Breaking down the numbers from season 2019
Thu 28 Nov 2019, 08:01 AM
“A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays and for the last three he stays.”
By this barometer, Wests Tigers have three lives left after finishing ninth for the sixth time in their 20-year history in 2019.
Even more frustrating was the fact it’s three times in the past four years that the ‘so near and yet so far’ ninth-place finish has been the end result of their toil.
In a good sign, Michael Maguire’s arrival immediately brought a further 98 points in attack compared to 2018 but their defence struggled to improve overall with a couple of blowout losses not helping.
The storylines of the season included Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall notching up their 300th NRL appearances, Chris Lawrence’s inspiring return from a serious facial injury and two stunning Michael Chee Kam match-winners.
In the end, it all came down to a final round shootout against the Sharks for a spot in the eight but not even a full house at Leichhardt could do the trick as the Tigers succumbed 25-8 - a painful result that will no doubt provide Maguire’s men with all the motivation they need over the summer.
Home and Away record
7-5 at home, 4-8 away
Wests Tigers replicated their 2018 record at home grounds with another 7-5 effort after opening the season with three games in their own backyard.
Two home clashes hosted in Tamworth and Brisbane for Magic Round weekend also proved successful.
The Tigers’ away record finished at 4-8 with trips to Bankwest Stadium, the SCG and Lottoland proving particularly difficult against opposition higher on the ladder.
Victories while travelling against the Cowboys in Townsville and Broncos at Suncorp Stadium were among the highlights of 2019.
Wests Tigers finished on top for total post-contact metres made, with an average of 487 per game.
Departing back-rower Ryan Matterson averaged 49.9 post-contact metres per game, while David Nofoaluma (48.9) and Mahe Fonua (42.2) were also strong through the defensive line.
The side’s overall post-contact efforts made up 30.3% of their total running metres for the season and saw them finish above the NRL and top four team averages.
However, their struggle came defending post-contact, with the side conceding 494 metres on average per game, ranking them third worst in the competition behind the Bulldogs and Titans.
Tries scored by channel
There was a fairly even spread of tries scored for the joint venture across the 80 minutes in 2019 with 39 of 83 coming in the first half of games.
Their strongest periods came before the half-time and full-time sirens with 12 and 14 tries scored respectively.
Wests Tigers scored 64 of their tries from plays inside the 20-metre zone, which placed them above the NRL average of 9.4% but just below the 10.8% figure for top-four teams.
Their left channel edged the right side in attack with 43% of their tries scored.
Corey Thompson and Cowboys-bound centre Esan Marsters topped the try-scoring tally with nine tries apiece.
Tries conceded by channel
Wests Tigers conceded 80 tries in 2019 at an average of 3.3 per game.
Their most successful defensive periods came in the opening and final 10 minutes of games with only 15 tries conceded in total.
Their toughest time periods came in the 30 minutes after half-time with 34 tries conceded (42.5% of their total conceded) in a stat to fix next season.
The Tigers conceded 22 tries through the centre of the paddock in another area to address.
Both left (31) and right (27) channels were similar in conceding tries defensively.
Tries conceded from penalties
The Wests Tigers conceded 140 penalties in 2019 to be ranked the equal fourth most disciplined team in the NRL behind the Rabbitohs, Cowboys and Dragons.
Luke Brooks (17 penalties conceded) and Robbie Farah (11) were the biggest culprits in this area.
Of the 80 tries the Tigers conceded, 26 of those were scored in the set following a penalty.
Metres gained from offloads
Wests Tigers finished eighth in the offload category to total 234 across 24 games at an average of 9.8 per game.
Esan Marsters (40), Luke Brooks (30) and David Nofoaluma (23) finished in the top three for the club with the trio creating a combined 636.1 metres for their team-mates over the season.
The metres gained following an offload finished 10th best in the competition with an average of 62.7 per game (or 6.4m per offload).
Fullback Corey Thompson benefited most with 187 extra running metres in total.
Defensively the Tigers aimed up when it came to conceding offloads, ranking third best behind the Knights and Raiders.
Look away now, Wests Tigers fans.
When games came down to the wire, the Tigers’ goal-kicking woes came back to haunt them.
No player came under the spotlight more than Paul Momirovski for his missed attempt from close range to force golden point against the Bulldogs in round 21. He landed just two from five that night compared to Bulldog Nick Meaney’s three from three.
A total of 62 points were missed over the course of 24 games with the sideline conversions proving most difficult with a combined 35% strike rate on both sides of the field.
The 9-8 loss to Penrith in round four was another tough pill to swallow given that Tigers scored two tries to one but missed both conversions and a penalty goal.
Esan Marsters (65%) was the primary kicker but gave up the role mid-year for Momirovski (75%) and Moses Mbye (76%) to take over the duties.
Their overall 69% average for the season was just above Cronulla, who were in a similar boat, with the two clubs coincidentally playing each other for a final spot in the top eight.
Time in opposition’s half
Wests Tigers had plenty of time in their opposition half in 2019 with 55% of the ball down the other end of the field.
This figure is above the NRL average by 5% and is ranked alongside the Panthers as equal second best with minor premiers Melbourne enjoying 56.8% of the time in the opposition half.
Proving time at each end isn’t everything, eventual premiers the Roosters suffered most in this area with 45.7% possession in their opponents zone.
They still managed to accumulate a season-high 108 tries compared to the Wests Tigers’ 83.
Wests Tigers churned out plenty of yardage from dummy half to rank second behind the Raiders with 3112 metres at an average of 130 per game.
Veteran rake Robbie Farah led the way with 724 metres from 83 carries out of dummy half.
He was joined by Esan Marsters (524 metres), Moses Mbye (417 metres) and Jacob Liddle (354 metres) in the top four.
With Farah retiring, Marsters leaving the club and Liddle expected to miss the opening rounds with an ACL injury, this will be a key area for Maguire to address as the Tigers seek to match motors with the heavyweights.
Rookie on rivals’ radar
He may not be the biggest name but Thomas Mikaele certainly featured prominently in opposition team meetings in 2019 as his stocks rose.
The 190cm giant attracted three or more defenders for 65% of his total runs to be ranked 11th in the competition alongside the likes of Siosiua Taukeiaho and Addin Fonua-Blake.
He was tackled one-on-one just 4% of the time from a minimum of 150 carries throughout the year.
Having signed a new deal through to the end of 2021, Mikaele looms as a key man in the Tigers’ plans as he builds on an impressive debut season.