Round 12 of the 2022 NRL season is here and so is Your Edge. This week we’re previewing Panthers v Cowboys, digging into the bumbling Bunnies, considering centre options for the Blues, and highlighting the best value plays of the weekend.
Panthers v Cowboys
We thought the Game of the Season would come over Magic Round, but here we are, in the Round 12 Friday pub slot. The Penrith Panthers take on the North Queensland Cowboys in a match that could produce one of the best 80-minute periods we see all season.
They match up well. In attack, the Panthers average 29.3 points per game (2nd in the NRL) to the Cowboys’ 26.1 points per game (3rd). As it stands, their 11.6 points conceded and 11.9 points conceded put the 2022 Panthers and Cowboys as two of the Top 10 best defensive teams in NRL history. In yardage, the Cowboys are one of the few teams that can somewhat keep up with the Panthers.
The Cowboys have been dominating the middle in recent weeks while playing a patient style of football, building pressure by kicking well and defending with quick line speed, and waiting for the opposition to crack. Sound familiar?
Todd Payten has taken some of Ivan Cleary’s approach and added his own spice. He has a few more set pieces he likes to throw at the defence and isn’t quite so methodical in how they work up the field. Still, the two teams have similar elements to their game and this will be a great measuring stick for how far the Cowboys have come this season, and how far they still have to go to be premiership contenders.
Completion rate numbers are overrated.
The Sydney Roosters became the first club in NRL history to win back-to-back premierships while ranking 13th (76.4%) and 14th (75%) in completion rate across the 2018 and 2019 seasons. They played a high-risk brand of football and with the talent at their disposal and the premierships to prove it, clearly high reward. Notably, they completed at over 75% in those two seasons. The South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2022, however, are completing at only 71.6% through 11 rounds.
Completion rates may be overrated, but there is something to be said for the top three teams on the list so far this season: Eels, Panthers and Cowboys. Simply completing sets doesn’t win you games and spilling the ball doesn’t always lose them. However, there is a middle ground and the Rabbitohs are still searching for it.
They perform well in yardage. As we can see above in the Panthers v Cowboys preview and from last week, we know the Rabbitohs are the best of the rest when it comes to the yardage battle. They compete in the centre-third every week if they don’t win it, and that is while making an NRL-high 13.5 errors. South Sydney’s attack is struggling relative to 2022. Losing one of the best halfbacks in the game will do that to a team. Still, they score 21.5 points per game to be 6th in the NRL in scoring. Again, while making 13.5 errors and completing at only 71.6%.
If this team can hold onto the football and complete at over 75% for an extended period, the wins will soon come and there might be hope for a late-season run when Latrell Mitchell returns just yet.
Centre of Origin
It’s State of Origin selection time and the New South Wales Blues centre position is a hot topic. Strangely, it’s a hot topic because two of the best fullbacks in the NRL will be out with injuries. So, Brad Fittler looks set to go with a traditional centre pairing for Game 1.
Siosifa Talakai put his name up in lights and into the conversation with an incredible performance against the Sea Eagles in Round 7 but has been kept relatively quiet since. He has played well, but not well enough to be a legitimate contender for the series opener. Stephen Crichton (140m), on the other hand, looks to be in the box seat for one spot. He has been excellent this season and would provide the Blues with the tough carries in yardage sets that can be so important in an Origin match. Campbell Graham (138m) is similar if Fittler goes for two big units out wide. Capable of playing either side of the field and playing it well, Graham isn’t a popular pick right now, but he’s one the Blues could rely on.
Kotoni Staggs is the riskier option. He’s not a big yardage centre averaging just 95 running metres per game. While he has made significant improvements defensively this season, he misses more tackles than the rest of the contenders and will be targeted by the Maroons if he does run out there. He does, however, offer strike in attack nobody else can produce and as much as he can lose you a game with a missed tackle, he can win one by breaking six on his way to the line.
Zac Lomax is an outside option. He hasn’t played his best football this season but is a strong defensive centre that wouldn’t look out of place in the Origin arena. One really outside option, though, and he shouldn’t be, is Matt Burton. He ended up as one of the Dally M Centres of the Year in 2021. Sure, he’s not been playing the position this season, but he didn’t play it before becoming one of the best at the position last year either. His timing, the footwork before the line and ball-carrying ability won’t have been sucked out of him by the Bulldogs yet. It’s unlikely, but he deserves a mention.
We’ve got two offload-heavy teams wrapping up Round 12 as the Canberra Raiders host the Parramatta Eels.
Both have made a habit out of creating second phase all season. For the Raiders, they spent a frustrating period leading the NRL in offloads and errors before cleaning their act up slightly to average 12.6 offloads per game. The Eels, on the other hand, lead the competition with 13.2 offloads per game but are making the fewest errors (alongside the Panthers) at only 8.6 per game.
Ryan Matterson is in career-best form and his 22 offloads this year rank as the fourth-most in the competition through 11 rounds. Josh Papalii leads the way for the Raiders with 18 while Corey Harawira-Naera is just behind with 17. Although, Harawira-Naera hasn’t been named this week.
Neither team has played consistent football this season. Perhaps the offloads have something to do with that? It’s certainly going to be a number to follow alongside Canberra’s significantly higher 11.8 errors per game.
NRL Value Plays
Those paying attention to the model and its high-priced value plays caught a big winner when Jarrod Wallace crossed the line first last week. He almost did the double to end as the last try scorer, too.
No shortage of value plays for #NRLTitansSharks 😅
Love the Andrew Fifita FTS2H play @ $101 in his 250th.
Hunt & Wallace @ $81/101 FTS great value as well.
— Wicky (@wickyai) May 22, 2022
This week Wicky’s Try Scorer Value Finder tool has circled Tui Kamikamica as a high-odds value play. He has been named to start at prop and with the issues the Sea Eagles have faced defensively this season, will be a chance at crashing over from close to the line. Particularly if Harry Grant is fit enough to play after struggling through the captain’s run.
Christian Tuipulotu is also a chance in the same game. He’s a big body the Sea Eagles look for in good ball and will back himself to go straight over the top of Dean Ieremia given the chance. Looking at this with more safety, Ronaldo Mulitalo connecting with Will Kennedy in his return from suspension to dot over first against the Roosters on Saturday night jumps out as a value play this week.
The Draftstars NRL Stats Bible has highlighted Cameron Munster’s 90-point ceiling range (ave. of highest three scores) as the pick of the bunch for the $20k Thursday Night Football contest. He’s running at a Sea Eagles right edge defence that has conceded over 50% of their tries this season so presents as an appealing option given the likelihood that the majority of Melbourne’s points come down his side. Similarly, Justin Olam is running at a 19-year-old Tolutau Koula – who weighs in at just 88kg – playing his 9th NRL match this week.