NRLW Advanced Stats – 2018 and 2019 seasons

If you’re a regular reader of the Eye Testtm, you’ll be (somewhat) familiar with the advanced statistics I use to analyse players throughout and across each NRL season. And now, they’re also available for previous NRLW seasons.

What do these statistics show? The issue is that generally middle forwards don’t play big minutes or put up big numbers and go unnoticed besides the odd comment about how much of an impact they make. To do so I created three advanced statistics for rugby league – Tackle %, Run % and Involvement Rate.

  1. Tackle % estimates the percentage of opponent plays whilst on field where a player completed a tackle.
  2. Run % estimates the percentage of team plays where a player completed a run during their time on field.
  3. Involvement Rate combines them and estimates the percentage of total plays a player completed a run or tackle whilst on the field.

If you want to read more about them, I’ve linked the explanations of them from the site.

Now I’ve explained them, let’s see how NRLW positions compare for these statistics to their NRL equivalents and look back at some top performers within each statistic from the past two NRL seasons. I would like to note that we’re dealing with some very small sample sizes, and even with a lenient minute restriction of 40 minutes I would still take these as indicative rather than representative of performances. Also, “current team” may also mean “previous team” for someone not playing NRLW currently, which is one of the issues looking at multiple seasons of data at once. Anyway, lets move on to the analysis.

Tackle %

There’s not a huge difference between the NRL and NRLW for Tackle %. Hookers and Locks are making tackles at the same rate, around 25-25%, indicating they complete a tackle on one in four defensive plays. Props and interchange players still sit over 20%, but around 4% lower than their NRL counterparts. This could indicate that a lot of the basic hit up work could be centered less on the middle of the field.

Positions on either edge of the field are similar as well, other than Second Row being down over 2% and Five Eight being up almost 2%, which given that they defend in the same spot could cancel each other out. Fullback is slightly higher as well at 4% for NRLW compared to 2.8% for NRL.

Who are the top NRLW players for Tackle % then? Below are the top 15 players by Tackle % for seasons 2018 & 2019 who played at least 40 total minutes.

Kate Haren formely of the Dragons leads the way with a Tackle % of 43% from her two games, indicating that she made a tackle on two out of every five defensive plays whilst on the field. Aliti Namoce who last plaeyd for Roosters placed second at 31.45% and Talesha Quinn who also last played for he Dragons came in third at 31.32%.

Rebecca Young from the Roosters was the only other player to have a tackle rate above 30%. As noted above, the average Tackle % for middle forwards is about 20-25% so each of these players are tackling well above average for their position.

One of the interesting differences here compared to the NRL is seeing Second Rowers at the top of this list, which is usually just middle forwards for the NRL. In addition to Namoce, Lorina Papali’I (29.38%) and Holli Wheeler (25.93%) also make the top 15 whilst playing in the second row. Again, the average for second rowers is 16.2%, which puts Namoce’s tackle rate almost twice as high the average second rower.

Run %

Looking at the average Run % across positions for the NRLW against the NRL, there’s not as much variance as there was for Tackle %. Differences fall between 0.5% to 1% for most positions, and the only significant change is at lock, where NRL players make a run on 10% of plays, whilst NRLW locks make a run on 7%.

So, who has the highest run rate among all NRLW players who played at least 40 minutes across 2018 & 2019?

Ngatotokotoru Arakua takes first place with a Run % of 20.92%, meaning she completes a run on at least two out of every five plays the Dragons used the ball. Second place is Chloe Caldwell from the Roosters at 20.45%, the only other player above 20%. Another former Rooster in Elianna Walton picks up third place with a run rate of 17.99%.

With the average Run % for middle forwards sitting in the 10-12% range, anyone over 15% is putting in an elite amount of work.

It’s also worth noting that new Dragons signing Isabelle Kelly at centre was extremely close to making this top 15, sitting only 0.15% outside with a run rate of 12.04% which is exceptional for a centre.

Involvement Rate

Given that Involvement Rate is a combination of Tackle % and Run %, it would make sense that any changes we saw in the previous two statistics would be reflected here as well.

Involvement Rates for middle forwards are slightly down as was exhibited with Tackle % rates. NRLW Prop forwards suffer the biggest drop at 2% compared to their NRL counterparts, otherwise things are relatively consistent.

The top 15 players in the NRL for Involvement Rate from the 2018 and 2019 seasons who played at least 40 minutes are shown below.

Kate Haren takes top spot here, as she did with tackle %, with an Involvement Rate of 26.37%, meaning she completed a run or a tackle on one in every four plays whilst she was on the field. Ngatotokotoru Arakua came in second with an Involvement Rate of 21.97% while Chloe Caldwell rounded out the top three with an Involvement Rate of 21.42%.

Brisbane halfback Tarryn Aiken is also worth mentioning, sitting in 19th place with an involvement Rate of 17.25% in a list that is dominated by middle forwards. This is mainly due to her running game, as she sits just outside the leaders in Run % with a run rate of 10.23%.

NRL Round 20 advanced stats – Tackle %

Let’s skip the intro – if you’re new to the site, I’d recommend reading this post on Tackle %, which explains how it works and why I think it’s an important statistic for identifying high motor middle and interchange forwards.

Here’s how the Tackle % chart looked for Round 20 without a minute restriction

Single digits winners are back with Jack Friend making 3 tackles in 3 minutes for a tackle rate of 51.61% before failing a HIA. True first place went to NRL Physio’s favourite Tiger Alex Twal with a Tackle % of 41.08% in their game against the Eels.

Next up was Corey Jensen from the Cowboys at 41.03% and third place was Darby Medlyn from Canberra at 40.67%.

Next, we’ll look at those players who spent at least half a game on the field this round

Twal repeats here with his tackle rate of 41.08% coming in 51 minutes. Second and third place went to a pair of Panthers, with Api Koroisau next at 33.48% and James Tamou not far behind at 32.92%.

Cameron Murray (31.67%) from the Rabbitohs and Reed Mahoney (31.51%)from the Eels placed fifth and sixth behind Christian Welch (31.99%, which is amazing considering those two played the full 80 minutes.

Finally, here is the 2020 season leader board for Tackle % with one round to go.

Here’s one for the ages. Another Titan has snuck in and grasped the Tackle % title for 2020 away from Nathan Peats at the last minute. Jai Whitbread has Stephen Bradbury’d the Tackle % crown by passing the 250 minute restriction with 23 in their game against Knights. This pushed him into first place with a Tackle % of 35.93%.

That puts him ahead of team mates Nathan Peats (34.08%) and Mitch Rein (32.65%), who looked all but certain to claim the top two spots. Whitbread’s surge pushes the retiring Tim Glasby (31.75%) to fourth. Congratulations to Whitbread for taking top spot in 2020.

Set restarts remain consistently inconsistent – NRL Round 19 2020 notes and trends

Regular followers and readers will know I’m a bit of a stickler for consistency with set restarts. I’d pointed out recently that there had been a number of games over the past two months that had zero ruck infringements in the second half. The theory that referees were setting the standards early holds some merit, although I still refuse to believe fatigued players were that well behaved after misbehaving early on.

The good news is that Round 18 was the first time since Round 13 that we didn’t have a second half where zero set restarts were called, and the first time since Round 9 where every game had at least two set restarts called in the second half. Is this progress?

The bad news is that things have swung completely in the opposite direction. Round 19 featured three of the four highest second half set restart counts this season, as you can see below.

That’s a considerable shift in second half interpretations of ruck infringements, going from multiple games with zero to three of the four highest second halves this season. And one of them was by Ben Cummins, who has the lowest average for set restarts called per game. This round in particular had some wildly different numbers of transgressions, as you can see below with each referee’s breakdown in Round 19.

We have three games where five set restarts were called in total, and four that were in double figures. Penalties were much more consistent, with six falling in the 7-10 range with two other outliers.

Let’s not even get into the fact that one game this weekend is going to be giving set restarts for what were penalties for offside. The kicker is that the referee for this game is Adam Gee. Reality is often far better at comedy than any team of writers. But I digress.

The interesting thing is that penalties have been called far more consistently, as you can see from the chart below showing the number of penalties called per half since Round 3. The reference lines for each pane show the average per half.

The difference between halves is around 8% for penalties and 31% for set restarts. That’s a pretty big disparity between periods, compounded as seen above by the wild swings between games.

The historic drop in between penalties between halveshas been about 21%. The decline in total penalties in 2020 (regular penalties plus set restarts) is around 18%. This would indicate that there has been slightly more consistency this season. Although if you look at the drops this year for penalties (-8%) and set restarts (-31%), you could assume that the drop in previous years was entirely from ruck infringements. That’s a long bow to draw though.

Whatever the reason, the inconsistency of application for set restarts is extremely obvious to most fans. Overall, I think the change has been a success but needs some fine tuning for 2021. Just not the type of fine tuning we’re seeing in dead rubbers for Round 20 however.

Penalty goal attempt analysis

Another update from earlier in the season, this time on penalty goal attempts as a proportion of total goal attempts. One of the things I like about this chart is that you can see how a team has performed in attack over time, as the lightly shaded area represents conversion attempts (and therefore tries).

It also shows where teams have made changes to their strategy in taking penalty goal attempts – the sharp increase in penalty goal attempts for the Rabbitohs as soon as Wayne Bennett joined was noted last time.

Below is the update for Rounds 1-19 from 2014-2020, with conversion attempts in the light shade and penalty goal attempts in the darker shade.

It’s extremely easy to see the Panthers rise this season from their panel, and it looks almost as if 2019 was an anomaly. Generally the more successful teams have a higher number of penalty goal attempts, either from trying to extend a lead or being able to generate penalties in favourable areas.

The steady decline of the Broncos since Bennett left is also exceptionally apparent, and whilst the Tigers haven’t improved much on the ladder their attack has picked up with the coaching change to Michael McGuire.

Advanced statistics for middle forwards season leaders

One of the things I’ve been interested in tracking for a while is the performance of middle forwards. I know I’m not the only one who enjoys watching the likes of Christian Welch, Daniel Alvaro or Toby Rudolf putting in the hard work.

The issue is that generally middle forwards don’t play big minutes or put up big numbers and go unnoticed besides the odd comment about how much of an impact they make. To do so I created a three advanced statistics for rugby league – Tackle %, Run % and Involvement Rate.

Tackle % estimates the percentage of opponent plays whilst on field where a player completed a tackle.

Run % estimates the percentage of team plays where a player completed a run during their time on field.

Involvement Rate combines Run % and Tackle % to estimate the percentage of total plays a player completed a run or tackle whilst on the field.

If you want to read more about them, I’ve linked the explanations of them from the site. I also post weekly updates for each statistic after each round. The aim isn’t to show the quality of a middle forwards performance, but to quantify it and identify players with large motor who put in consistently high levels of effort.

To give you an idea of the average rates for each statistic, the below chart shows them broken down by position.

Now we know how the average player performs, the table below shows the 2020 season leader board for Tackle % with one round to go. From the chart above, you can see that anyone with a tackle rate above 25-26% has an above average workload. I’ve also put a minimum of 250 minutes played which ensures a decent sample size to work with as individual games can have significant volatility.

The top three for Tackle % has been relatively consistent over the past month, with a pair of Titans, Nathan Peats (34.08%) and Mitch Rein (33.22%), as well as the Tigers Elijah Taylor (32.28%) sitting in the same spots as last week and unlikely to change with one game remaining. A tackle rate of 30% would indicate that a player is making a tackle on 3 out of every 10 defensive plays whilst they are on the field.

One of the reasons you usually only see hookers on the Tackle % chart is that their role in modern rugby league is that of defense and distribution. They’re tackling through the middle of the field and passing from dummy half, rarely running with the ball. That can also be seen from the above chart by position, showing hookers with a Run % of just 3 %, only ahead of halfbacks at 2.9%.

Two more Titans sit inside the top six for Tackle %, with Jaimin Jolliffe (31.61%) and Jarrod Wallace (31.35%) taking up fifth and sixth spots. The presence of so many Titans at the top of this list is due to the incredible amounts of defense they were required to do earlier in the season as they were routinely getting pumped.

The other notable name in this list is the Panthers Moses Leota, who I’d noted as one of the most improved players in the NRL this season in another post this week.

Next, we’ll take a look at the 2020 season leaders for Run %. Again, from the chart above, any middle forward with a run rate of over 12-13% is putting in greater than average effort.

Andrew Fifita is the season leader and looks like going unchallenged for the remainder of the 2020 as he sits with a 2020 Run % of 18.12%. The lingering knee issues have forced him to change his game and he’s used for an impact in short bursts on the field with the ball, rather than conserving his energy and spacing out his efforts. This run percentage indicates that Fifita is makign a run on nearly 1 out of every five plays for the Sharks whilst he is on the field, or basically a hit up every set of six they have.

Melbourne’s Nelson Asofa-Solomona has been a strong runner of the ball this season and occupies second place at 16.50% but is too far behind to close the gap with one game remaining. The Eels Kane Evans maintains third spot with a run rate for the season of 16.24%.

There’s a huge gap of nearly 1.5% then to fourth place, which is Jason Taumalolo (14.87%) of the Cowboys who returned on the weekend in limited minutes.

Finally, we have the leaders for Involvement Rate this season. The chart above shows that an Involvement Rate above 20% would be considered elite.

Titans rookie prop Jaimin Jolliffe sits first at 21.93% and that won’t change with the front rower out with an injury. New Zealand’s Jazz Tevaga not far behind at 21.69% but has been named at lock this week and may drop slightly if he plays big minutes.

Usually Involvement Rate declines as time increases as workloads have to be managed, as shown below.

The Titans Jarrod Wallace sits in third spot at 21.39% but has Blake Lawrie from the Dragons breathing down neck, just 0.03% behind at 21.36%. There are another five players sitting just behind Lawrie between 21.24% and 21.13%, and any one of them could move into the podium with a high workload game in Round 20.

Involvement Rates over 20% indicate that these players are macking a tackle or completing a run on one in every five plays whilst on field, which is a huge effort when you consider some of the minutes they are playing.

NRL Round 19 advanced stats – Tackle %

Let’s skip the intro – if you’re new to the site, I’d recommend reading this post on Tackle %, which explains how it works and why I think it’s an important statistic for identifying high motor middle and interchange forwards.

Here’s how the Tackle % chart looked for Round 19 without a minute restriction

No single digit minute shenanigans this week. The Cowboys Emry Pere takes top spot with a Tackle % of 46.58%, indicating he completed a tackle on nearly half of the possession his team defended whilst Pere was on the field.

Second and third place goes to a pair of Warriors, and sadly one wasn’t Daniel Alvaro. Lachlan Burr took second place with a tackle rate of 43.94% and debutant Tom Ale at 41.67%. Ale completed 9 tackles in his 12 minutes.

Sam McIntyre (40.55%) from the Wests Tigers was the only other player above 40% this round.

Next, we’ll look at those players who spent at least half a game on the field this round

Burr takes top spot for those who played at least 40 minutes, with his tackle rate of 43.93%. One of the NRL’s most improved players Moses Leota from Penrith grabbed second spot with a Tackle % of 35.63%. Jacob Saifiti takes third place as the Knights prop posted a tackle rate of 33.93% in his 41 minutes on field during their win over the Dragons.

There was a number of 80 minute hookers making this list this week – Penrith’s Mitch Kenny (31.61%), North Queensland’s Reuben Cotter (30.98%) and South’s Damien Cook (28.50%).

Finally, here is the 2020 season leader board for Tackle % with one round to go.

No movement in the top three, with Nathan Peats (34.08%), Mitch Rein (33.22%) and Elijah Taylor (32.28%) sitting in the same spots as last week and unlikely to change with one game remaining.

Want to also wish fourth placed Tim Glasby (31.75%) the best in his post NRL career.

NRL Round 18 advanced stats – Tackle %

Let’s skip the intro – if you’re new to the site, I’d recommend reading this post on Tackle %, which explains how it works and why I think it’s an important statistic for identifying high motor middle and interchange forwards.

Here’s how the Tackle % chart looked for Round 18 without a minute restriction

Spencer Leinu’s one minute on field throws out the chart this week, so we’re going to exclude it for analysis purposes. The real first place this week goes to Jacob Liddle from the Tigers, who had a Tackle % of 57.47% in his 8 minutes on field. Still a small amount of time on field but enough to make 10 tackles at least.

Second place went to Samuel Lisone of the Titans took third place with a tackle % a hair under 40% at 39.99% while third place was Chris Randall from the Knights at 36.99%.

Next, we’ll look at those players who spent at least half a game on the field this round

Raiders darling Tom Starling takes first for players with 40 minutes or more, at 35.71%. This means he completed a tackle on 7 out of every 20 plays the Raiders defended against the Dragons. The Raiders have looked like a different team with Starling starting and his work rate is one reason why.

It was a very close race this week, with second place this going to Tino Fa’asuamaleaui from the Storm with a Tackle % of 32.58% in his 53 minutes, only 0.02% behind Starling. Tino is usually a staple in the Run % charts and it’s a great sign for the Titans to see him using his energy on the defensive side of the game as well.

The Raiders picked up another spot in the top three from Hudson Young, who had a fantastic game against the Dragons whilst sporting a tackle rate of 32.00%.

There were two players in the leaderboard this week who played the full 80 – Damien Cook (31.03%) and Blayke Brailey (30.97%).

Finally, here is the 2020 season leader board for Tackle %

It’s still Nathan Peats, Mitch Rein and Elijah Taylor as the top three this round, with all three seeing a minor decline in their Tackle %. Jarrod Wallace continues his drift away from the top three whilst Tom Starling lurks outside the top 5, up to seventh from eighth last week with a season tackle % of 31.89%.

The Panthers Moses Leota has been getting a lot of strong press lately and it’s easy to see why. He’s been a huge factor off the bench for Penrith and he’s sitting ninth this season in Tackle % at 30.32%, making a tackle in three out of every ten plays the Panthers defend.