This week for ‘Your Edge’ we preview Clint Gutherson v Tom Trbojevic, highlight the best and worst-performing teams in the yardage game, look into the Blues backrow race as well as passing props, and find the best value plays of the weekend.
Gutho v Turbo
We’re at the point where only a couple of games a week are really worth looking forward to at the moment. Warriors v Tigers has the potential to be interesting on Friday night while the Rabbitohs taking on the Panthers in Dubbo will give us some idea of where Wayne Bennett’s side are at despite their injury issues. However, it’s Eels v Sea Eagles – Clint Gutherson v Tom Trbojevic – that is the big draw in Round 11.
Clint Gutherson has become one of the most complete fullbacks in the NRL in 2021. He’s doing it on both sides of the ball and has elevated himself closer towards the top tier fullbacks in the competition. ‘The King’ is no longer just the effort man or the player that can run for the full 80 minutes. He is still providing a lot by pushing up through the middle to be second in the competition in supports with 10.9 per game, but it’s his play out the back of shape on the edges that has taken his game to another level. He is providing the Eels attack with another elite ball-playing option out wide while also acting as a finishing threat as a ball-carrier.
Meanwhile, Tom Trbojevic has pieced together one of the best five-game spans in recent memory. He has seven tries, ten try assists and ten line breaks to his name already this season. We’re not quite ready to call him the best #1 in the game just yet, but he’s close based on the fact he is the sole occupant of the top right quadrant in the above graphic.
You can really see how involved he is in the Sea Eagles attack when putting him against all spine players that have played at least three games this season.
Gutherson is unlikely to have the same statistical output as Trbojevic on Sunday, but you will see him sniffing around the ball all evening. He will pull the defence out of shape by hanging around the ball carrier and open up space for others out wide. In defence, few make more try-saving tackles than The King. Trbojevic will be the deciding factor in this one, though. If he can continue to pile up the attacking stats and generate points for the visitors, we might be in for an upset.
Net Running Metres
Shock: The five teams in the NRL that are streaks ahead of the rest on the ladder are also streaks ahead in the yardage battle every week.
The Penrith Panthers are beating their opponents by almost 500 metres while the Melbourne Storm, Parramatta Eels, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Sydney Roosters also significantly out-perform their opposition in the yardage game every week. Unsurprisingly, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles are the only other team consistently winning the middle as they continue their Tom Trbojevic-inspired climb up the ladder.
Net running metres also mirrors the bottom of the ladder with the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, Brisbane Broncos and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at 14th, 15th and 16th, respectively, on both lists.
Blues Backrow Race
It’s that time of year again…
State of Origin chat is heating up and the backrow position is one that is generating a lot of discussion.
As we’ve just highlighted above, the yardage game is key and will be something Brad Fittler will be looking to dominate as the New South Wales Blues look to rebound from their shock series loss in 2020.
Tyson Frizell, Jake Trbojevic, Angus Crichton, Cameron Murray and Tariq Sims were all mentioned as possible starters in the second row in NRL.com’s recent team prediction piece. Crichton is the one player most expect to slot in on the edge and he stands out in the visual below as one of the best metre-eaters in the NRL.
Cameron Murray has spent all of his time at lock this season but has averaged 108 running metres per game. He’s familiar enough with playing on the edge that playing him wider isn’t an outrageous option. His ruck speed could open up all sorts of opportunities down the short side – something that sounds especially exciting if Tom Trbojevic is playing in the centres.
Tyson Frizell is also up there while Tariq Sims rates a mention too. I think we can ignore the Jake Trbojevic suggestion…
Tevita Pangai Jr is the true left-field option after an excellent start to the year in a dire Broncos outfit. You often can’t capture Pangai Jr’s best performances with numbers. It’s his energy in both attack and defence, the timing of a strong carry or big shot from nowhere that allows Pangai Jr to dominate a game. He handled David Fifita relatively well in their Round 8 clash against the Titans, and that is something Brad Fittler should consider when naming his 17 for Game 1.
Side note: How about Teig Wilton (NSW) putting himself up in the top right corner with Buy of the Season candidate, Isaiah Papali’i (NZ)? Wilton has only been named on the edge three times this season (Round 4, 5 & 7) but averaged 152 metres across those games.
We’ve made regular mention about the increasing number of passes backrowers are throwing in the NRL these days here over the last few weeks. But having seen Jarrod Wallace make passes off the kickoff, Marty Taupau shift the ball through the middle and tip a player over the line on Friday, Junior Paulo look like a 123 kg halfback and James Fisher-Harris add a pass to his game to become the best prop in the world, I wanted to check in on the Pass:Run ratio of all props in the competition.
The four already mentioned are towards the top of the list, as expected.
However, Aaron Woods, Jordan McLean and Aiden Tolman aren’t names most would bring up when talking about passing props. The game is revolving around big bodies moving the ball more and more as the rounds go by. These unexpected ball-playing props are worth keeping an eye on before checking back in on these numbers in a few weeks.
Ben Murdoch-Masila scored a barnstorming try through the middle of the Eels defence last week and will back himself to cross the line against a flimsy Wests Tigers side this week. He has been named on the edge (where the Tigers have conceded 20 tries this season) but could end up in the middle as he did towards the back end of the game in Round 10. Either way, he’s going to be a target for the New Zealand Warriors in good ball areas early on Friday night.
Your eyes are always directed towards Melbourne Storm players when it comes to the anytime try scorer market in a match that they’re heavy favourites. However, Angus Crichton rolling through Albert Kelly in his Broncos debut presents as a likely source of points for the Roosters on Saturday night. Per the Sport Tech Daily Try Scorer Portal, Crichton has scored in six of his 24 games since the start of last season, bagging a double three times.