This is one of the best times of the year.
Pre-season games are getting closer, training is slowly ramping up and the season kick-off draws closer by the day. Hope spring eternal in the pre-season, every team is unbeaten and has a shot at winning it all.
But before season 2020 begins, let’s take a look back at the last half-decade and see who has been successful and why.
Which teams have performed best (and worst) during the home and away rounds over the last five years? Which teams are better at home and which succeed on the road? Which team scored the most and which has a revolving door as its defence?
This edition of The Numerical Advantage will dive into these questions and sort out who has and hasn’t had a good run over the last half-decade.
Note: To all of my readers, please note that the name of my column will be changing going forward (turns out other sites are using the same name… who knew?). My articles will remain statistical-based and look to delve into the numbers to bring you the interesting stats, only the name will now be The Numerical Advantage. As always, thank you for reading and looking forward to a big 2020 season.
There is an advantage to playing at home and good teams make the most of that. Over the last five years the Home side has won 55.27%. The Roosters, Storm and Broncos all won 70% or better of their home games. Not coincidently, the Storm and Roosters combined for all five minor premierships over this period.
The Titans and Knights win merely 1/3 of their games at home, though their overall success has been lacking too so this was to be expected. To put into context, Melbourne won 44 home games to the Knights 19 over the last five years.
The Eels with a healthy 56.6% at home against just 40.00% on the road, are settling into their new home with a 9-3 Home record in 2019 while the Raiders were surprisingly ordinary at home, given the conditions would seemingly favour them against the Northern sides), at just 53.33%.
There is direct correlation between winning on the road and winning the minor premiership. In fact, in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 the team with the most Road wins went on to win the minor premiership. But no team is better on the road than at home…. right?
Incredibly, Melbourne who were tops in home wins, were actually even better on the road (75.00% vs. 73.33%). The Storm also recorded the two best single-season away records at 11-1 (2019, 2017). Part of the dominance of Melbourne over the past five years can be easily attributed to their outstanding success rate on the road.
A distant second were the Sharks who were superb away from Shark Park and only marginally less successful than when they were at home (63.33% vs 60.00%).
Only six teams managed to finish with winning records on the road for the five-year stretch with the downtrodden Knights setting new records for futility winning just nine, yes nine, away games over the five years for a measly 15.00% success rate and 10 wins less than the next worst team (Titans, 19).
The Knights futility was capped off by their abysmal 0-12 winless Away record in 2016, a feat matched only by Parra’s woeful 0-12 effort in 2018.
Melbourne has been far and away the most successful team during the home and away rounds over the last half-decade. In addition to their phenomenal success rate (73.55%) the Storm have outscored their opponents by 1,151, which is a whopping 466 points better than the next best team, the Roosters (685).
Melbourne were one of only three teams to finish top eight every year, won two minor premierships and were the only team to finish top four every season. Melbourne had the best winning % at home (73.33%) and on the road (75.00%), miles ahead of the second-placed Sharks (60.34%). The Storm were the second-highest scoring team (2,794) behind only the Raiders (2,906) but it was their defence that sets Melbourne in a class all of their own.
Melbourne was the only team to concede less than 2,000 points over the five-year span (1,643), a jaw-dropping 371 less than the next best side (Roosters, 2,014). The Storm almost managed to concede half of what the Newcastle Knights allowed over the same period (1,643 vs 3,126). Truly staggering.
Here is a list of the teams that conceded 1,000 points or more than the Storm over the 5 years.
And for points difference, or plus / minus if you prefer, only six teams managed to finish the half-decade in the positive, with Melbourne way out in front.
And just to show the gap between the best and the worst.
While it has certainly been a rough time to be a Knights fan, Melbourne supporters have never had it better. The Storm has been truly dominant over the past five years.
Which is the best scoring team in the NRL over the past five years? Congrats if you were in the minority that picked the Raiders over the likes of the Storm, Roosters and Rabbitohs.
The Green Machine has been a literal scoring machine over the last half-decade recording the most total points of any side (2,906) while also setting the single season-high with their 688 points in 2016. How prolific were the 2016 Raiders? Only three other sides cracked the 600 mark over the 5 years, Melbourne 633 in 2017 and 631 in 2019 and the Roosters in 2019 with 627. How did your side fare?
Scoring points alone hasn’t proven a recipe for success over the last five years. The Raiders high flying attack only led to the fifth best winning rate over this time. The Warriors strong attack (seventh) wasn’t nearly enough for success either with just the 14th best success rate. A strong attack has not always proven to be a successful approach over the last half decade.
Defence wins matches as the old adage goes. The Knights clearly haven’t heard that one yet though as they have bled an NRL worst 3,126 points over the last five seasons at whopping 625.2 per year and a pathetic 26.05 per game.
Melbourne conceded 13.69 per game. The worst single season effort goes to the 2016 Knights who opened the flood gates and let in a mind boggling 800 points, damn near half what the Storm conceded over the entire five-year span (1,643).
It should probably come as no surprise but there is a direct correlation between the teams conceding the most points and a lack of success. The bottom four teams for points allowed over the five years were also the bottom four teams for success over this period, in the same order no less. Unless you can score like the Raiders, you better tighten up that defence to succeed in the modern game.
Finally, let’s take a look at the overall success, based on winning percentage, of every club over the five years.
While the Storm have run away with the last half-decade, winning nearly three quarters of their games (73.55%), it has been tough, tough sledding for the Knights (27.50%) and the Titans (32.50%).
With both clubs having recently cleaned house again and looking to rebuild, it could be another tough half decade coming up for their committed fans. While the Roosters and Broncos (both with 61.67%) had terrific runs over the past five years, it is very interesting to see that while the Roosters enjoyed more success in winning two minor premierships and finishing top four on four occasions, the Broncos finished with the same strike rate in winning despite collecting no minor premierships and only two top-four finishes.
This speaks to the consistency of the Broncos as they were one of only three teams, along with the Sharks and Storm, to make the top eight in every year of the half-decade, whereas the Roosters had the aberration of finishing 15th in 2016.
This also speaks to the understandable frustration of Bronco nation as they have been unable to convert their consistent success into ultimate glory over this period. The Tigers join the Knights as the most futile clubs to follow as the only two teams not finish in the top eight, with the Warriors and Titans managing just one top eight finish each. And just to drive it home, the Tigers also finished ninth on three occasions. Heart breaking.
The moral of the story is win on the road and play solid defence. While some may say that teams having a good year win regardless of where they play, the numbers show that nine teams over the past five years have missed the top eight despite finishing with winning records at home.
Only one team has finished with a winning road record and missed, the 2015 Canberra Raiders (7-5). Look at Manly over this stretch. Sixth in scoring but just 12th in defence left them finishing the half decade as the 12th most successful side. Defence really matters.
So for 2020, here’s hoping your club can improve their winning rate on the road and build themselves a top five defence. Except you Melbourne. You already have everything you need.
As always, thanks for reading and trust in the data!