Your Edge: NRL Round 2 Preview

Your Edge: NRL Round 2 Preview

Round 2 of the 2022 NRL season is upon us and so is ‘Your Edge’. This week, we’re looking into the Sea Eagles back three, a carousel of halves lining up at Cbus Super Stadium, a horror record on the road, and highlighting the best value plays of the weekend.

Back three yardage

It’s the time of year for overreactions and early concerns. While it would be foolish to overreact to Tom Trbojevic and the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles losing one game, the performance of their back-three is slightly concerning.

It’s an area they excelled in last year with the points flowing behind a consistent yardage game. Only three teams averaged more metres per game than the Sea Eagles #1, #2 and #5 combined. In Round 1, however, they were outrun by the opposition fullback alone.

 

Trbojevic (157m), Jason Saab (55m) and Reuben Garrick (100m) combined for only 312 running metres on the night. Manly’s attack relies on getting over the advantage line and shifting the ball quickly against a retreating defence. That wasn’t possible given the ineffective start to their sets last week. It’s something to keep an eye on this week against a Sydney Roosters side that was one of the three teams better in back-three yardage last season.

Gold Coast Titans v New Zealand Warriors: Making sense of the halves

The Gold Coast Titans have their fullback from 2021 playing at five-eighth beside a rookie halfback and in front of a rookie fullback this week.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Warriors have their fullback from last week playing at halfback beside the Titans’ halfback from last year in front of a 16-game and 19-year-old fullback.

There is a lot going on within the key playmaking positions at both clubs this week…

The Titans have crowbarred Jayden Campbell into the first-choice 17 for 2022 and moved AJ Brimson up into five-eighth. While he has played 15 NRL games in the #6 jersey, we’re yet to see whether or not his form from 2021, which saw him play twice for the Queensland Maroons, translates into a new position. He isn’t a prolific passer of the football. Where the likes of more recognised ballplayers in James Tedesco, Clint Gutherson and Kalyn Ponga finished up with 22, 20 and 14 try assists respectively last season, Brimson managed only nine – a career-high. Brimson has the makings of a top tier organising halfback in Toby Sexton beside him. However, at only 21-years-old and with just five NRL matches to his name, Sexton will be looking to Brimson for guidance. How the two link up in the coming weeks is a key consideration for the Titans attack.

As for the Warriors, they’ve decided Kodi Nikorima isn’t a five-eighth for what feels like the 14th time and named Chanel Harris-Tavita in the #6 jersey. Harris-Tavita is a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin half. Unfortunately for him, there aren’t always a lot of numbers on that tin. He ended the 2021 NRL season with only two try assists with a lot of his work occurring in the build-up to the final pass and ball going over the line. Ash Taylor, on the other hand, has made a name for himself with try assists, line break assists and kicking metres. The pair fit well together on paper, but plenty said that about Nikorima and Shaun Johnson last week.

These fixtures are typically exciting with the Warriors always drawing a big crowd on the Gold Coast. Here’s hoping the new-look halves pairings can combine effectively and put on a show.

Brisbane Broncos Road Toll

The Brisbane Broncos are on the up and feeling good following their surprise 11-4 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Round 1. They’re adding Adam Reynolds to the squad to make his club debut, too. However, if the Broncos are to win back-to-back games for only the second time since Round 2 in 2020, they will need to overcome a horror road record.

The Broncos have lost 17 of their last 18 games on the road. A 34-16 win over the Sydney Roosters in Round 11 last year is their only win away from home since beating the North Queensland Cowboys in Round 1, 2020. Regardless of any improvement they’ve shown over the last two seasons, they’ve not been able to turn it into competition points away from the comforts of home.

NRL Stats 2022
Run Metres v Tries at Non-Suncorp Venues

Remarkably, one of the Broncos or Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will more than likely have four competition points by the end of Round 2.

The wooden spooners of 2021 did little to expel the ideas that their NRL-worst attack would significantly improve this season while only scoring six points last week. However, they’re a building club that will take wins any way they can get them at the moment. Matt Burton is still working himself into an increased role within the attack while Jake Averillo is very much a developing prospect in the halves. What is encouraging is the potential for the pair to combine for an effective running game.

NRL Stats 2022
Halves in 2021, attacking plays v run metres

Bulldogs halves averaged less than 50 running metres each last season. However, with Burton adding 80 metres on the ground and Averillo 40 metres more than that again, the new-look pairing provided the Bulldogs with a threat they sorely lacked last season.

Few will have had Broncos v Bulldogs circled as a must-watch clash a fortnight ago, but there is a lot riding on this one for a Round 2 match.

NRL Value Plays

While AJ Brimson’s passing game is a slight concern heading into Saturday, there is little doubting his ability as a runner. He has excellent acceleration and can pierce a gap. Running at a Warriors right edge made up of brand new combinations following a handful of injuries last week, expect Brimson to put his head down and pick out any disconnected defenders still learning the movements of the man inside him. He presents as an anytime value option in the Try Scorer Value Finder.

NRL Stats 2022
Wicky’s Free Try Scorer Comparison Tool

Harry Grant is the standout value option when opening up the Draftstars Stat Bible. With Brandon Smith set for a stint on the sideline, Grant is back in the #9 jersey and expected to play big minutes. Tyran Wishart has been named on the bench so may spell Grant for a few minutes. Still, he’s projected to score 58 points and deserves a look for Thursday Night Football. Similarly, Tom Starling’s 55 projected points at $12,930 sticks out following another injury to Canberra Raiders dummy half, Josh Hodgson.

NRL Stats 2022
Draftstars NRL Stats Bible
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