Your Edge: NRL Round 7 Preview

Your Edge: NRL Round 7 Preview

Round 7 of the 2022 NRL season is upon us and so is ‘Your Edge’. This week, we’re looking into David Fifita’s involvement, Canberra’s yardage struggles, how Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo split their touches, and highlighting the best value plays of the weekend.

What…? More?!?

Asking David Fifita to do more for the Gold Coast Titans is just as lazy as his performances are perceived to be at times.

Sure, there are moments he isn’t involved and he could put his hand up for a tough carry in yardage a little more for a million-dollar man. Still, there is only so much he can do.

Right now, he’s doing more with the ball than any other Titans player, and outside of AJ Brimson who should be up there, nobody else is particularly close.

Titans attacking involvements

Fifita can create something out of nothing. He can find the match-winning play late in the piece to steal two competition points. However, the defence will make him the focus knowing that if they shut down Fifita – or at least limit his output – the Titans don’t have much else to fall back on.

It’s been a trend for the last 12 months now. Having Fifita do more isn’t going to turn the Titans into a regular Top 8 team. In fact, Fifita being asked to do less and those around him taking some responsibility for the attacking actions will translate into more consistent football.

The Cowboys are big and strong on the edges. They will be up in Fifita’s face and perform relatively well in contact. It will be up to the other 16 players to manufacture enough points for the Titans to win on Saturday.

Canberra Raiders Running On Empty

There isn’t a more disappointing team to start the 2022 NRL season than the Canberra Raiders. With only two wins in six games and little else positive to take away overall, Ricky Stuart – a coach who rarely finds himself under pressure – is in the crosshairs of the talking heads. His side looks nothing like the grinding outfit of recent seasons past. What was considered to be an appealing pack stacked with potential hasn’t kicked on and is currently last in yardage with only 1,425 running metres per game.

Remarkably, Tom Starling, Jack Wighton and Brad Schneider are all playing good football in key playmaking positions despite the lack of go-forward. It’s a testament to their form to start the season and possibly a reason for the Raiders faithful to be optimistic for an improvement.

One area the Raiders are dominating is in offloads. They lead the NRL in offloads with 14.2 per game – 2.2 more than second on the list.

Somewhat surprisingly, more offloads doesn’t translate into more running metres. A lot comes down to where the offloads occur and whether or not they go to hand but in general, teams aren’t necessarily getting too far up the field on second-phase. Still, even knowing that, the Raiders still stand out as an outlier this season given their lack of yardage and how often they’re letting go of the ball in the tackle.

NRL – Running metres v Offloads

The Raiders need to change things up against the Panthers this week. The defending premiers – just as they did in 2020 and 2021 – lead the NRL in running metres with 1,847 metres per game.

If the Green Machine can’t close the gap in yardage, the gap in the scoreboard will only grow. Perhaps putting away the offload and a focus towards getting up the field is the answer?

Yeo On The Ball

Isaah Yeo is in career-best and Dally M winning form.

It’s not often a team can miss a player of Nathan Cleary’s calibre and not only win the four games without him, but allow him to ease back into a key playmaking position upon his return. Yeo’s form, however, has allowed that to happen.

The 27-year-old has increased his involvement as a ball-player and the Panthers are playing superb football as a result. He’s taking possession at first-receiver and either playing one of his spine players into space or setting up one tackle in preparation for a long-side shift on the next. Yeo is playing ahead of everybody else just as Cleary did throughout a stellar 2021 NRL season. Now, the pair are doing it together.

Nathan Cleary & Isaah Yeo Touches per game

Cleary’s touches are down to 56.3 per game this season but he is coming into form and building his match fitness. The expectation is for him to increase his involvement in the coming weeks and produce closer to the 70.5 touches per game from last season (currently 56.7 per game). But how close? The way the game has changed in 2022 means the Panthers are unlikely to play with quite the same dominance in possession. Yeo deserves to be a bigger factor in attack, too.

They’re the defending premiers and 6-0 to start the NRL season, but the feeling is that the Panthers are still improving and will only get better as Cleary and Yeo work on their combination through the middle of the field.

NRL Value Plays

We’ve already highlighted Isaah Yeo’s ability and willingness to shift the ball and Wicky’s Try Scorer Value Finder has picked him out as a value option anytime this week. His pass to run ratio is higher than ever and the Canberra Raiders will have spent the week planning for the shifts he initiates from the middle. That may present an opportunity for Yeo to take a dart himself. If the Raiders are eager to slide, Yeo will pick up on that early and begin to play for it. It won’t be a surprise to see him cross the line by the end.

Wicky’s Free Try Scorer Comparison Tool

Yeo also rates a mention as a first try scorer option but it’s Ronaldo Mulitalo’s $9.50 at Bet365 that stands out. The Sharks are moving the ball nicely at the moment and will be running at a Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles right edge that has leaked a few points already this season. Sione Katoa is also worth a look, but expect the Sharks to play to the Sea Eagles weakness on the right side.

All of the praise for the Wests Tigers win over the Parramatta Eels last week has been heaped onto Jackson Hastings. However, Jake Simpkin’s work out of dummy half deserves a mention. He ran for 67 metres and looked likely in attack before leaving the field with an ankle injury after 58 minutes. Named and expected to play on Saturday night, the Draftstars NRL Stat Bible projects the new Tigers rake to score 42 points and is an appealing value play this week. So too is Herbie Farnworth running at a depleted Bulldogs edge. Superb to start the year, he presents as a value option at $11,290.

Draftstars NRL Stats Bible
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