This is an essay.
Whilst becoming tired of the “impression”-based comments on the forum, I decided to do an analysis of exactly how the team / coach has performed over the seasons, with an emphasis on comparing 2015 to previous years.
The results surprised in many ways.
Rather than being the defensive disaster that is often suggested (including by me), 2015 is actually:
- 6th best season as measured by points conceded per game
- 5th best season as measured by average loss margin
- 3rd best season as measured by points conceded per loss
- Best season as measured by points conceded per win
In 2015, it is the attack figures that are not so good:
- 3rd worst season as measured by points scored per game
- 7th worst season as measured by for/against margin per game and by points scored per loss
- 5th worst season as measured by points scored per win
But there is a strange up-side to the attack in 2015:
- 3rd best season for average win margin
- best ever season for points conceded (lowest) during a win.
Specifically for JT, we are definitely improving when it comes to scoring points and keeping the opposition out. There are no doubts the attack and defence are both improved over anything experienced during the Potter years.
For example, JT is:
- 2nd best coach as measured by points conceded per game
- 2nd as measured by for/against margin per game
- best as measured by 4 other metrics: average win margin, average loss margin, average points conceded during wins, average points condeded during losses.
Which raises the question - if the attack and defence aren’t the worst ever, and the coach is comparably well-placed, how is it that 2015 is a strong chance of being our first ever wooden spoon? 2015 is the 4th-worst for win percentage of all seasons, and also 4th-worst for average placing on the table. We have only ever fallen to last place once before: season 2013 (5 weeks at 16th).
It appears that the answer is quite subtle.
Firstly: coming last may be a measure of how even a competition is. In other words, if there are no easy-beats, there might not be an obvious candidate to save you from coming last, and the bottom-placed teams may share a decent amount of wins. Parra saved us from coming last in 2013.
But specifically for Tigers in 2015, our issue appears to be with the Jekyll/Hyde nature of our performances. When we win, our defence goes to another level, and the winning margin is very strong (even taking into account that we had a 1-point win in Rd 1). In other words, our winning scores aren’t special, but our winning defence is easily the best we’ve ever had – only 9.6 points conceded per win and an average win margin if 17.4.
In contrast, when we lose, we aren’t conceding lots of points and we aren’t copping many hidings (losing margins are modest). Instead, we are losing because we are not scoring enough points – 14.5 points scored per loss, whilst conceding 27.92
It seems that for some reason, our performances are either really good (i.e. both attack and defence click) or they are poor without being dreadful. There does not appear much in-between, such as many hard-ground wins or absolute floggings. If the game is close, we invariably lose, which is not surprising, given the age and inexperience of our side.
This speaks to me as being two issues. Firstly: mental; we can be flat-track bullies or easy-beats in consecutive weeks. Secondly, we probably have a few key weaknesses, such as lack of centres depth, that hamstring our attack and stop us making the most of a decent defensive record.
What the results don’t tell you is whether our wins occur because good defence sets a platform for improved attack, or because good defence is irrelevant if you can’t score points. Should we attack more and hope the defence comes on, or work more on defence to make up for attacking deficiencies?
To answer this, you’d need to review the tapes to see the flow of games – whether good attack results in best defence, or whether best defence permits good attack. We’ve certainly had games where we both blew the opposition away early (Dragons) and late in the match (Eels). It’s a bit too chicken-egg for me at this stage.
Now don’t go off half-cocked and say “I told you JT was spending too much time on defensive structures”, because there is no specific evidence in the results that says we can’t attack and defend at the same time. Our wins are almost exclusively made up of our best defence and bestattack.
It may simply be true that our attack is not mature enough or sophisticated enough to trouble the good sides, and our defence is still not good enough to cover that deficiency.
Also bear in mind that all this analysis is being done against previous seasons, which for the most part are losing seasons. These are comparisons against previous Tigers sides, so saying defence is better, is not necessarily saying the defence is good enough to trouble the best sides. Similarly, attack may only be down compared to the very flamboyant Tigers sides of the mid 2000s.