Red-zone specialists: Eels flatter while Sharks deceive

A look at each club's record at attacking inside their opponent's 20-metres and defending in their own red zone finds the Eels and Sharks bucked a trend that otherwise found the best clubs were the best red-zone specialists.

Marking down good 20-metre attacking teams as those that required the fewest attacking play-the-balls per try scored, and most defending play-the-balls per try conceded, finds the Roosters were the best team in the competition while fellow grand finalists Canberra and minor premiers Melbourne were also standouts. The Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles also fared well.

At the lower end, wooden spooners the Titans struggled far more than any other club while the Bulldogs, Cowboys and Panthers had plenty of trouble in this area.

This statistic rams home how much 2019 was a 'what could have been' type of season for Sharks fans.

The club had the second-best attack inside 20 after the Roosters, and the third-best defence in their own 20 behind the Roosters and Raiders.


It also highlights just how costly those games were in which they scored more tries than their opponents and lost on goal-kicking, with a top-four finish totally achievable for John Morris's men had things gone a little differently.

The Sharks' 11.3% of attacking PTBs leading to a try was better than the top four average of 10.8% while the defensive ratio of 7.6% was in line with the top four's 7.4% and easily better than the NRL average of 9.4%.

This metric also suggests the Eels have some work to do at both ends of the field to catch up to the competition heavyweights with their efforts defending their own line worse than any club bar Gold Coast and their attack just eighth-best.

There were other areas the Eels countered these weaknesses however; they were one of the best long-range attacking teams and also scored plenty of tries from kicks, meaning they weren't as reliant on wearing down opponents at the goal-line for points.

A good yardage game and a good long kicking game and the fourth-best possession ratio in the NRL meant their weaknesses defending their own line weren't exposed as often as they could have been either.

All up, 9.5% of attacking possessions led to a try – bang on NRL average and well below the 10.8% average of the top four. But it was their defence – with a huge 11.1% of defensive PTBs yielding a try – that was the worry. The NRL average was 9.4% and for the top four it was just 7.4%, highlighting a big area of potential improvement.

The Roosters, with and NRL-best 12.6% of attacking PTBs leading to a try and just 7.0% at the other end (trailing just Canberra's 6.6%), were the standout club.

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    • I agree with you Jim, I believe the weakness early was the soft middle behind the ruck and it seem most obvious when both Brown's were out (don't underestimate the tidy ups of Dyllan).

      That said, whilst the defence improved towards the end of the season, the middle was still soft. Storm showed it up by switching mainly using Cam Smith as the pivot. Iinterestingly we used the same techniqie mainly by utilising the long passing ability of Moses and to a lessor extent Dyllan Brown and the results were usually opportunist, Taka had a ball being put into space  by it!. 

      The Storm method was to thin out the middle and  this saw the giants like Alfonso lining up against Mahoney. If Mahoney is going to be the speedline in our defence, which he is along with Nathan Brown, the middle forwards need to be on their heels.

      PS We have potentially a huge advantage with the speed of Moses and Dylan Brown acting in the Cam Smith role, imagine Melbourne with a runner in that role. I think this is where you will see the influence of JOHNS in their development, he will utilise theses skils where you won't have the opportunistic nature of what we did last year, but the planned undertaking of the same.


  • Would be interesting to see a breakdown on these stats for the first and second half of the year - I think we improved.

    Regardless we need to improve more. With weapons on the wings and tall outside backs/edges and Junior and RCG in the middle, the halves and coach have no excuse for not being able to improve our success rate. Hopefully Joey can coach them game management in the red zone. Also think Dylan may have some good instinct for this.

    For defence inour twenty, I have more confidence in BA - he has improved our defence before. I think we have a few weak points that need to be worked on. Bellamy exploited these.

  • I think a lot of these issues will be addressed by Johns. You could see last season that we were not likely to score once we got to the line, and attacking raids really needed to start at least 20-30m out from the tryline. With our halves able to take charge of the attack with better options, we should be able to better utilise our edge forwards and outside backs close to the line. Defensively, getting the fullback and 9 to take charge and line up the defenders will also go a long way to fix some of the defensive issues. So you can see the value in having Johns on the coaching staff, and his work is crucial. Already Moses has commented that he is learning to break the game down into simple steps and processes. If he is learning this quickly, that is a very good sign!

    On the other hand, I think if you took a couple of our worst defensive games out of the picture, the figures would not look quite so bad. This is important because it puts things into perspective, and may show that Parra were on the way to improving here throughout the season.

  • We only needed to improve our defence. Better defence means you're under less scoreboard pressure meaning you can be more patient with the ball. That leads to more possession which wears the opposition down, leading to more tries. All without improving your attack. Instead you make the opposition defence worse just by making them work more.

    • Or visa versa- better attack means less defending and better defence as less tired. 

      Either way need to improve both

      • Our attack was much better than our defence this year. Ergo, we have the most scope for improvement in defence. It's a lot easier to improve something that's bad than to improve something that's already pretty good. Diminishing returns

  • 2 of our biggest problems was our tryline defense & our ruck defense. Begs the question why is Kidwell still with us 

  • not to forget also that we played half the season with basically one half. Interesting to see the attacking stats with and without Brown.I know that we won most games he played.

  • To be successful in 2020 we'll need to step up our toughness & attitude - purpose under pressure. Talent, motivation & confidence won't be anywhere near enough. 

    In 2019 we had one of the worst away defences in the comp, conceding 39 tries (only Titans & St George were worse, conceding 42 tries each) & showed a soft belly when under fire especially in the middle. It's no wonder we failed to win a single away game against a top-8 team.



    • This reply was deleted.
      • Yeah, against the Broncos we were able to score without really having to construct sets with any sort of plan, their defence was that bad. Against Melbourne, their defence was far too well drilled for that.


This reply was deleted.

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