Stat to Fix: Broncos need to give Oates some help

Plenty went right for Brisbane in 2018 with some brilliant young forwards unearthed and their halves making big strides but after an unceremonious exit in week one of the finals and a new coach heading into 2019, on obvious area of improvement is their outside backs.

The Telstra Premiership season just gone could best be described as 'fair' for the men from Red Hill; they were widely tipped to find a place somewhere in the bottom half of the eight and they duly managed that but got no further.

Winger Corey Oates had a wonderful year; desperately unlucky not to be picked for the first two Origins (but victorious in his only outing in Game Three) he piled on the metres for the Broncos at 152 per game and racked up 18 tries including one of the most incredible put-downs of the year.

His opposite man Jamayne Isaako had an excellent rookie season with 88 goals and 217 points and a couple of match-winning players.

Unfortunately for Brisbane, Isaako's 100 metres per game made him the only other Broncos backline regular to average 100 metres per match with NRL.com Stats finding every other NRL club had at least two, and in many cases four or five, backline regulars who averaged over 100 metres (for this analysis a 'regular' is a player who played at least five NRL matches in the 2018 regular season).

By position, Brisbane finished 15th or 16th in the NRL for metres gained for three of the back five slots, 12th for right wing but first on Oates's left wing.

To highlight how much Brisbane relied on Oates for backline impetus, Isaako's 100 metres per game was a distant last in the NRL for a 'second best' backline metre-eater.

Premiers the Roosters had James Tedesco's 192 per game as second best behind Blake Ferguson's 205 to be miles clear of the pack but there were three further clubs – Wests Tigers (David Nofoaluma and Mahe Fonua), Manly (Tom Trbojevic and Jorge Taufua) and the Warriors (Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Ken Maumalo) that had two players averaging over 150.

The Panthers and Dragons each had a second-best backline metre man with over 140 per match while the Raiders, Dogs, Rabbitohs, Eels and Titans each had at least two outside backs gaining over 130 metres per match. Of the remainder, the Knights, Storm, Sharks and Cowboys all had their second-best back making more than 120 per week with Antonio Winterstein's 120 landing 15th in the NRL but still well clear of Isaako's 100.

Four clubs – the Rabbitohs, Warriors, Dragons, Wests Tigers – had all five backline regulars averaging over 100 metres per game.

Right-side centre James Roberts is now an Origin player and while he was carrying injuries through much of 2018, Brisbane probably need more than 88 metres per game from a player with his calibre of running game.

Skipper Darius Boyd is clearly more of a ball-player than a huge yardage player but at just 97 per game (more than a third of those on kick returns) he lags the other top-level fullbacks by a distance.

Left centre was an ongoing issue for Brisbane with Kahu managing just half a season due to injury and the likes of Jack Bird and Tom Opacic among those getting a few games apiece.

The end result for Brisbane was close to an all-or-nothing reliance on Oates for early-set charges; Broncos fans will be hoping an injury-free Roberts can elevate his club form in 2019 while Kahu faces immense pressure from the likes of Jack Bird and Kotoni Staggs for a starting spot.