Friday 19 January 2018 / 12:58 PM


Mitchell Pearce is a reformed man. That much is clear. He has started 2017 in career-best form despite being paired with a new halves partner. While the mainstream media go on a ‘copy and paste’ run on the articles from previous years, talking about how Pearce is ready for Origin and the like, we will look at the statistics. The hard facts.

And just for good measure, the Test and Maroons halves Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston are included to see how the candidates for the Blues’ halfback gig stand up.

NSW Candidates

Luke Brooks
Nathan Cleary
Trent Hodkinson
Josh McCrone
Mitchell Pearce
Adam Reynolds
Aidan Sezer
Chad Townsend

Runs and metres

Only two players average over 10 runs per game. Thurston ranks first with 12.8 with Pearce second at 10.6. Both Cleary and Brooks average more than Cronk as well. Thurston also averages far more metres than the rest of the field, at 88.7, with Cleary (67.9), Brooks (66.9) and Pearce (66.8) all ahead of Cronk. Despite running the ball far less, Sezer ranks highest for metres per run at 8.48. Townsend is second at 7.3 with Brooks just behind him on 7.2. Cronk is fourth at 7.03.

Line and Tackle Breaks

Pearce heads the class for line breaks, picking up five this year at 0.5 per game. Townsend is second and Hodkinson third. Cronk is fourth and Thurston sixth. Thurston, though, heads the field for tackle breaks, picking up 2.83 per game. Pearce is second at 2.1 with Reynolds close behind at 2 per game. Cronk is sixth-equal with McCrone on 1.1 per game.

Line Break and Try Assists

McCrone ranks highest for line break assists, registering seven at 0.7 per game this year. Reynolds is next at 0.63, just pipping Pearce who has 0.6. Thurston and Cronk are tied for fourth at 0.5 per game. McCrone is also well clear of the field for try assists with 9 at 0.9 per game. Thurston is second with 0.67, then comes Pearce at 0.6 and Cronk at 0.5 per game. Reynolds is last with one try assist every 4 games on average.


Pearce does more general play kicking than any of his contemporaries, with 12.8 per game. Reynolds is next with 12.4. Cronk sits third with 10.5 while Thurston is sixth with a neat 10 per game. Surprisingly, Cronk is the only player in this list to have kicked a 40/20 in 2017.


Cronk is the best defender, making 93.9% of all tackles attempted. He’s made 154 tackles this year and missed just 10. Reynolds is second at 90.53% with Pearce third at 89.58%. Thurston runs last at 76.72%.


Reynolds has the safest hands, averaging 0.38 handling errors per game. Cronk and Sezer are next best, both averaging at 0.6, while Pearce and Cleary follow them at 0.7. Thurston is tied at second-last with Hodkinson, averaging 1 a game. Sezer has given away just one penalty this year and Brooks only two, making them the least penalised here. Cronk is ranked sixth with 0.6 per game while Thurston is last at 0.83 penalties conceded per game.

There are 12 metrics and each player is ranked according to their average. The best in each field scores 1 point, second best gets 2 points etc. The player with the lowest total across all 12 fields is deemed the best. This method rewards consistency across all metrics and shows the best all round player.

Cooper Cronk ranked second, scoring 45 points while Thurston came in at equal-fourth on 56 points. The best in the competition is a clear five points ahead of Cronk and the best halfback option for the Blues.

Mitchell Pearce.

1. Pearce 40
2. Cronk 45
3. Cleary 53
4=. Reynolds 56
4=. Thurston 56
6. Townsend 64
7. Sezer 69
8. Brooks 70
9. McCrone 73
10. Hodkinson 87

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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