Best since ‘05 Tigers: How O’Brien sparked Roosters’ attack
NRL.com Senior Reporter
Mon 26 Aug 2019, 06:25 PM
Sydney Roosters have scored more points than any team at the corresponding stage of a season since wrestling took a hold on the game after Wests Tigers won the 2005 grand final.
It’s a statistic which highlights why Newcastle have targeted Adam O’Brien to replace Nathan Brown as coach next season.
The 595 points scored by the Roosters in their 22 matches is the most since Wests Tigers piled on 632 points at the same stage of the 2005 premiership and a staggering 105 points more than they had scored this time last year.
While O’Brien is just one member of a talented coaching team under Trent Robinson that has the Roosters better placed to win back-to-back premierships than any side since Brisbane achieved the feat in 1993, his role is to oversee the club’s attack.
Before joining the Roosters this season, O’Brien spent 11 years with the Storm and is credited with revolutionising Melbourne’s attack after they lost the 2016 grand final to Cronulla.
The Storm had relied heavily on high completion rates and controlling the ruck but under the guidance of O’Brien they transformed their attack by looking to shift the ball quickly to the edges, where wingers Suilasu Vunivalu (23 tries) and Josh Addo-Carr (19) scored 42 tries.
Given more of a roving role, five-eighth Cameron Munster was selected for his debuts with Queensland and Australia in 2017.
As a result, Melbourne became the best attacking team in the Telstra Premiership, scoring 633 points in the regular season before defeating North Queensland in the grand final – one of just eight teams to score more than 600 points in a season in the previous 10 years.
They amassed 536 points last year as defence gained the ascendancy, with the Roosters having already scored more points this season than any team managed in 2018.
The Storm have the second-best attack this season, having scored 571 points, but no other team has managed to crack 500, with third-best Canberra (489) having scored more than 100 less than the Roosters.
The key to their potent attack is halfback Cooper Cronk, who worked closely with O’Brien at the Storm before moving to Sydney last year, and the players around him are now benefiting.
Fullback James Tedesco has scored 14 tries and easily leads the statistics for the most line breaks, with 21 in 19 matches, and tackle breaks (133). Tedesco also has 12 line-break assists.
Five-eighth Luke Keary’s 19 try assists in 18 games is second overall and equal to Parramatta halfback Mitchell Moses’s average of 1.1 per match, while he is equal first for line-break assists (16) with South Sydney hooker Damien Cook and Newcastle halfback Mitchell Pearce.
Try of the week: Round 23
Star centre Latrell Mitchell is on target to become the first player to top the Telstra Premiership’s try scoring and goal-kicking lists in the same year since Mal Meninga in 1990, with 17 tries and 85 goals for a tally of 239 points.
Mitchell also sits behind only Dave Brown, Andrew Johns, Ron Rowles and Hazem El Masri for the most points per game in a season, and is averaging 11.95 points in his 20 appearances.
Brown averaged 16.6 points per match in 15 games for Eastern Suburbs in 1935 – a feat that is unlikely to be surpassed but there is still a chance this season that Mitchell could overtake El Masri, Rowles and Johns.
El Masri averaged 12.21 points for Canterbury in 2004 and Rowles averaged 12.22 in 1954 and 12.28 in 1951 for Western Suburbs, while Johns averaged 13.29 for the Knights in 2001 – the year of the club’s last premiership.
Knights set to announce O’Brien as new head coach
After losing six consecutive matches to drop from a top four place to be all but out of finals reckoning, the Knights and Brown last week decided to part company and the club is expected to confirm the appointment of O’Brien after Robinson gave his blessing to accept the job.
Former Storm prop Tim Glasby has backed the appointment of O’Brien and the NRL’s newest coach is believed to be excited about the prospect of working with the likes of Pearce, star fullback Kalyn Ponga, Test prop David Klemmer and incoming hooker Jayden Brailey next season.
When the Knights were on a mid-season winning streak, they piled on more than 30 points in games against the Warriors, Dragons and Roosters but have scored 14 points or less in four of their last six matches.
In comparison, the Roosters have scored 224 points in their last six matches and if they maintain their average of 37 points per match during that period they would join the 2016 Raiders (688) as the only teams to score more than 650 points in a regular season since 2005.
With the Eels (701), Tigers (676), Dragons (655), Storm (640) and Cowboys (639) scoring more than 600 points, the 2005 season was considered a nirvana but wrestling tactics started gaining the upper hand the following year as teams sought to control the speed of the ruck.
Before then, it was common for the leading teams to score more than 700 points in a season, with the Bulldogs amassing 760 points in 2004 and 702 points in 2003, while Newcastle scored 724 points in 2002.