Tuesday 22 August 2017 / 12:04 AM

RUNNING THE NUMBERS ON BLUES’ NO.9s

Everyone has an opinion on who should be the NSW hooker for the 2017 State of Origin series opener, but Commentary Box Sports’ stats guru ANDREW FERGUSON is letting the No.9 contenders’ numbers do the talking to solve the selection conundrum. 

Since the morning after Origin 3 last year it seems the media and fans have been obsessing about who the hooker should be for the New South Wales side in 2017.

Robbie Farah is the incumbent rake, with plenty of statements at the start of the year from coach Laurie Daley suggesting he’s inclined to stick with him. But naturally as the season has rolled on, plenty of others have put their hand up with strong claims of unseating Farah.

So with plenty of options on the table – coupled with Daley softening his stance on Farah – what’s needed is some hard facts, as opposed to the usual biased back and forth.

This article is working entirely on statistical data obtained from the official NRL website, and with a simple calculation based on ranking from best to worst in each field, I have calculated who the most consistent and best candidate is to pull on the sky blue No.9 jersey.

Naturally there will be arguments to be made that some statistical fields are more important than others, but the purpose of this exercise is to find the most complete and consistent player in all departments.

Added to the list of Blues candidates is Australian and Maroons hooker Cameron Smith, to show where the Blues options rank in comparison.

NSW Hooker Candidates
Robbie Farah (Souths and incumbent NSW Origin hooker)
Jayden Brailey (Cronulla)
Damien Cook (Souths)
Apisai Koroisau (Manly)
Michael Lichaa (Canterbury)
Cameron McInnes (Souths)
Nathan Peats (Gold Coast)
Kaysa Pritchard (Parramatta)
Peter Wallace (Penrith)

Runs and metres

Cameron Smith averages 9 runs per game, which is vastly higher than all of the Blues-eligible hookers. Cook and Koroisau both average 5.4, with Farah at 5.1. Naturally Smith has made more metres, averaging 57.4 per game, however Koroisau is not far behind, gaining 53.6 per game, which is impressive given he runs the ball considerably less. Michael Lichaa has 4.4 runs for 48.9 metres per game, making him the only player averaging more than 10 metres per run. Metres per run is the only field where Cameron Smith is beaten by all the NSW hookers.

Line and Tackle Breaks

Koroisau leads the field for line-breaks, picking up three in his 10 games so far in 2017. McInnes has two from 10 games. Smith, Lichaa, Farah and Peats are all yet to register a line break yet this year. Koroisau is also top of the class for tackle-breaks, racking up 15 so far, one clear of McInnes and six in front of Smith.

Line Break and Try Assists

In four games so far after an injury-hampered star to 2017, Nathan Peats averages 0.75 line-break assists per game, which is the best of the lot. Second are Smith and Farah, who both average 0.6 per game. Peats is also the best when it comes to try assists, averaging a neat one per game, while Farah and McInnes are second with 0.5 per game. Smith comes next with 0.3.

Offloads

Cook is well clear of the field in this category, averaging 1.1 per game, while Farah, Pritchard and Wallace are all tied for second with 0.6 per game.

Defence

McInnes is the best tackler of the group, making more tackles and missing less than everybody else. He has made 437 tackles and missed just six, at a rate of 98.65%. Farah is next at 97.21%, while Smith runs fourth at 96.21%.

Discipline

Koroisau, Farah and Brailey are the least penalised players on average, giving away 0.4 penalties each per game. Smith averages 0.6. Error rates quite good across the group, with everyone under one turnover per game. McInnes and Cook have had just one error each while Smith has had five.

The Results

There are 12 fields all up and each field is converted to an average per game. The best in each field scores one point, second best gets two points and so on. The player with the lowest total across all twelve ranking fields is deemed the best.

There is just three points’ difference between the top five players, which shows just how close this selection decision is.

Cameron Smith came out on top with 48 points.
Apisai Koroisau and Cameron McInnes were equal-second on 49 points.
Robbie Farah and Damien Cook were next best, both tied on 51 points.
Michael Lichaa had 61, Kaysa Pritchard 73, Jayden Brailey and Peter Wallace tied on 77, and Nathan Peats had 81 points

So a countback is required.

McInnes ranked first in two fields and never ranked last, while Koroisau ranked first in three fields and last twice. McInnes therefore is more consistent and would thus be ranked as the top hooker for NSW.

There you go ‘Loz’, decision made!

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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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