Round 9 of the 2022 NRL season is upon us and so is ‘Your Edge’. This week we’re looking at Newcastle’s struggles, who is doing what for the Roosters, the most effective back-five’s in yardage, and highlighting the best value plays of the weekend.
Ponga The Knight In Shining Armour?
The Newcastle Knights are a shambles at the moment. After scoring 46 points across the opening two rounds of the 2022 NRL season, they’ve managed only 46 points in the following six. A lot has changed and Adam O’Brien is dealing with a lot of injuries. Jayden Brailey’s absence behind the ruck is an understated issue, in particular. However, a new halves pairing is unlikely to change Newcastle’s fortunes as they look to adjust to a new, Kalyn Ponga-heavy, style of attack.
We can ignore Moses Mbye in the below graphic given how often he moves around and fills different positions. From a pure fullback perspective, Ponga touches the ball more than anybody else at the position and it isn’t particularly close.
He’s playing a lot more on the ball this season and found himself at dummy half an awful lot over the last two or three games. No longer spending the majority of his time out wide and out the back of shape, Ponga is playing closer to the ruck and looking to create himself. He’s averaging roughly the same number of touches a five-eighth would, filling similar spots, but wearing the #1 jersey. It’s a game plan that makes sense given his ability as a ballplayer and threat as a runner, but it is one that isn’t working right now.
The Knights look congested sharing so many touches between their #1, #6 and #7 which has impacted the form of all three to the point Jake Clifford was hooked in Round 8 and not named for Round 9.
With a new halves pairing – Tex Hoy and Phoenix Crossland – and a side desperate for points, it will be interesting to see whether or not Ponga responds by touching the ball even more, or going back to what works and looking for points down the left edge.
Rearranging The Sydney Roosters
Something is going wrong at the Sydney Roosters.
Their attack isn’t producing in the way most expected and doesn’t look particularly close to doing so, either.
In Victor Radley, Sam Walker, Luke Keary and James Tedesco, the Roosters have four players who all have the same strength – running the football. While all three can ball-play to varying degrees, they do their best work on the ground. It’s proving to be an issue with the lack of direction the Roosters are playing with at the moment.
It sometimes looks as though Victor Radley is touching the ball too often around the ruck but the numbers suggest he is seeing it less (note the 2021 numbers feature spells at hooker which blows the overall number out slightly).
Still, while a capable ball player through the middle, it looks forced and premeditated right now and the defence is sliding with relative ease.
James Tedesco responded to injuries in key playmaking positions last year by playing closer to the ruck. Still, he touched the ball fewer times than he did in 2020 and has dipped further to start 2022.
Tedesco is receiving the ball fewer times per game and wider on the field this year. With their lack of punch through the middle, he’s being run towards the sideline as the defence slides in cover.
With Keary and Walker struggling for cohesion in the halves and the Roosters attack looking aimless overall, Trent Robinson has no doubt spent the week tinkering with the game plan. Expect all four to revert back to doing what they do best in Round 9 – running the football. Direct and through the middle is the best way forward for the Roosters right now. Tedesco and Radley running off the ruck. Keary down short sides and Walker using his big step to cut against the defence and back inside.
The Roosters aren’t doing enough between the tramlines to warrant how often they’re swinging the ball wide at the moment. There is still a little bit too much of the 2021 NRL season about their approach with the ball. If they can promote fatigue in the defence with strong carries and completed sets through the middle, we might finally start to see the Roosters click into gear on the edges.
Running It From The Back
Last week we looked at the net yardage numbers across the competition. This week we’re narrowing it down to the running metres of the back-five.
The Penrith Panthers and Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks are towards the top, as expected. Somewhat surprisingly based on preseason predictions, the North Queensland Cowboys are getting plenty out of their outside backs as they exceed expectations on both sides of the ball through eight rounds.
However, unlike the net yardage numbers, the output of the back-five doesn’t reflect the NRL ladder quite as much.
The Brisbane Broncos are towards the bottom in net yardage but it isn’t due to their back-five who are averaging 125.45 running metres per game each. Similarly, the Gold Coast Titans are one of the worst teams in the competition both on the ladder and in yardage, but their back-five is doing a decent enough job for them on set starts.
The New Zealand Warriors and Canberra Raiders, however, are poor in every which way. These are the two worst yardage teams in the competition overall and we can put a lot of it down to how they’re starting their sets. Both Ricky Stuart and Nathan Brown are looking for answers on how to get their seasons back on track. Whether it be through an adjustment to how they attack or a focus on certain areas, it will be for nothing if they can’t start to get themselves up the field.
NRL Value Plays
We’ve been here with Matt Moylan before and he did manage to dot down in Round 8. This week, he’s running at a Warriors right edge that is there for the picking at the moment. Shaun Johnson looks banged up and the turnover in outside backs hasn’t helped the Warriors defence develop any cohesion throughout the year. The 30-year-old is a value option at $6. Kenny Bromwich NRL in game 200 is an appealing option earlier in the afternoon on Sunday. The Storm are scoring points for fun and Bromwich is a prominent feature of their left edge attack as both a ball-runner and ball-player. Wicky’s Try Scorer Value Finder tool fancies the Storm edge at $5.20 alongside teammates Jahrome Hughes and Justin Olam.
The Draftstars NRL Stats Bible has Nathan Cleary at the top of the list with a projected score of 75 Draftstars points but has picked out Jarome Luai as a value option. Up against an Eels side that is rotating through edge defenders and in the bottom half in the NRL defensively, Luai won’t be short of opportunities to feature in try-scoring actions. Adam Elliott deserves a look after starting at hooker and playing 68 minutes last week. He picked up 52 points in Round 8 and is projected to score 43 points at $11,440 on Friday night.