Are Manly the third legitimate grand final contender ? – NRL Round 24 2021 stats and trends

Last weekend’s fiery Souths/Roosters clash seemed to strike a line through the Rabbitohs chances as a grand final outsider with the lengthy suspension (but not send off) of Latrell Mitchell. Parramatta meanwhile performed one of the cruelest acts that could be inflicted on an already traumatised fanbase – they gave them hope.

Here at the Eye Test, we’d already struck a line through Eels for being perennial finals disappointments, Souths due to their defense, the latter of which I’ll expand on this later. Most teams had a line put through them by myself this season, and not just because they’ve had 50 points put on them. One team that hasn’t been completely eliminated from contention in my view (yet) is Manly.

Why Manly? I’ll get to that later but let’s first set the stage for how obscene this season has been for the top teams.

The first chart this week is a plot of average points scored and conceded for all NRL era teams (1998 onwards), with 2021 seasons highlighted in red. Credit to friend of the site Rugby League Analytics who had the idea for this chart first, showing results for English teams.

The chart is set up into four quadrants to group teams, defined by the average points scored in a game this season (21.4). The top left “bad defense/bad attack”, the top right “good attack/bad defense”, the bottom left “bad defense/good attack” and finally the bottom right showing “good defense/good attack”.

If you’re scoring above 21.4 per game and conceding less than that, you’re in the “good attack/good defense quadrant”. If you’re scoring more than 21.4, but also conceding more, then you’re in the “bad defense/good attack” quadrant. It’s a quick way of visualising what the basic strengths and weaknesses are for teams and seeing how they compare historically.

Looking at this year’s numbers, it’s painfully obvious just how ridiculous this season has been. Not only is Penrith historically great defensively, Souths have the second highest points for average since 1998 and Manly have the fifth. This doesn’t even count Melbourne averaging 2 points per game higher than the previous best mark for attack and sitting as an incredible outlier.

Those of you noticing where Manly is will be wondering why I haven’t ruled them out if I’ve ruled out Souths, who sit in a better position. The answer lies if I filter the same chart for Rounds 6-24, instead of the whole season, as seen below with the current season shown in red.

When looking post Round 6, Souths become an average defensive team despite putting a lot of points on the board. Last year I posted a similar piece showing that teams outside the “good defense/good attack” quadrant rarely make the grand final let alone win it, which is why I’d be putting a line through Souths after looking at this. On their best day they can put points on anyone, even without Mitchell. But they’ve shown this season that keeping teams from scoring hasn’t been their forte, which will become a larger issue in September.

Secondly, it’s no surprise that Melbourne are again a staggering outlier, even more so than on the previous chart, outscoring opponents 3 to 1 during this period. I feel like sometimes we almost take it for granted how dominant Melbourne are, this chart does a great job at highlighting just how far ahead of everyone else they are.

And then there’s Manly. For as dominant as Melbourne has been, the Sea Eagles are right up there over this period. It’s been obvious how easily the Sea Eagles have been scoring points Round 6 when Tom Trbojevic returned and other changes were made (Haumole Olakau’atu playing his first game of the season for example), but not a lot of focus has been on how difficult they’ve been to score on.

From Round 6, Manly has scored 36.2 points per game but only conceded 16.9, third in the competition behind the Storm and Panthers. It’s incredible to see the turnaround one player can make, but it would be disrespectful to ignore the job Des Hasler has done with what many considered a team lacking talent.

It’s an indication (from my perspective at least) that it took Hasler just over a month that the new “normal” in the NRL required some changes to his game plan, something that other coaches seem reluctant to admit.

Using one of my favourite charts, If you compare margin versus net set restarts (awarded minus conceded) over the same rounds, you’ll see that Melbourne and Manly are playing the same game and everyone else is lagging behind.

Another thing to note from the previous chart is that there’s no team sitting in the “good defense/bad attack” quadrant this season and three teams in the “bad defense/good attack” quadrant. One of the teams in that latter quadrant, the Wests Tigers, are having the third worst defensive season of any team scoring above league average, only behind the 2003/2004 Manly sides.

I know what you’re thinking – all perfectly normal.

It’s still hard to talk myself into anyone other than Melbourne or Penrith playing on the last Sunday in whatever month the grand final is played in due to Covid. But if I had to put money on one other team to be there it would be the Sea Eagles, as they’re the only other team that seems to understand just how much rugby league has changed this season.

Having the most impactful player in the game on your team doesn’t hurt either.

The worst defensive top 8 team ever?

Another way of segmenting the above for and against data is by highlighting the teams that make the top 8. The results are below, and for Newcastle fans it’s not pretty.

The Knights will join an illustrious group after this round, being just the fourth team in the NRL era to make the top eight from the dreaded “bad defense/bad attack” quadrant. They’ll join the 2002 Raiders, 2009 Broncos and 2008 Warriors once this round concludes, as Newcastle’s average scored (17.65) and average conceded (23.3) can’t be improved enough to jump into a better quadrant.

Newcastle is also by far the worst defensive team (by average points conceded) to make the top 8 during the NRL era. And they’re sitting in comfortably in seventh place.

Again, all perfectly normal stuff.

The biggest edge black hole in the NRL?

Last season I did some analysis on which edge players were the biggest black holes. I looked at which second rowers and centres were running the ball the most and passing the least, to identify which players were tucking the ball and running rather than spreading it to their outside men.

The reason for this was watching Euan Aitken play, then at the Dragons, and his incredible ability to ignore his outside man and run the ball himself. And no surprises, he was the biggest black hole in the NRL last season.

Fast forward to 2021, and friend of the site Jason Oliver of the essential Rugby League Writers noted that Aitken hadn’t thrown a pass in three weeks.

That might be more palatable as an edge backrower this season at the Warriors than it was as a centre at the Dragons previously, but it still starves the outside backs of opportunities to attack.

Given this observation, I thought it was a great time to revisit this and the results for 2021 are below. Data is from players starting a game as a second rower or centre, and not from those as an interchange player but playing there. Average number of runs is plotted against average number of general play passes, with number of possessions indicated by the size of the data point.

For the Aitken fans, you’ll be pleased to hear he’s not the worst offender this season. He’s still not passing the ball much but he’s not running it as much either. The largest black hole honour in 2021 would go to the Sharks Teig Wilton, who averaged 16.4 runs per game and just 1.4 general play passes in his eight games in that position this season. He’s slightly ahead of the improved Isaiah Papali’i from the Eels, who runs the ball 16.2 times per game but passes nearly twice as often as Wilton at 2.6 per match.

The Bulldogs Aaron Schoupp is by far the worst offender at centre, averaging 15.3 runs per game but only 1.2 general play passes. Cronulla’s Jesse Ramien has a similar number of runs but passes the ball nearly 4 times per game.

On the other end of the scale, the most prolific passers this season from an edge player have been Josh Schuster (6.1 general play passes with 8.9 runs per game) and Tevita Pangai at the Broncos (14.2 runs with 6.1 passes).

The equal fewest set restarts in NRL history – Round 23 2021 stats and trends

A week off was all I needed and I’m back on my bullshit. Or is that the NRL’s bullshit? Stay in your lane, kids.

Round 23 saw the equal fewest set restarts awarded in NRL history, going back to the rule being implemented from Round 3, 2020. Just 46 set restarts were awarded, at an average of 5.75, beating the previous (full round) low of 47 in Round 3 which had an average of 5.88. Below is the chart for average penalties and set restarts awarded by round this season.

You will note I said equal fewest, but the round that shares that honour wasn’t mentioned. That’s because it occurred in Round 4, 2020, which was the last round before coaches realised the new rule could be gamed to their advantage.

Those three rounds (4 in 2020, and 3 and 23 in 2021) are the only rounds thus far to have an average number of restarts awarded fall under six. You can see below the average of set restarts called per round in 2020 (top row) and 2021 (bottom row), with the three rounds with an average under six sticking out. You can also see the previous 5.8 average in Round 4, 2020 right before the average nearly doubled to 9.4 and then 10.4 in Rounds 5 and 6 of that season.

The fact it’s equal with Round 4 from last season is ridiculous, considering we have six again now being called for being inside 10 metres at the play the ball. This would require me to believe that teams are infringing in the ruck less, which the Eye Test will tell you is a tall tale.

We’ve mentioned previously how set restarts are inconsistently called between halves, rarely called late in games and if so only to losing teams, are only awarding 2.3 extra tackles and are called mostly in teams own halves. The Sydney Morning Herald had a recent story showing data that teams leading don’t win set restart counts.

I can believe that they’re inconsistently applied and there may be some unconcious bias towards losing sides. What I don’t believe is that players are interfereing in the ruck at a lower rate than they were twelve months ago. If anything it’s gotten signifcantly worse.

I’m also not going to draw conclusions on the integrity of referees. Despite being a set restart truther, I feel that the referees are (largely) doing a good job but are hamstrung by some poorly implemented and untested rules that were thrust upon them alongside a 50% reduction in their workforce. And they’re regularly thrown under the bus but their own administration. Given the hand they’ve been dealt they’re doing a great job undermined by some inconsistent interpretations.

The other trend that’s appeared over the past few weeks, which matches up with last round’s record low, is the slow decline of restarts being called over the past month. The average has dropped from 8.4 per game in Round 19 to 7.4 in Round 22 and 5.8 in Round 23.

Still, it’s an interesting trend as we progress towards the pointy end of the season. A more cynical person than myself might suggest that they’re deliberately being downplayed to prevent any drama in the finals. I’d like to see another week or two of declining restarts before saying it’s a larger trend, but I’ll certainly be keeping watch on this moving forward.

One thing we can take solace in is that the six again king has returned. Thanks to Grant Atkins calling just three restarts in the Souths v Penrith match on Friday evening, Gee has now pushed ahead of Atkins for the highest average of set restarts awarded among NRL referees this season. The full chart is below.

Tackle busts and long run analysis

Earlier in the season there was a near regular section on the Eye Test every week talking about how great Brian To’o is. It’s been a while since we looked at those charts, and with the season winding down and To’o on the sidelines it’s a good time to check back and see if he ended up dominating the competition as it looked like he would back in May.

First up is average runs plotted against average tackle busts. This chart is a great way to identify high volume runners of the ball (further to the top of the chart), impact runners (further to the right), or players who do both (the top right). The size of the data point indicates the amount of run metres, the larger the circle the more metres gained over the season.

It’s evident here just how dominant To’o was and it’s shame his (regular) season performances were curtailed by a syndesmosis injury a few weeks back. At 22.4 runs per game, he’s at least 3 runs per game higher than his nearest rival, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. To’o’s 6.13 tackle busts per game place only behind David Fifita, James Tedesco and Tom Trbojevic. That’s incredibly elite company.

It’s also worth noting that Latrell Mitchell breaks just one half tackles fewer than To’o, but does so on more than half as many runs. This is what’s known as picking your spots, and when Latrell picks one, he usually makes sure it counts. Kotoni Staggs isn’t far behind Mitchell, but his 5 tackle busts per game from 7.5 runs occurred in only four starts, which is bordering on small sample size territory.

Moving on to the average number of long runs (more than 8 metres) v average number short runs (less than 8 metres) this season and To’o is still streets ahead. Performances for this are split between interchange and starting spots, which is why David Klemmer appears twice.

75% of his 22 runs per game pass the eight metre mark, which places him inside the top 30 among all NRL players this season. None of them complete the same volume of runs as To’o though, the closest being Payne Haas, at 82% of his 15.6 runs per game passing 8 metres.

The other big story from this chart is just how much of a down season Jason Taumalolo is having. This chart used to be owned by the Cowboys backrower, who averaged 15+ runs per game over eight metres in 2020. This year that has dropped by almost a third, down to 10.8 per game, with his sub eight metre run average nearly identical.

Regular Eye Test readers will remember Marcelo Montoya being possibly the least effective runner in the NRL last season. This year he’s improved to 45% of his runs over 8 metres, up from 41% in 2020. He’s not even the worst outlier anymore, that crown has been taken by Bulldogs rookie Falakiku Manu, who passes eight metres on just 32% of his runs.

Is Greg Marzhew in for a huge 2022?

One last name to note on the previous runs v tackle bust chart is the Titans Greg Marzhew. His numbers sit near the top at 17.6 runs per game and 3.9 tackle busts in his 8 appearances this season. Why am I bringing this up?

Because if you look at the same chart for 2020, his numbers aren’t that different from To’o, as seen below.

To’o averaged 15.9 runs and 5.0 tackle busts in 2020, which is about 2 runs and 1 tackle bust fewer than Marzhew this season.

You could also bring up their similar physical dimensions, but the similarity in numbers doesn’t stop there, because when you look at the percentile ranks of To’o for 2020 compared with Marzhew for 2021 compared to all outside backs from 2014-2021, the similarities continue.

Their radar chart shows a very similar profile in per game averages for runs, metres, tries, line breaks, tackle busts and one pass runs. In 2020, To’o sat above the 90th percentile for runs, run metres, metres per run, tackle busts and one pass runs. Even their try assists and line break assists sit in similar areas, which would be expected playing on the wing.

Marzhew in 2021 sits above the 90th percentile for runs, run metres, tries, tackle busts and one pass runs. He’s actually in the 98th during that time span for percentile for runs, run metres, one pass runs, which sits him firmly among the game’s elite.

There’s one massive difference between them though and that’s defensively, with Marzhew  which probably should be expected. To’o has been an integral part of one of the best defences in the NRL over the past two seasons, while Marzhew sits on the outside of a team that has given up some very large scores of late. As always there’s context needed for every statistic and these try and line break causes are usually more a factor of team defense than necessarily any individual deficiency. They’re indicative rather than representative.

It’s unlikely that Marzhew has a break out season in 2022 like To’o is having this year, especially with the chasm of talent between the Panthers and Titans. Although if you look at with that gap in ability in mind, maybe Marzhew is actually having an even better year than previously thought? Either way, if he continues his current run of form he may end up as exciting to watch in 2022 as To’o has been this season.

Time in play, Manly’s field position, error rates – NRL Round 22 2021 stats and trends

No set restart data to talk about this week, I promise. I need a break from it anyway. Just a few quick updates on some things we looked at earlier in the season.

Time in play continues to decline

One of the things that the NRL like to keep going on about this season is how successful the rule changes have been, how there’s fewer stoppages, scoring and tries are up, and everything is peachy keen.

There might be fewer stoppages but time in play continues to dwindle, because as we’ve explored before the process of scoring points itself creates more stoppages. As Dogs fans will tell you, there’s nothing happening whilst you’re standing in your own in goal area waiting for a conversion attempt.

Here’s a round by round view of time in play (blue columns) with a three round rolling average time in play above in orange for the past two seasons. We’re approaching two minutes lost (55.9 to 54.2 minutes) of ball in play since last season.

Almost every round since Round 6 has been right on or under the season average. To get an understanding of the relationship between tries scored and time in play, the next chart shows the average number of tries per game for the last three seasons by round. The blue columns show average tries per round, with time in play plotted above it shown as the orange line.

To further illustrate just how points scored reduces time in play, below is a chart of the total points scored and time in play from every game this season, and you’ll notice the trend line getting lower as more points are scored.

The R squared of the above chart of points against time in play is 0.45. What’s R Squared? I’ve explained it before, but for the new readers it’s basically a measure of how close the data is, and the higher the number the better, and falls between 0 and 1 (or 0% to 100%). This one is falling right in the middle.

How has that changed with the new rule introductions? In 2020 it was 0.33 and in 2019 it was 0.16. So not only does scoring points have a strong correlation with lower time in play, the correlation is getting stronger, tripling in two seasons. Part of that is due to the massive increases in one sided scores, with Melbourne breaking all sorts of scoring records.

At some point they’re going to need to decide whether they want a fast flowing one sided game with plenty of tries or a low scoring well matched contest with minimal stoppages. You can’t have both, they’re mutually exclusive.

How Melbourne and Manly differ on field position

Another thing the Eye Test looked at earlier in the season was play the balls in certain parts of the field and how some teams were doing a fantastic job at controlling where possession occurred.

The quick summary was that Parramatta, Penrith and Melbourne had very high outlying numbers over the past eight seasons in terms of margin per game and holding teams to a high percentage of possession inside their own half. Prior to this season, there had only been one team (Penrith, 2020) that had more than 60% of opponent’s possession inside their own half.

Let’s have a look at the update after Round 22, plotting average margin and percentage of play the balls inside their own half by opponent. You can see there’s still some huge outliers compared to previous seasons.

Even with their horrific slump, Parramatta still hold opponents to 63% of play the balls inside their own half, and Penrith aren’t that far behind at 61%.

There is a change at the top though, as Melbourne have dropped below 60% (barely) to 59.8%, while Souths have rocketed up to 63%, indicating they’re doing a better job at controlling their opponents field position. Melbourne still has the outlier for points scored, with teams facing them losing by over 23 points per game.

You’ll also note I’ve marked another point in the chart this time – Manly.

The Sea Eagles have been on a tear since Round 6 when Tom Trbojevic returned and if you look at the numbers over that period of time (Rounds 6-22), they’re comparable with the Storm for margin, winning by an average of 20.4 points per game. I’ve filtered the same chart above for rounds 6-22 below.

The big difference is where they allow possession. As we noted above, the Storm like to control opponents in their own half, and even from Rounds 6-22 they’re still holding opponents to 56% of play the balls inside their own half, down from nearly 60% for the season.,

During the same time period, Manly are at the other end of the scale, with only 49% of opponents play the balls inside their own half, or 51% of them inside Manly’s half. No other team in the NRL is below 52% over the same rounds – even teams facing the Broncos and Bulldogs are in the 54% range. The NRL average for 2021 is 57%, and from 2014-2021 it’s 54%.

To see just where Manly sit, below is the chart of all NRL clubs and their percentages of play the balls their opponents have inside their own half, their opponent’s midfield (20m-50m) and inside 20 metres, ranked by percentage inside their own half.

You can see just how dominant the top sides have been, with the Eels and Rabbitohs in particular allowing just 14% of play the balls inside their own 20 metre zone. Manly is over 10% higher than those sides, allowing 25.1% of play the balls in their own 20 metre area, the worst in the NRL.

Going back to where that 49% of play the balls inside opponent’s halves, sits historically, there’s only been a handful of sides with a lower percentage than Manly this season. Three of them came from the Canberra Raiders (2016-2018) and the 2015 and 2017 Gold Coast Titans. Not exactly elite company and it’s very rare to see teams allowing over 50% of their opponent play the balls in their own half, especially for contending sides.

I guess when you have Tom Trbojevic on the field it’s almost irrelevant where your opponents are playing the ball. It will be interesting to see if Manly can make a run in the finals whilst giving up the same level of field position.

Error rate

Lastly this week we’re going to check in on Error rates for NRL players this season. What’s error rate? Simply put, it’s the number of possessions needed for a player to cause an error. Here’s the worst players this season with a minimum of three errors. Generally, anyone with an error rate of under 15 is pretty bad and under 10 is terrible.

Tigers rookie winger and cult figure Zac Cini takes top spot here, with an eye watering seven errors in three games, one every 5.7 possessions. There’s probably a reason why Michael McGuire hasn’t featured him much since his debut earlier in 2021.

Brent Naden from Penrith and Jordan Pereira from the Dragons round out the top three, with rates of 7.1 and 8.1 respectively. On raw volume terms, Naden’s 12 in five games is giving Cini’s seven in three games a scare though.

Most of the players inside the top ten haven’t played regularly this season. If you look at players with at least 10 games played, the Warriors Jack Murchie would fare the worst with 8 errors at a rate of one every 8.3 possessions. The Roosters Matt Ikuvalu has a bit of a reputation among Roosters fans as having a case of Burgess hands, with 22 errors in 13 games at a rate of one every 11.5 possessions.

Along with Naden, the Panthers have two other players inside the top 13 with rookie Izack Tago (8.5) and Viliame Kikau (11.6). Kikau’s number is probably more concerning for Penrith given the number of minutes he’s played and how many touches of the ball he’s had, especially in attacking situations.

The on field location of set restarts – NRL Round 21 stats and trends

After spending the last few weeks looking at the timing, margins and tackles where set restarts occur, this week the Eye Test is continuing to break down those numbers on a team-by-team basis to look at where these infractions are occurring on the field and which tackle teams are conceding them.

Before we get into the team breakdowns, I want to revisit the analysis from the last post on the site concerning which tackle restarts were conceded on. In noting that the average restart awarded 2.3 more tackles because so many of them occurred on tackle one, r/NRL Reddit user Abbabaloney raised a great point about first tackle restarts. Their point was that there should be more first tackle set restarts because there are more first tackles. This makes sense and they’re right, there are more first tackles. They suggested the best way to look at them is the rate of restarts per tackle.

Are there more restarts on tackle zero or one because they occur more often? Zero or first tackles account for just under a quarter of all play the balls so far in 2021. Second tackles are almost equal at 23.5%, dropping to 21% for third tackles and then another 30% for tackles four and five combined. Holding possession through to the sixth tackle happens about 1% of the time.

What is the rate of restarts per tackle then? For first tackles, they occur about 3.4% of the time. That drops to 3.1% on second tackles and 2.6% on third tackles. If you’re paying attention, there’s less than 2% drop in instances of first and second tackles occurring, but set restarts transpire 8% more frequently on first tackles than they do on second tackles.

This continues as you move through the tackle count. There’s nearly 12% fewer third tackles than there are second tackles, but they’re happening nearly 20% less regularly on those tackles. Again we’ve proven that set restarts are predominately occurring on first and second tackles, not just by volume but also by rate.

We’ve firmly established the occurrences of set restarts early in the tackle count, let’s move on to when and where each team are conceding them. First up, on which tackle are teams giving up a restart? The percentage of each tackle when a restart is called by team for 2021 are below, ranked by the percentage occurring on first tackles. There’s also a league wide average column on the right.

It should hardly be surprising to see the Panthers leading the way, with over 43% of their set restarts occurring on the first tackle. Another 26% of their restarts occur on the second tackle, meaning nearly 70% of their six agains conceded are on the first or second tackle. The reason it isn’t surprising is that we showed last week that the Panthers were only giving up 2 extra tackles per game on average. When you see the visualisation of their restarts conceded later, it will be come clear just how much they’re gaming this system.

You’d probably expect to see the Storm not for behind, but shockingly their first tackle % is fifth lowest in the NRL. Where they make up for it is on second tackles, where they concede 34% of them, second in the competition behind the Warriors (40%!). When you combine those numbers, it makes 66%, only slightly behind the Panthers at 69%. More proof of the use of set restarts as a way of controller field position early in sets, which you’ll see in the Storm’s visualisation later in the post.

The Roosters have been doing their own thing this season, only giving up 20% of their six agains at the start of a set. You’ll see later that they appear to be using them primarily as a way of holding defenses at their line, rather than limiting their early metre gains.

The worst late tackle offenders are the Tigers, who give up 21% of their restarts on fourth tackles (ouch). No other team is above 20% for fourth tackles, with the next highest being the Warriors at 16.7%.

What about location of restarts by team? The eye test (not this one, that one) would indicate that a lot of them are happening inside teams’ own halves as they return the ball after a kick, allowing the defending team to control their momentum and prevent high metre gains.

Here’s how each team splits their restarts conceded in their own and opponents halves, sorted by percentage in opposition half.

Penrith are top spot, with nearly two thirds of their restarts called in an opponent’s halves. Not only are they using them early in tackle sets, but they’re also using them more in opponent’s halves. Other top four teams are using them more in their opponents’ halves as well, with Parramatta, Souths and Melbourne all over 50%.

The Roosters buck the trend as well, giving up just 40% of their restarts in opponents halves, only bested by Manly who give up just 38% inside their rivals 50. When we get to visiualising these numbers later, these two teams really stand out.

Interestingly, there’s a 50/50 split in both halves for set restarts. This means even with the suggested rule change to penalties in your own half and set restarts in the attacking half, you’d only be eliminating half of these restarts. On the positive side, it would be eliminating the most cynical ones, but for most it probably wouldn’t be going far enough. But I digress.

Getting back on track, if you break that field position down even further, are teams using restarts as a method of control more inside the 20 metre area of an opponent’s half, or midfield? Here’s the same chart again with each half broken out to 0-20m and 20-50m zones, sorted the same as the previous chart.

Yet another example of Penrith leading the way, with 50% – yes HALF – of their set restarts conceded coming between their opponents 20-50m zone.

The Sharks raise an interesting profile as well. They concede nearly 60% of their restarts in an opponent’s half, third in the NRL, but are the worst at giving them up inside their midfield (20-50m) area, at 33%. That number is even worse than notorious six again offenders Canterbury at 29.6%. This would indicate that the Sharks game plan is to try to use set restarts to contain teams in their own area, and if that fails to try to keep them from reaching their own red zone.

We’ve established which tackle and the rough location of where each team is conceding their restarts, it’s time to look at exactly where on the field each of these restarts are occurring.

Last week I posted an animated gif of the location of every set restart by tackle, but felt it didn’t show the intensity of restarts inside a team’s own half. To get around this I’ve changed to heat maps which show more clearly. Below is a gallery of the heat maps of the location of every restart by tackle up to Round 21.

As talked about in the previous post there’s some obvious tendencies here and I’ll recap again for those who missed it. First tackle restarts are yielded well within an opponent’s half, mostly inside the 10-40 metre zone, and somewhat by teams defending their own line in the middle of the field. Second tackle restarts are primarily between the 20-50 metre area, again with some from teams defending their own line. Tackle three restarts are mostly midfield, whilst tackle four restarts are rarer and more likely to be about 10 metres out from the line. Fifth tackle restarts rarely occur but if they do its usually inside the last 10m near the try line on the left side of the field.

Now that we’ve seen the overall trends by tackle, below is a gallery of a heat map of every team’s set restarts conceded this season. The top left-hand corner shows the which team is displayed as well as below in the gallery.

There’s definitely some interesting trends here with the intensity of the heat maps and you can see the tendencies I pointed out earlier in the post. It’s very clear to see that Melbourne and Penrith are conceding them strategically in their opponents’ halves, especially in the 20-50 metre zones.

Penrith in particular have a huge gap in the attacking midfield (50m-20m) where they aren’t giving away set restarts, something no other club in the competition is doing. Other clubs may have less occurances of them in parts of the field, but still concede them. Only one club has a blank part of the field and that’s Penrith.

The Roosters and Manly are eschewing the trend of giving away a high number of six agains in an opponent’s half, with both sides tending to concede them more on their own line as way of stifling attack.  

Gold Coast tend to concede a large number of them in the middle of their field defending their own line, as do Newcastle but closer to 5m out than on the line itself.

Teams who have been performing poorly this season don’t share a specific profile for restart locations. Brisbane, Wests and North Queensland tend to give them up all over the field, although there is still likely to be more of them inside an opponents’ half. The Bulldogs in particular give away a ridiculous amount around the halfway mark, while the Dragons prefer to use theirs in midfield or on their own line.