Examining potential NRL Supercoach scoring changes

It may be Mid-November with the Ashes not far away, but that’s no excuse to stop Supercoaching.

Last week the Daily Telegraph revealed some possible scoring categories for the 2018 season, with Supercoaches voting on which one they’d like to see included. If you haven’t seen them, the proposed changes are available here, with the current voting below from around 2,500 responses at the time of writing:

Kick that goes dead – lose points (17%)

Stolen one on one – gain points (7%)

Hold attacking player up in goal – gain points (28%)

Intercept taken – gain points (22%)

One on one tackle – gain points (26%)

The important question is how would these changes affect Supercoach scoring, if at all? The good news is that four of the five are available in the Fox Sport Lab, and below you’ll find out how they could affect your team. Unfortunately, there appears to be no published data on held up in goal that I could find, which is disappointing for the leading option.

Before we start, there’s one quick housekeeping note. The Fox Sports Lab data includes finals games so there will be some minor increases over standard Supercoach scores for some players. With that in mind, let’s have a look at how these changes could shake up Supercoach in 2018:

Kicks dead in goal (lose points) – minimal impact

The one new change that could result in losing points makes sense as the attacking team are giving up a seven tackle set starting from the 20 metre line.

Last year there were 290 kicks that went dead, with NRL Supercoach Talk favourite Josh McCrone leading the way with 10. Shaun Johnson (9), Anthony Milford (9), Mitchell Moses (8) and Daly Cherry-Evans (8) rounded out the top five.

If we look at how often the ball is kicked dead from any kick in play, it’s about 4% of the time. There are a few who have a higher incidence of kicking dead, most notably Billy Slater who put 25.7% of his 27 kicks across the dead ball line.

Examining players who had more than 30 kicks in the season, Lachlan Coote (8.2%), Josh Hodgson (8.6%), Matthew Moylan (8.0%) and John Sutton (8.8%) put it over the end line at a rate of double the average kicker. These are still low numbers however, Moylan has the most balls kicked dead from this group with 7 and Sutton only 3.

Another way to look at this is there are 192 games in an NRL regular season, meaning there is about 1.5 balls kicked dead in goal per game. Given a forced drop out resulting in an attacking set of six in the opponent’s half is worth 6 points, it is unlikely that a kick dead in goal would cost a single player more than 1-4 points. Combine that with the rate at which they happen, it’s doubtful to factor into scoring in a significant way.

Stolen one on one (gain points) – minimal impact

This is another change that will make very little change in scoring, and Supercoaches seem to understand this given its low voting total. There were only four players with multiple steals in 2017 – Tariq Sims, Josh Hodgson, Latrell Mitchell and Joe Greenwood – all with two steals.

Given there were only 35 players who even registered a stolen ball it is little wonder that this option is struggling with voters.

Intercept taken (gain points) – minimal impact

There are a few intercept merchants that could take advantage of this change – David Nofoaluma (6 intercepts in 2017), Josh Addo-Carr (4), Nick Cotric (3) and the evergreen Luke Lewis (3). With a successful intercept resulting in a full set of six, there’s a good chance this could be scoring at similar rate to forced drop outs, in the 4-6 point range.

If it was scored at six per intercept, that would result in an extra 36 Supercoach points for Nofoaluma, or an extra 1.5 per game. However, he is an extreme case, as only 21 players recorded multiple interceptions last season.

It’s a nice addition if you’re already planning on playing Nofoaluma or Addo-Carr, but if you weren’t then this isn’t going to change your strategy. With a total of 104 interceptions in total by 75 players, it’s another change with little potential impact for coaches.

One on one tackles (gain points) – moderate impact

If one on one tackles change to the same scoring pattern as modifications to hit ups and offloads (1 for regular and 2 for 8m/effective) then this could be the one to have the most impact. Extra base stats? Sign me up ASAP.

When looking over the data for this change, a few things stand out. The top defenders aren’t making a high percentage of one on one tackles, typically 7% or less. Given that most of the high work rate players are playing the middle of the field that would be expected.

Those that are making more than 10% of their tackles one on one tend to be edge forwards and halves. Looking at the top 10 for total tackles, only one player makes more than 10% of his tackles individually – Matt Gillett with 10.4%.

Gillett made 90 one on one tackles in 2017, placing him third behind Elliott Whitehead with 95 and surprisingly Daly Cherry-Evans with 92. If we assume an extra point for each one on one tackle, Gillett’s average goes from 62.3 to 66.0, Cherry-Evans from 63.9 to 67.6 and Whitehead goes from an average 54.0 to 58.1.

Whitehead’s increase of 4 Supercoach points per game represents an extra 7.6% total points over the course of a season. Price at $351k, this increase could thrust him into contention for a spot as a potential value pick for 2018.

If you’re looking for volume increases, then you may want to look at a dual hooker strategy. Peter Wallace, Api Koroisau and Cameron McInnes took spots 4, 5 and 7 for total one on one tackles behind the three mentioned above.

An interesting player who could benefit from this change is Gareth Widdop, who made an incredible 26.5% of his tackles solo. This is the highest percentage of anyone with more than 100 tackles, and could add on another 2.4 points per game to the Dragons playmaker.

This potential change does raise some interesting selection questions. At an individual level, picking Felise Kaufusi (60.0 average in 2017) over Josh McGuire (60.2) because you know the former makes twice as many one on one tackles may only result in another 30 points in a season. However, if you multiply that over 17 players, picking the right players could possibly net you another 500 points, which was the difference 1st and 2nd, or 2nd and 46th.

Attacking player held up (gain points) – undetermined impact

Without data on attacking players held up in goal, it’s impossible to say definitively which would be the most influential. It is interesting to see this as the highest vote getter so far, which leads me to wonder if it is being conflated with try saving tackles.

My gut instinct tells me that there wouldn’t be many held up situations per game, maybe slightly higher than the frequency of forced drop outs but with a lower point value (1-2). If this were the case, I would expect it to have less of an impact than a widespread change like one on one tackles.

These changes aren’t going to fundamentally change Supercoach the way 17 point tries or 1 point for hit ups less than 8 metres did. From the options above, the one on one tackle change appears to have the most influence on how you build your team.

Voting is still open at the Daily Telegraph so make sure to have your say if you haven’t already, or feel free to disagree with me in the comments below or on twitter (@carlsothedwarf_).