This week for ‘Your Edge’ we preview the Titans v Raiders blockbuster, look into how the Roosters replace Luke Keary, check back in with the net running metres ladder, and find the best value plays of the weekend.
Titans v Raiders
In a round where most results feel like a foregone conclusion, the battle between the Gold Coast Titans and Canberra Raiders through the middle shapes as the most interesting 80 minutes of the Easter weekend. If it’s not an appealing or even head-to-head matchup, it’s contrasting size and styles that appeal in this one.
Props: Jarrod Wallace v Josh Papalii & Tino Fa’asuamaleaui v Dunamis Lui
It’s an all-Queensland affair through the middle, but despite Josh Papalii being considered a State of Origin certainty and the best prop in the game, the Titans hold a significant advantage in the yardage battle to start this one. Dunamis Lui has run for just 48 metres per game in limited minutes across Round 1 and 2. While he can expect an increase in minutes this week, he’s never been a big metre eater. His 91 metres per game last season is a career-high and would still wrap up the tail of this head-to-head matchup in the middle.
Hookers: Mitch Rein v Josh Hodgson
The contrasting styles of the two hookers makes for interesting viewing in this one.
Mitch Rein is always looking to dart out of dummy half. He’s monitoring the markers and keeping an eye out for defenders on the ground. When he’s given the chance, Rein is off to the races. His 61 running metres per game is considerably more than Josh Hodgson’s 35 metres per game. However, Hodgson’s attacking output doesn’t come via darts from behind the ruck. Instead, he manipulates the defensive line from dummy half. While Rein looks for opportunities to go himself, Hodgson is finding holes in the defensive line for others.
Hodgson picked up two try assists in an excellent first half performance last week to take his attacking involvements (try+try assist+linebreak+linebreak assist) up to six for the season – double Rein’s output at the Titans.
Edge Backrow: Kevin Proctor and David Fifita v Hudson Young and Elliott Whitehead
The two backrow pairings carry a similar make-up.
In Kevin Proctor and Elliott Whitehead, one edge on both sides features a veteran line runner. Experts in the little things and reliable defenders out wide. Neither blows the other team out of the water in attack, but given the right opportunity in good ball, they can find their way across the line.
On the other side of the field, and going up against each other on Saturday, are the destructive ball-carriers. Hudson Young impressed throughout the opening two rounds to run for a career-high 104 running metres per game while brushing 5.5 would-be-tacklers away per game. David Fifita is different gravy, though. He leads all edge-backrowers in the NRL with 145 running metres per game while his eight tackle breaks per game are the most in the competition right now.
Locks: Tyrone Peachey v Ryan Sutton
Tyrone Peachey is 183cm and 93kg wearing the Titans #13 jersey this week. In the green #13, Ryan Sutton stands tall at 188 cm and 105 kg.
These two are totally different in every aspect with Peachey’s size and speed seeing him used within the Titans attack while Sutton is more familiar with playing prop. We consider Sutton an old-school lock forward in 2021; such as how the position has changed in recent years.
Peachey gets his hands on the ball and moves it across the field. He’s touching it over 20 times in roughly 40 minutes per game at the moment. Meanwhile, Sutton’s 25 touches last week is a career-high and came as a direct result of Canberra’s injury issues and the career-high 73 minutes he was forced to play. He will influence the game in yardage through his 139 running metres per game to Peachey’s 120 metres. Opposites attract, and this matchup is one to watch closely on Saturday night.
The Sydney Roosters flew into Round 3 of the NRL season with the best attack in the game and their sights set on the premiership. Now, they’re reeling following a suspected ACL injury to their halfback Luke Keary.
Among the best in the game at the position, Keary is a massive loss. He had just switched into the #7 jersey and started to spend more time on the right side. Still, he played as though nothing has changed and it’s scary to think how well this Roosters attack would have run through September. It’s all looking a lot different now, though.
Joseph Manu is expected to pair up with Sam Walker in the halves. Manu the centre and Walker the debutant. They have massive shoes to fill, and neither come into their Round 4 clash against the Warriors with any NRL experience in the #6 or #7 jerseys.
Keary’s influence on the side can be best measured by his seven try assists so far in 2021. However, the 60 times he touches the ball per game highlights the work Manu and Walker will need to do when it comes to moving the team around the field. Manu has never touched the ball more than 34 times in a game throughout his 94-game career. Meanwhile, Walker is still only 18-years-old with just three games of reserve grade experience under his belt. He plays more on the ball than Manu but still only averaged 42 touches per game.
Manu is an elite NRL centre and Walker has superstar potential. How they link up and who helps them with the ball-playing (Victor Radley, perhaps?) will be interesting to follow in the coming weeks.
SuperCoaches have already made their minds up, though. Keary has been traded out almost 14,000 times at the time of writing with Walker the third most popular player traded in this week and the hottest NRL Fantasy option per footystatistics.com. Manly five-eighth turned backrower, Josh Schuster, is the most popular player being added and one many will be using to fill the void left by Keary.
Net Running Metres
We looked into net running metres last week to show three of the four big favourites for the premiership (Panthers, Roosters and Storm) topping the list after the first fortnight. Round 3 produced some huge performances in the yardage game with the Parramatta Eels now among the top teams in net running metres.
They ran a whopping 2,398 metres to the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks’ 1,433 metres. However, Parramatta’s big move up the standings needs to be taken with a grain of salt given the injury issues facing their opposition on the night.
We can put the salt away for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, though. Their -1,548 net running metres is an accurate reflection of their NRL-worst forward pack across the opening three rounds of the competition. They lack speed, power and guile through the middle with their 1,381 metres per game, far and away, the worst in the competition. Coming back the other way, no team allows their opposition to run for more metres at 1,896 metres per game. They face a Rabbitohs side this week that kept the Roosters to just 1,264 metres last week and concedes the second-fewest running metres per game overall.
Sitili Tupouniua tops the model’s value list as both an anytime and first try scorer. It makes sense from a matchup perspective. The Warriors middle couldn’t handle the Raiders throughout the first half last week. With the ball-players the Roosters have in the centre-third and their ability to move the ball wide, Tupouniua should see a lot of action in good ball areas.
He has only scored the first try once in the last five seasons, but with the issues Manly have defending wide of the ruck along with the Panthers willingness to run him in shape, James Fisher-Harris is a roughie option on Thursday night.