PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 05: Dylan Edwards of the Panthers looks dejected during the round four NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Wests Tigers at Panthers Stadium on April 05, 2019 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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.

The Bad
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.

Statistical Category20182019Change
Points per game23.1414.42Down 8.72 per game
Points against per game15.1421.42Up 6.28 per game
Errors per game8.912.9Increased by 4.0 per game
Error ranking9th14th5 spots worse
Set completion %76%69%7% – worst in the NRL
Home Record3-01-33 more losses
Away Record2-21-2One less win

The Panthers’ rankings in the key statistical categories compared to their end of season rank from a year ago.

Statistical Category2018 Ranking2019 RankingChange
Tries8th16thDown 8 spots to dead last
Set Completion %12th16thDown 4 spots to deal last
Possession %12th16thDown 4 spots to dead last
Linebreaks4th14thDown 10 spots
Tackle breaks4th14thDown 10 spots
Run Metres7th16thDown 9 spots to dead last
Offloads5th15thDown 10 spots to 2nd last
Try assists5th16thDown 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 worse
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 Category2018 Ranking2019 RankingChange
Tackles11th4th42.8 more tackles per game
Missed tackles15th16th4.0 more missed tackles per game
Ineffective tackles2nd14thFrom 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:

PlayerMissed tackles per gameNRL Rank
James Maloney5.7Most in the NRL
James Fisher-Harris5.32nd most in the NRL
Viliami Kikau4.011th 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:

PlayerTotal ErrorsNRL Rank
Josh Mansour134th most in the NRL
Dylan Edwards125th most in the NRL
Waqa Blake11Tied 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.

YearTeams with 2 or less wins after seven roundsTeams that made the finals
2018Raiders, Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Cowboys, EelsNone
2017Panthers, Tigers, Titans, KnightsPanthers
2016Tigers, Knights, RoostersNone
2015Sea EaglesNone
2014Cowboys, Knights, Warriors, SharksCowboys
2013Panthers, Sharks, Bulldogs, Tigers, Eels, WarriorsSharks, Bulldogs
2012Tigers, Titans, EelsNone
2011Sharks, Roosters, Titans, Panthers, Rabbitohs, RaidersNone
2010Cowboys, Knights, Broncos, Raiders, SharksRaiders
2009Sea Eagles, Raiders, Roosters, Eels, SharksSea Eagles, Eels
2008Dragons, Eels, RabbitohsDragons

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!

Scoop

3 COMMENTS

  1. G’day Bunny,
    They will definitely want to win today if the want any chance at Finals. It’s still relatively early in the year, but they are in must win territory.

    Trust in the Data
    Skip

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