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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  • Again - if we could get our defence in some order, we could be anything. Perhaps Kidwell deserves some heat? 

    • Fathead: I was surprised to read in the media the other day That Arthur meets Joey Johns at Manly where Arthur was the defense coach !! If he was the defensive coach at Manly why did he need a defensive coach under him at the Eels? If there is a problem with Kidwell then there is an equal problem with Arthur, defensively speaking. Why did Arthur not fix that problem this year? By the way, I can`t believe that Arthur was ever a defense coach so I don't believe that media report.

      • Well my take on it is that there are some very well credentialed defensive coaches out there. I doubt that Kidwell is amongst that list but WTF do I know ? I can only go on the fact that when the heat is on we usually crumble like a soufflé especially near our line. 

        Maybe Kidwell was cheap but I would think that the hiring of a top notch defensive coach would have been high on the list.  BA as a defensive coach ??? Hmmm

        • Is there any record of him actually being officiallt listed as the "defensive coach" ?

          As I've said before, the assistant coaches don't work independently of the head coach. Even if he is the defensive coach, he is still only reinforcing the head coaches schemes.

          The reality is that I've only heard him being referred to as assistant coach. Any footage of him during games he is involved in all aspects of match day management, not just the defence.

          • He was forwards coach.

          • It was assumed he was defensive coach given that's the position he held at both the Tigers and Storm, and when he was recruited we lacked a defensive coach.

    • This reply was deleted.
      • I think in Reed's case Tad he has sought to prove himself by his relentless defensive intensity. That's a good thing, there aren't too many 22 year old dummy halves have his level of polish. I've no doubt his attacking game will come along, especially with Joey's coaching.

        We are only now just seeing what a little gem we have in Reed.

  • I think beefing up the forward pack will go along way to sharpening the defence both rcg and Matti are good defenders, should help with the defensive line and a good pack that makes metres will have you defending less

  • I have been watching 2019 replays & the Eels were a different team by the end of the 2019 season than the one that started. Sivo's defence improved out of sight & Waqa Blake put on some great hits in defence once he joined. With Matto & RCG in the team now I expect the defence to be even better next season. Eels look like a team that can really take to the top teams next season & at the end of the season we still finished 5th, so I don't see these stats being the absolute giude to success. 

  • 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.

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