Ali Brigginshaw and Amy Turner celebrate the Broncos' back-to-back titles.

Improved defence, kicking efficiency and discipline highlighted the second NRL Holden Women's Premiership in 2019.

The quality of the game has always been a key factor for the NRLW's organisers ahead of any possible talk of expansion for the four-team competition.  

NRL.com crunched the numbers to compare the on-field performances of the 2019 season and last year's inaugural competition.

The results revealed an overall improvement across all four NRLW teams with an increase in most key statistical areas despite a decrease in points scored overall.

"I think we could've pre-empted this because of the quality of player that was around and depth that was in each squad has improved," Dragons coach Daniel Lacey told NRL.com. 

"Looking at the Warriors I was impressed with how they came together. We knew the depth in all squads would make it a tougher season. 

"Everyone was training harder to get fitter and find one percent options to be better, whereas you could be brutal last year and bash the [other] team up and be done with it. 

"Brisbane did that with a lot of line speed and strength. Injuries were down so you've got more consistency there.

"It's a characteristic I've seen that girls are able to sustain longevity in the season and coping with the higher level." 

Big improvers

Defence

The missed tackle count showed a significant improvement in defence in 2019 with the overall total of 377 (an average of 26.9 per team per game) down by 33.8% on last season, despite an additional 150 tackles being made across the competition this year. 

This result delivered an 89.6% tackle efficiency rate average across all clubs, up by 5% on the inaugural season.

The Broncos shed 63 tackles from their missed tackle count of 160 from last year, while the Roosters (2019 average of 26.6 per game) and Dragons (2019 average of 24.2 per game) almost cut their numbers in half from their 2018 figures. 

Roosters prop Vanessa Foliaki (97%), Warriors captain Georgia Hale (96.5%), Karyn Murphy medallist Annette Brander (94.5%) and Dragons hooker Brittany Breayley (92%) were their respective side's best defenders in terms of tackle efficiency with a minimum of 50 tackles made.

"That's going to counterbalance your points scored because the defence is better," Lacey said. 

"It's a big figure and a testament to the growth and development that's in the game. 

"Defensive structures are strong and teams are reading the attack a lot better."

Kicking in general play

The kicking games from the primary playmakers made inroads with total kick metres climbing 23% overall on last year's figure (3401m). 

Warriors playmaker Charntay Poko (1119.7m) and Dragons half Maddie Studdon (788.7m) finished in the top two for kick metres with Broncos skipper Ali Brigginshaw (671.9m) and Roosters five-eighth Kirra Dibb (447.8m) the best for their respective clubs.

"It's still a big issue in the game," Lacey said.

"It's got better but you take two or three players out of that and the figures will be down. 

"It's a niche market where there's not many girls around that are consistent with it. Every coach needs a decent kicker and it's something we all need to work on in improving.

"The 40/30 option also wasn't really in the game and not something we were concerned about, you wouldn't do your training session around defending them until we saw Charntay kicking one in the first round."

Kick pressure also came into play with an additional 100 attempts at pressuring kickers taking place across the four teams in 2019. 

Brigginshaw and Dragons skipper Kezie Apps applied the most kick pressure plays with 13 each. 

Second-phase play

Offloads increased by 40% in 2019 with 77 offloads across seven games. 

The Broncos finished with an average of 7.25 per outing, an improvement of three offloads per game in their title defending season. 

Broncos stalwart Stephanie Hancock led the way with a competition-high seven offloads. 

St George Illawarra were the biggest improvers overall with 24 offloads after managing just nine last year. 

"It used to be, just tuck it under your wing and be safe but we're encouraging the girls that they're free to offload if they want to," Lacey said.

"You need to take more risks against a retreating defensive line. It's a good sign that even though the defence is better there was still a decent rise in offloads."

Holding steady

Basic areas like total runs, running metres and post-contact metres had small increases but remained on par with last year's efforts overall.

The Broncos finished front runners for yardage with 1193.1 per game with St George Illawarra (1122m), the Roosters (973.2m) and Warriors (965.4m) all behind. 

Dragons trio Maitua Feterika (568.1m), Botille Vette-Welsh (541.7m) and Jessica Sergis (527.6m) finished in the NRLW's top three for yardage. 

Feterika was also the competition's best in post-contact with a 49.4 metre average per game, closely followed by Roosters centre Isabelle Kelly on 48.2m and Millie Boyle (43.3m).

Boyle (173.1m) and Broncos teammate Amber Hall (149.1m) dominated as a front-row combination for the season.

One-on-one tackles, dummy-half runs and one-on-one steals also produced fairly similar numbers across the two seasons. 

Warriors centre Jules Newman topped the competition with eight one-on-one tackles while Krystal Rota was best around the ruck with 24 runs from dummy half to generate 169.5 dummy-half metres for the season. 

Errors increased by two from the 2018 season with the Warriors averaging a competition-low 6.7 per game. 

Sergis (6) and Kelly (5) finished in the top two for most errors. 

Scoring takes a dip

Certain areas of the season were down statistically this year including tries and points scored with defensive efforts taking over. 

The Broncos generated 114 points in attack during their first premiership-winning season but were limited to just 72 in their second year.

St George Illawarra improved on their attack with 60 points in 2019 but the Warriors and Roosters were down on last year.

"The girls have to learn more on the run in their attack and how to exploit different areas of the field," Lacey said.

"That's what happened to us in the grand final, we went in with a game plan that didn't work early and just couldn't adjust to what the Broncos were throwing at us.

"The girls have got to learn to play eyes-up football and can see what's in front, isolate someone and make the right decision. 

"It sounds easy but it's not, you need other people around you to do a job. At this level good players get better by doing that."

Dragons halfback Maddie Studdon was the leading point-scorer over the seven games with 16 points with Dally M medallist Jessica Sergis finishing on top of the try-scoring list with three.