It has been a rough start to the year at the foot of the mountains with a squad that many predicted to be grand final contenders currently sitting 14th on the ladder after seven rounds.
This is obviously not the scenario Ivan Cleary and co. were imagining when Cleary came over from the Wests Tigers (though Gus Gould may disagree). Where has it all gone wrong? What are the Panthers doing so much worse than last year? Scoop has delved into the numbers to paint the picture and see if there is any hope of the Panthers still making the finals in 2019.
Just two wins to go along with five losses leaves the Panthers rooted near the bottom of the NRL ladder after seven rounds. Last year after seven rounds they were flying at 5-2. Here is a comparison of the Panthers after Seven rounds in both 2018 & 2019.
|Points per game||23.14||14.42||Down 8.72 per game|
|Points against per game||15.14||21.42||Up 6.28 per game|
|Errors per game||8.9||12.9||Increased by 4.0 per game|
|Error ranking||9th||14th||5 spots worse|
|Set completion %||76%||69%||7% – worst in the NRL|
|Home Record||3-0||1-3||3 more losses|
|Away Record||2-2||1-2||One less win|
The Panthers’ rankings in the key statistical categories compared to their end of season rank from a year ago.
|Statistical Category||2018 Ranking||2019 Ranking||Change|
|Tries||8th||16th||Down 8 spots to dead last|
|Set Completion %||12th||16th||Down 4 spots to deal last|
|Possession %||12th||16th||Down 4 spots to dead last|
|Linebreaks||4th||14th||Down 10 spots|
|Tackle breaks||4th||14th||Down 10 spots|
|Run Metres||7th||16th||Down 9 spots to dead last|
|Offloads||5th||15th||Down 10 spots to 2nd last|
|Try assists||5th||16th||Down 11 spots to last|
More errors leading to less set completions are killing the Panthers’ attacking attempts. The massive decline in offloads, tackle breaks and linebreaks speaks to a philosophical change to a more conservative attacking style, a far cry from the free flowing, strong rallying side we saw a year ago.
The Panthers’ defence and poor tackling have been the well below par when watching Penrith play this season. The numbers certainly back this up.
|Statistical Category||2018 Ranking||2019 Ranking||Change|
|Tackles||11th||4th||42.8 more tackles per game|
|Missed tackles||15th||16th||4.0 more missed tackles per game|
|Ineffective tackles||2nd||14th||From 2nd best to 3rd worst|
The Panthers are having to make 12.3% more tackles per game this season. This is compounded by missing 9.98% more tackles this year and their lack of possession. The ineffective and missed tackling is allowing teams far too many metres, linebreaks and offloads in 2019 and is putting a tremendous drain on their attacking game. It is hard to forward when you pack is exhausted from their defensive output. A must address area for Penrith right now.
The chief culprits for the Panthers’ tackling woes this year (the first one should come as no surprise to anyone, he actually was the worst in the comp last season as well!) in 2019 are:
|Player||Missed tackles per game||NRL Rank|
|James Maloney||5.7||Most in the NRL|
|James Fisher-Harris||5.3||2nd most in the NRL|
|Viliami Kikau||4.0||11th most in the NRL|
The Panthers are blessed with the two probable NSW origin halfbacks in their side, which makes their shocking error and completion rates even harder to stomach. Cleary and Maloney are not the culprits however, and actually rank fourth (Cleary) and fifth (Maloney) in the NRL in lines engaged and outside the top 50 in errors, showcasing the opportunities they are creating for their teammates. these guys however need some super glue for their hands:
|Player||Total Errors||NRL Rank|
|Josh Mansour||13||4th most in the NRL|
|Dylan Edwards||12||5th most in the NRL|
|Waqa Blake||11||Tied for 7 th most in the NRL|
Edwards has only played in five games yet is fifth-worst in the comp for errors while Mansour has played six and ranks fourth-worst. On a per game basis of players who have played more than one game this year, Edwards is the worst in the comp while Mansour is fourth and Blake is 16th. How can you have more errors when you are playing more conservatively? Hugely concerning.
The downright ugly
Every club sets out to make the Finals each year. Once you are in the Finals anything can happen, but you have to be there first. With just two wins from the first seven rounds the Panthers are facing a massive uphill struggle to make the final eight from here.
Has it been done before? Is there any chance of salvaging this train wreck of a season? The statistics tell us that historically the Panthers are toast. But the last team to come back from two wins in seven rounds to play finals was ironically the Panthers themselves back in 2017.
Since 2015, there have been 13 teams with two or fewer wins after seven rounds. Only one, the 2017 Panthers, have made the finals. That’s 7.69% success rate.
That is incredibly low. Since 2011, of the 32 teams with two or less wins after seven rounds just four have made the finals, 12.5%.
Going back a decade to 2008 is a little more encouraging with eight of 45 teams making the finals, a 17.77% clip, but this still ugly for the Panthers having any real shot his year.
The Panthers start to the year has been downright ugly and time is fast running out on them to turn it around.
|Year||Teams with 2 or less wins after seven rounds||Teams that made the finals|
|2018||Raiders, Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Cowboys, Eels||None|
|2017||Panthers, Tigers, Titans, Knights||Panthers|
|2016||Tigers, Knights, Roosters||None|
|2014||Cowboys, Knights, Warriors, Sharks||Cowboys|
|2013||Panthers, Sharks, Bulldogs, Tigers, Eels, Warriors||Sharks, Bulldogs|
|2012||Tigers, Titans, Eels||None|
|2011||Sharks, Roosters, Titans, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Raiders||None|
|2010||Cowboys, Knights, Broncos, Raiders, Sharks||Raiders|
|2009||Sea Eagles, Raiders, Roosters, Eels, Sharks||Sea Eagles, Eels|
|2008||Dragons, Eels, Rabbitohs||Dragons|
History is against the Panthers this season and the numbers certainly back it up. The Panthers’ slide is something By the Numbers will be watching all season, as with the Dragons’ bench rotations (mid-season update coming up!). We will also have to check back in at the end of the season and see how it all plays out. Until then.
Trust in the Data!