16.8 from 13.4).
Of concern is their metres gained, which has dropped to 1269 from 1374.6 a match in 2011. They are also conceding more metres, with their best-in-league 1277 metres in 2011 now blown out to 1337 in 2012.
Believe it or not though they are missing fewer tackles per match this season!
The bottom line: It looks like they are still finding their feet. But if their win over the Panthers is any guide it won’t be long before they match last year’s levels in attack.
Currently 8th, 3-3 (Finished 2011 8th)
Can we evaluate Wayne Bennett’s influence via the stats? The Knights finished mid-table last year and are once again mid-table. They are scoring fewer points this year – but as usual, the Bennett factor is coming through on the defensive side of things. The Knights are conceding 15.2 points per match, ranking them fourth in the league – an improvement on last season’s 18.4. They are missing 28.7 tackles a match, an improvement on 35.9.
If they can keep winning on defence, it will mask their decline in attack. Of concern is the fact their metres are down from 1400 to 1310, their line-breaks down from 4.9 to 3.3 and tackle-breaks are down from a league high 40.6 to 25.5.
The bottom line: They need to score more points or else they will battle to make the eight, even allowing for their defence. They’ll be missing Uate and possibly Buderus to Origin and with Gidley sidelined they have the job ahead.
Currently 9th, 3-3 (Finished 2011 7th)
The Cowboys are yet to really hit their straps in 2012 but with a 3-3 record they are hanging in there. Their defence and attack numbers are very similar to last year at this stage; their main variance in attack come with fewer metres gained and fewer offloads (8.7 from 11.8), as well as fewer tackle-breaks (29.8 from 38.8).
The Cowboys are committing more errors with 13 a game up from 10.7 last year.
Their improvement this season comes in offloads conceded (7.7 from 12.4) and missed tackles (27.7 from 37.2).
The bottom line: Thurston has just about worked out how to best handle the No.6 jersey. Expect their attack numbers to skyrocket in coming months.
Currently 10th, 3-3 (Finished 2011 10th)
Another team with a new coach trying to assert some defensive steel. The Rabbitohs are conceding 19.7 points a match so far, which isn’t great – but that is an improvement from the 23.4 last year. They are making a few errors less which also helps their cause but the big change comes in metres conceded – the Rabbitohs are muscling up, conceding just 1225 metres a week (down from 1424 last season).
Significantly, their missed-tackle rate is also much better, down to 26.3 from a league-high 39.9 in 2011.
The Bunnies are making more line-breaks this year with five a match up from 3.8.
The bottom line: If Michael Maguire can get his side to maintain their lower missed-tackle rate they can push for the top four.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA
Currently 11th, 3-3 (Finished 2011 6th)
The Dragons are statistically worse off just about across the board in their first post-Bennett season. But it must be said their numbers aren’t awful.
The reality is they are scoring less and allowing more points. They are making fewer metres, line-breaks, offloads and tackle-breaks and making more errors.
The only improvement stat amongst the key ones is missed tackles. The Dragons are missing 24.7 a game this season compared to 30.3 last year.
The bottom line: They need to find a way to trouble oppositions more. They can’t make the finals without Matt Cooper on the field.
Currently 12th, 2-4 (Finished 2011 12th)
With Ivan Cleary at the helm the Panthers are making more line-breaks at 4.7 a game up from 3.2 but are reeling in the offloads department, down to 9.5 from a league-leading 13.9 last year.
They are defending a little better, conceding 18.8 points a game (down from 21.5).
They are much better off in metres conceded, leading the NRL right now with 1190 a match compared to 1306 last season.
The stats are saying the Panthers should be a little better off than 2-4… perhaps their run is coming.
The bottom line: Their crunch period will come when they lose Michael Jennings and Luke Lewis to Origin.
Currently 13th, 2-4 (Finished 2011 2nd)
Last year’s runner-up have started poorly in 2012 in terms of their win-loss ratio. But they are scoring the same amount of points per game… just conceding more at 23.7 compared to 17.5 last year.
The Kiwi-based side is down on metres gained at 1233 a match (from 1369) and well down on offloads also with just 8.7 a game down from 13.8 in 2011.
A huge problem is their NRL-high 14.2 errors a game, up from 11.1 last year.
Also, the Warriors concede the second-most metres this year with 1425, up from 1326 last year. The side is missing the missed tackles at 39.2 a game – although last year they handled a 38.3 average.
The bottom line: They need to stop haemorrhaging points, and quickly.
Currently 14th, 1-5 (Finished 2011 5th)
The biggest disappointment of the season so far is undoubtedly the Wests Tigers. They were touted as premiership favourites at the beginning of the year but their form has been poor. They are actually lucky to have a win at all, after referee error helped in Round 1!
They are scoring just 15.5 points, down from 21.5, and they are conceding 23.2 points, up from 17.8.
Significantly the Tigers are making a league-low 1107 metres a week (down from 1337 last year). They are also last in the NRL for line-breaks at 2.5 a game, down from second last year at 4.8.
Their offloads are down and their tackle-breaks stand at just 21.7 (fewest in the NRL) – down from a league-leading 40.6 last year.
They are conceding 1410 metres a match, down from 1277 (second best last year) and they are missing 36.3 tackles a match, up from 32.9 last year.
The bottom line: They can say they’re a tight-knit bunch all they like but until they start to make an impression in territory, theirs will continue to be a fractured fairy tale.
Currently 15th, 1-5 (Finished 2011 16th)
They were last in 2011 and aren’t doing much better this year. Scoring just 12.1 points a match, down from 15.1, is a concern although their defence is a little better, conceding 21.3 points from 26.2.
Their limited improvement comes in metres conceded, with 1287 this year down from 1357. The rest… it’s just still not good reading.
The bottom line: Even at this stage a middle-of-the-pack finish would be a huge accomplishment.
Currently 16th, 1-5 (Finished 2011 14th)
Oh dear: the Eels’ stats don’t look great at all. Worst attack in the NRL at just 12.2 points a match. Worse than last year’s dismal 16!
And their defence is even worse. Last year they struggled, letting in 22.4 points a game… so far this year they are watching 28.2 go by, by far the most in the comp.
Their metres are down and even their offloads are down – which is no easy effort considering they were last by so far at 7.8 a game in 2011. Now they are just at 6.5.
The bottom line: It looks like a long, long final year for Nathan Hindmarsh… more’s the pity.