Round 10 of the 2022 NRL season is upon us and so is ‘Your Edge’. This week we’re looking at Parramatta’s edges, the best ball-carrying backrowers, team tackle totals, and highlighting the best value plays of the weekend.
The Parramatta Eels beat the Penrith Panthers by getting up the field, applying pressure and eventually cracking one of the best defences in the NRL. Strong in the middle to be 2nd in yardage at 1,745 metres per game, Parramatta used changes of angles on the edges to trouble Penrith’s inside out defence.
Isaiah Papali’i was superb for his 186 running metres while Ryan Matterson added 177 off the bench. Parramatta’s edges running big metres in a win isn’t uncommon. The blue and gold starting edge forwards average 108 metres per game in losses and almost 140 metres per game in wins. Running more metres in wins compared with losses isn’t unexpected but when we look at the proportion of running metres from starting edges we see that they make up 6.3% of the total running metres in losses and 7.7% of running metres in wins. That is without considering changes off the bench.
The Eels are playing their best football when they are dropping their backrowers off into the middle or training the defence by playing short early in a match. Papali’i, in particular, is key to their success. They’re compressing the defence and playing patient football before finding points out wide.
Did anybody else think Papali’i had been a little bit quiet to start the 2022 NRL season, though?
Outstanding throughout 2021 and earning himself a nice payday with the West Tigers for 2023, Papali’i hasn’t sat back and relaxed. He is once again one of the best backrowers in the NRL and will play a huge part in Parramatta’s premiership fortunes. He’s in a world of his own when it comes to generating yardage to average 154 metres per game on just under 17 carries. His work rate is phenomenal.
For all of his faults and alleged laziness, David Fifita is still one of the more active backrowers in the NRL. Similarly, Tevita Pangai Jr. is getting through plenty of work in a poor Bulldogs side. He’s clocking up over 120 running metres and, as usual, releasing regular offloads. They’re not always effective. The eye test suggests one of his 3.8 per game go to ground for little gain. Still, he’s leading the NRL in offloads at 3.8 per game through nine rounds.
Offloads per game leader:
2019: Pangai Jr. – 3.1
2020: Pangai Jr. – 3.2
2021: Pangai Jr. – 2.6
2022: Pangai Jr. – 3.8
— Jason Oliver (@JasonNRL) May 11, 2022
Jaydn Su’A has impressed to start the 2022 season and has quietly become a key part of the Dragons squad already. The 24-year-old is averaging a career-high 127 running metres and 3.6 tackle breaks per game. He’s working hard with the ball and is one of the most brutal defenders in the competition without it. If he can behave himself and stay on the field, Su’A will continue to rise the ranks at the position.
Replacing Papenhuyzen & Keeping Drinkwater
The Melbourne Storm have lost Ryan Papenhuyzen for up to six weeks. With that, they lose the most influential fullback in the game right now. He leads the NRL in attacking involvements for fullbacks and is at the forefront of Melbourne’s ridiculous 335 points scored so far this season – the most through nine rounds in NRL history.
Unfortunately for the Storm and footy fans in general, his injury comes in the week before their much-anticipated matchup with the Penrith Panthers. Nick Meaney has been named to take Papenhuyzen’s place at the back. While a capable backup, making up for the loss of Papenhuyzen will need to be a team effort given his output so far this season.
If Meaney is simply being tasked with matching the output of his opposite, he will be looking to achieve it with his legs. Dylan Edwards isn’t a fullback that will create points. His 237 running metres per game and the work he does for Penrith in their set starts is a key feature of the attack overall, but Edwards won’t be a big part of Craig Bellamy’s defensive plan in good ball.
Elsewhere on the fullbacks list, you can see why Todd Payten has kept Scott Drinkwater at fullback for the Cowboys despite Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow being available. With three tries and six try assists in only five games this season, Drinkwater is one of the best-attacking fullbacks in the NRL right now. “Attacking” being the keyword there. He’s terrible on the defensive side of the ball but is well-hidden wearing the #1 jersey and the Cowboys defence conceding only 12.5 points per game in front of him is doing the job. It’s a selection headache Payten welcomes but one that might be eased for him should the Dolphins make a play for the 24-year-old.
Tackles per game
There are a lot of other numbers and aspects of the game to consider when looking at tackles per game, but to see the Storm making 50 fewer tackles than the NRL average of 324 per game is a mind-boggling statistic.
They spend a lot of time kicking goals after points. After those goals, they receive the ball back and play with 53.4% of the overall possession (3rd-most in the NRL). The Storm don’t play with a huge focus on maintaining possession and building pressure. They throw the ball rounds and right now, it is sticking. Rinse and repeat, the energy they save by making fewer tackles translates into more points in attack.
The Newcastle Knights, on the other hand, are at the opposite end of the list. They’re struggling to stay in games and the work they’re being forced to do in defence is making it difficult to dig themselves out of the hole every week. Unsurprisingly, the three worst teams in the NRL right now are making more tackles than the rest of the competition. Fatigue is a hugely important aspect of the game and you can see how the Knights, New Zealand Warriors and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are struggling to work themselves into – or stay in – games on a weekly basis.
NRL Value Plays
The Knights and Bulldogs are the two worst attacking teams in the NRL but somebody has to score first. Surely…
Already scoring 50% of their tries down the right side and having gone their first early last week, Dominic Young is excellent value to open Magic Round at $15. Jai Arrow’s move into the middle also appeals early on Wicky’s Try Scorer Value Finder tool. He’s going to be looking to emulate Cameron Murray’s quick play-the-balls and attack-triggering carries. Against a poor Warriors defence, there’s a good chance he does it all himself at $101.
The Draftstars NRL Stats Bible has highlighted Felise Kaufusi as a value option at $10,840. While he isn’t a prolific attacking player, he’s going to be asked to do a lot of work in defence with Penrith’s potent left edge running at him. Projected to score 41 points, he’s worth considering as a point of different option against the more popular Viliame Kikau. Jack Bird is another option. Back out on the edge where he plays his best football, Bird can concentrate on his strong and destructive carries of the ball on the edge and presents as a value play at $12,480.