Revealed: the NRL's forward defensive heroes
Last week we revealed the defensive stars of the NRL’s backlines – this week we get down and dirty in the numbers of those in the engine rooms.
Defending in the forwards is a whole different beast. For starters, you have to make more tackles. Sure, you probably get help from your mates more often than not, but tackling under the duress of fatigue is no easy activity.
Most of our props, hookers and locks defend in tight. They need to be adept at identifying when they need to be the ‘a’ defender and they need to be effective in this position. (The ‘a’ defender is the player closest to the play-the-ball excluding markers). They also need to be good marker defenders, able to move laterally at just the right pace – or else a clever opposition hooker will change an angle on them and have them helpless on their heels.
Those on the fringes, usually our second-rowers, often have to tackle one on one – which is a much harder prospect. They also have to read play and decoys more often.
So here’s a reminder of the math we use to find the competition’s best defenders: in order to get an effective tackling percentage we subtract the misses and ineffective tackles from the total number of tackles a player has attempted. We then divide the total number of attempts by this lower number (minus the misses and ineffective tackles) to arrive at their effective tackling percentage.
(For the record, ineffective tackles include those where a player just hangs on late, flops in, doesn't restrict on offload, and things of this nature – in other words, their involvement was deemed ‘ineffective’.)
Again, to be fair, we will only compare guys playing in their designated positions.
Last week we unearthed quite a few players who have proven to be punching above their weight when you factor in their contract dollars… will we find a batch of these value-for-money tackling machines amongst the forwards?
We’ll rank the first-choice players in each position at your club, with a few others who may also warrant inclusion.
Rabbitohs prop Scott Geddes recently announced he’s giving away the game at season’s end – but if these statistics are anything to go by, perhaps the bunnies will try to convince him to stay on. A no-nonsense prop, Geddes has been defensively outstanding to lead the NRL at 95.8% effective. Geddes has missed just three tackles this entire season in his 12 games… phenomenal stuff! You can be sure his contract value isn’t anywhere near that of some of his big-name team-mates; and without him the Rabbitohs would certainly be worse off.
A handful of bench props find themselves up high on the list – no doubt due to the fact they play fewer minutes so are less likely to be fatigued – but another special mention, this time to Sharks bookend Ben Ross who sits at 93.9% effective. This is a guy who broke his neck not so long ago! And of course stalwart Petero Civoniceva: he’s confirming the engine degreaser he sprays on his knees after every game (true story… we’ll recount it for you when we dissect the great man’s career in detail later in the year) is still working – he’s defending at an awesome 93.8% effective and putting plenty of younger props to shame. The big-name surprises near the back end of this group include Kade Snowden, who hasn’t come even close to earning his pay cheque at the Knights this year; Keith Galloway, who was in the Origin frame this year again; and Bulldog Sam Kasiano who has been the talk of Queensland Origin eligibility for a few weeks. Sea Eagle George Rose rounds out the group… perhaps why he’s had his large stint out of the top grade this year.
Scott Geddes (Rabbitohs) 95.8%; Brenton Lawrence (Titans) 95.4%; Vic Mauro (Sea Eagles) 94.4%; Junior Moors (Wests Tigers) 94.1%; Matt White (Titans) 94%; Siosaia Vave (Storm) 94%; Ben Ross (Sharks) 93.9%; Petero Civoniceva (Broncos) 93.8%; Bryan Norrie (Storm) 93.8%; Michael Henderson (Titans) 93.8%; Mark Taufua (Sharks) 93.6%; James Graham (Bulldogs) 93.5%; Tim Grant (Panthers) 93.3%; Aiden Tolman (Bulldogs) 93.1%; Jason Ryles (Storm) 92.8%; Josh McGuire (Broncos) 92.8%; Dayne Weston (Panthers) 92.7%; Tinirau Arona (Roosters) 92.6%; Sione Lousi (Warriors) 92.6%; Andrew Fifita (Sharks) 92.3%; Brett White (Raiders) 92.2%; Matthew Bell (Wests Tigers) 92.1%; Ben Hannant (Broncos) 91.8%; Sam Mataora (Raiders) 91.7%; Matt Scott (Cowboys) 91.6%; Chris Armit (Panthers) 91.6%; James Tamou (Cowboys) 91.5%; Mose Masoe (Roosters) 91.5%; Ray Cashmere (Wests Tigers) 91.5%; Roy Asotasi (Rabbitohs) 91.5%; Mitchell Allgood (Eels) 91.4%; Martin Kennedy (Roosters) 91.1%; Tim Mannah (Eels) 91.1%; David Shillington (Raiders) 91%; Bryce Gibbs (Sharks) 91%; Aaron Woods (Wests Tigers) 91%; Adam Cuthbertson (Knights) 91%; Brent Kite (Sea Eagles) 90.9%; Jason King (Sea Eagles) 90.7%; Michael Weyman (Dragons) 90.6%; Luke Bailey (Titans) 90.3%; Russell Packer (Warriors) 09.3%; Trent Merrin (Dragons) 90.2%; Jacob Lillyman (Warriors) 90.2%; Luke Douglas (Titans) 90.2%; Ashton Sims (Cowboys) 90.1%; Leeson Ah Mau (Dragons) 90%; Sam McKendry (Panthers) 89.9%; Darcy Lussick (Sea Eagles) 89.8%; Fuifui Moimoi (Eels) 89.6%; Evarn Tuimavave (Knights) 89.6%; Jesse Bromwich (Storm) 89.5%; Justin Poore (Eels) 89.5%; Dave Tyrrell (Rabbitohs) 89.3%; Jeremy Latimore (Dragons) 89.1%; Ben Lowe (Rabbitohs) 89%; Ben Matulino (Warriors) 88.9%; Sam Rapira (Warriors) 88.8%; Dan Hunt (Dragons) 88.8%; Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters) 88.1%; Ben Murdoch-Masila (Wests Tigers) 88.1%; Dane Tilse (Raiders) 88%; Kade Snowden (Knights) 87.7%; Keith Galloway (Wests Tigers) 87.7%; Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Raiders) 87.2%; Willie Mason (Knights) 86.9%; Sam Kasiano (Bulldogs) 86.9%; Lama Tasi (Roosters) 86.5%; Ricky Thorby (Cowboys) 86.1%; Frank-Paul Nuuausala (Roosters) 83.8%; George Rose (Sea Eagles) 82.5%.
Defending in the second row is different for many guys, as some defend a little wider, while others camp in tight. Whatever, leading the way is Dragons rookie Jack De Belin who is effective 93.5% of the time. He pips out Eels veteran Nathan Hindmarsh at 93.2% who, despite being nearly 32, is seriously still a freak. To be able to do as much work as he does and still be this effective defensively is reason enough to erect a statue in his home town Robertson. Hindmarsh has probably retained a similar effectiveness over his entire career and age hasn’t worn down his spirit and work ethic – nor have the Eels’ poor results. Sam Thaiday is up high on this list at 92.7%. He’s often thought of as an attacking force but his defence has been rock solid this season.
The huge news amongst the second-rowers is the last eight names… all representative players who no doubt command big money (some more than others) but who aren’t up to scratch defensively. Adam Blair, Anthony Watmough, David Taylor, Alex Glenn, Greg Bird, Matt Gillett, Tariq Sims and Tony Williams are the worst defensive second-rowers in the NRL. Granted, they are predominantly attacking players… but surely they can’t be happy with this revelation? I wonder how the toilers making half as much money at some teams feel every time one of these boys misses a tackle that leads to a try? Or perhaps the happy trade-off is that they set up more than they concede? Fans should hope so.
Jack De Belin (Dragons) 93.5%; Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) 93.2%; Kevin Proctor (Storm) 92.8%; Sam Thaiday (Broncos) 92.7%; Luke O’Dwyer (Titans) 92.5%; Rory Kostjasyn (Storm) 92.4%; Ryan Hinchcliffe (Storm) 92.3%; Jeremy Smith (Sharks) 92.3%; Joe Picker (Raiders) 92%; Liam Fulton (Wests Tigers) 92%; Dean Young (Dragons) 91.6%; Jake Marketo (Dragons) 91.3%; Joel Thompson (Raiders) 91.1%; Chris McQueen (Rabbitohs) 91.1%; Simon Mannering (Warriors) 91%; Cameron Ciraldo (Panthers) 90.7%; Glenn Hall (Cowboys) 90.3%; Gavin Cooper (Cowboys) 90.3%; Beau Scott (Dragons) 90.1%; Sika Manu (Storm) 90.1%; Matthew Ryan (Eels) 90%; Corey Payne (Bulldogs) 89.9%; Elijah Taylor (Warriors) 89.9%; Mitch Aubusson (Roosters) 89.7%; Ryan Hoffman (Storm) 89.5%; Ryan Simpkins (Panthers) 89.5%; Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys) 89.4%; Joe Galuvao (Sea Eagles) 89.3%; Jamie Buhrer (Sea Eagles) 89.3%; Taniela Lasalo (Eels) 89.2%; Danny Galea (Panthers) 89%; Daniel Harrison (Sea Eagles) 88.8%; Joseph Paulo (Eels) 88.8%; Eddy Pettybourne (Rabbitohs) 88.7%; Chris Houston (Knights) 88.6%; Matt Prior (Dragons) 88.4%; Frank Pritchard (Bulldogs) 88.3%; Jason Clark (Rabbitohs) 88.3%; Josh Papalii (Raiders) 88.2%; Nate Myles (Titans) 88.1%; Clint Newton (Panthers) 88%; Ben Ridge (Titans) 87.8%; Dene Halatau (Bulldogs) 87.8%; Ben Creagh (Dragons) 87.6%; Bronson Harrison (Raiders) 87.3%; Gareth Ellis (Wests Tigers) 87%; Anthony Tupou (Sharks) 86.7%; Sam Tagataese (Sharks) 86.5%; Alex McKinnon (Knights) 86.2%; Jayson Bukuya (Sharks) 86%; Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs) 86%; Lewis Brown (Warriors) 85.7%; Ukuma Ta’ai (Warriors) 85.6%; Ben Te’o (Broncos) 85.6%; Mark Minichiello (Titans) 85.4%; Zeb Taia (Knights) 85.3%; Bodene Thompson (Titans) 85.3%; Aiden Guerra (Roosters) 85.2%; Adam Blair (Wests Tigers) 85%; Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles) 84.9%; David Taylor (Rabbitohs) 84.7%; Alex Glenn (Broncos) 83.9%; Greg Bird (Titans) 83.3%; Matt Gillett (Broncos) 81.2%; Tariq Sims (Cowboys) 79.7%; Tony Williams (Sea Eagles) 76.7%.
He no longer plays 80 minutes but Bulldog David Stagg is still a defensive dynamo at 93.9% effective. It’s no surprise to see Dallas Johnson also high on the list; however, Mick Crocker in second place was unexpected. Crocker is a hard hitter and tough as nails, but he’s proving he’s reliable as well. Unfortunately the western Sydney lock forwards are seriously letting down their teams. Luke Lewis is ineffective almost 15% of the time for the Panthers and Reni Maitua is even worse at 20% ineffective for the Eels – in other words, he is a speed hump one in five times.
David Stagg (Bulldogs) 93.9%; Mick Crocker (Rabbitohs) 91.6%; Dallas Johnson (Cowboys) 90.6%; Corey Parker (Broncos) 90%; Todd Lowrie (Storm) 89.7%; Paul Gallen (Sharks) 89.5%; Brad Takairangi (Roosters) 89.5%; Shaun Fensom (Raiders) 89.4%; Ashley Harrison (Titans) 88.9%; Neville Costigan (Knights) 88.8%; Feleti Mateo (Warriors) 88.3%; Glenn Stewart (Sea Eagles) 88.1%; Chris Heighington (Wests Tigers) 87.9%; Greg Eastwood (Bulldogs) 86.9%; Joel Edwards (Knights) 86.4%; Boyd Cordner (Roosters) 86.3%; Luke Lewis (Panthers) 85.1%; Reni Maitua (Eels) 80.1%.
A little ray of sunshine for the struggling Eels is hooker Matt Keating, whose grit sees him lead the NRL’s dummy-halves in effective tackling. At 93.9% effective, he can hold his head very high indeed – especially considering his size and the fact he is asked to do plenty of work. Not to mention his presumably comparative lower pay packet. Right behind him is Storm, Queensland and Australian captain Cameron Smith. What can’t this guy do? His attack is sublime, he defends like a machine, his kicking game is priceless… and he kicks goals. Smith is worth every cent of whatever they’re paying him. Young hookers Andrew McCullough and Matt Srama are proving their worth early in their careers. However, Issac Luke is surely aware his defence could use a little work. To be fair, most of the NRL’s hookers are doing fine defensively, with no real strugglers. Ben Hunt of the Broncos could do a little better, although he gets limited game time. Shaun Berrigan’s figures have declined over the years, although he’s also moving from position to position which can skew his numbers.
Matthew Keating (Eels) 93.9%; Cameron Smith (Storm) 93.7%; Andrew McCullough (Broncos) 93.3%; Matt Srama (Titans) 92.8%; Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers) 91.5%; Kevin Kingston (Panthers) 89.9%; Joel Romelo (Bulldogs) 89.7%; Danny Buderus (Knights) 89.4%; Matt Ballin (Sea Eagles) 89.4%; Nathan Peats (Rabbitohs) 89.3%; Travis Waddell (Raiders) 89.1%; Jake Friend (Roosters) 89.1%; Mitch Rein (Dragons) 89.1%; Nathan Fien (Dragons) 89%; Aaron Payne (Cowboys) 88.8%; Matt Hilder (Knights) 88.6%; Nathan Friend (Warriors) 88.6%; Michael Ennis (Bulldogs) 88.3%; Glen Buttriss (Raiders) 88.6%; Isaac DeGois (Sharks) 87.5%; Issac Luke (Rabbitohs) 86.9%; James Segeyaro (Cowboys) 86.3%; Shaun Berrigan (Raiders) 84.6%; Ben Hunt (Broncos) 83.2%.
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