NRLW Round 5 in expected points and advanced stats  

We’re now halfway through the NRLW regular season, and I thought I’d take a look at some charts to determine who have been the best players running the ball thus far.

The first chart we’re going to look at is average runs per game plotted against average tackle busts per match, to get and idea of who the most damaging runners of the ball are. This one is usually dominated in NRLM by Brian To’o, although Greg Marzhew has been leading it this season. The results for the first five rounds of NRLW 2023 are below.

A lot has been made about how destructive with the ball Mele Hufanga has been, and rightly so with an average of 8 tackle busts per game on just 10.4 runs with the ball. It’s almost a guaranteed missed tackle when she starts a run.

But I don’t know if enough is being said about Tigers winger Jakiya Whitfeld. The former sevens player has been tremendous for Wests Tigers so far, averaging 14 runs per game but also breaking a ridiculous 11.2 tackles per game. That’s three more per game than Hufanga, and four more than third placed Evania Pelite, who dominated this chart a few seasons ago.

There are a few other expected names on this list if you’ve been watching this season. Sarah Togatuki and Teagan Berry are taking on a huge workload, averaging over 18 and 17 runs respectively. Other players who’ve typically done well on this chart in Isabelle Kelly, Tamika Upton and Pelite are also averaging more than at least 5 breaks per game on double digit runs.

Magic Sponge Podcast favourite Shania Power from the Cowboys fares well here too making six tackle breaks on 10.6 runs per game, but sadly will miss the rest of the season with a foot injury

What if we look at splitting run length by greater or less than 8 metres? Below is a plot of the average number of runs per game higher than 8 metres against the average runs lower than 8 meters.

Alexis Tauaneai from the Dragons leads the NRLW in runs longer than 8 metres this season at 10.8 per game, with just 4.8 runs under 8 metres. Eye Test Hall of Famer Millie Boyle isn’t far behind at 10.25 and only 6.8 runs shorter than 8 metres. Cronulla’s Annessa Biddle has the third highest average of 8 metre plus runs at 10 per game, with just 3.2 measuring up below 8 metres, meaning 76% of her runs were longer than eight metres.

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Given that percentage, I thought I’d also check which players had the highest percentage of runs above 8 metres and see where Biddle’s numbers sit. The results are below.

Interestingly Biddle is only 13th by this measure. Gold Coast half Chantay Kiria-Ratu makes an astonishing 89% of runs longer than 8 metres, slightly better than Cronulla’s Harata Butler at 86%. Upton places third here at 84%, followed by a pair of Broncos in Ali Brigginshaw and Destiny Brill.

Expected Points (ETXP) charts

North Queensland v Cronulla

Wests Tigers v St George Illawarra

Gold Coast v Sydney Roosters

Brisbane v Newcastle

Parramatta v Canberra

Eye Test Player Contribution Rating (ETPCR)

Here’s the top 20 players by ETPCR for Round 5. A big week for Tarryn Aiken at +4.939.

And now the bottom 20.

Tackle Rate

Ahlivia Ingram from the Canberra Raiders had the highest tackle rate for Round 5, making 21 tackles at a rate of 47.04% during her 25 minutes on field against the Eels. This means she was completing a tackle on nearly one out of every two play the balls during her stint.

Second place went to Sophie Curtain of the Wests Tigers at 41.98%, with Simina Taufa of Canberra rounding out the top three at 37.60%. Bree Chester of the North Queensland Cowboys was the only edge forward in this list.

Ball Runner Rate

Newcastle’s Tayla Predebon had the highest ball runner rate of the round, completing a run on 26.52% of possessions whilst on field against the Broncos. Shannon Mato of the Titans placed next at 22.07%, with Stephanie Hancock also from the Gold Coast in third with a rate of 21.76%. These three players were the only ones with a ball runner rate above 20% for Round 5.

I’d also like to point out the three backs in this list – the Dragons Teagan Berry, the Eels Abbi Church and the Titans Tiana Penitani – who had higher ball runner rates than most forwards this week.

Total Run %

Predebon still takes top spot once we add in decoy and support option runs, with a total run rate of 28.72%. Hancock moves up into second place thanks to three option runs and a rate of 27.70%, with Harata Butler sneaking into third at 26.46%

A special shout out needs to go to Alexis Tauaneai from the Dragons, who played the full 70 minutes for 20 runs and 14 option runs, placing 5th at a rate of 24.64%. That means she completed a run or option run (decoy/support) on nearly a quarter of every St George Illawarra play the ball. A stunning effort, as usually increased minutes means a decreasing rate of involvement, especially for middle forwards.

Involvement Rate

Wests Tigers bench forward Sophie Curtain took out the top spot for Involvement Rate this round, completing a run or tackle on 26.27% of possessions during her 29 minutes on field. Ingram from the Raiders nabbed second place at 24.80% while another Tiger in Sarah Togatuki rounded out the top three at 22.19%