This week for ‘Your Edge’ we take a look at which clubs have forged a ‘home away from home’ and why that spells danger for the Broncos this week. We also dive into teams kicking themselves to victory and what another loss could do to Anthony Seibold’s tenure at the Broncos beyond this season.
Home Away From Home
The Melbourne Storm have been a top tier NRL club for the best part of two decades. Like any strong team, they have dominated at home winning 73.8% of their games at AAMI Park since 2010. But where they really separate themselves from the pretenders is how they perform on the road. In a look at the Top 10 win percentages at away grounds since 2013, the Storm feature three times.
The Storm have found a ‘home away from home’ at Suncorp Stadium, in particular. Suncorp is considered a fortress with the Broncos winning 62% of their matches played at the venue compared with their 55% win rate in the NRL era. The Storm, however, haven’t lost to the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium since 2009. Their only loss at the ground since then came against the Gold Coast Titans in Round 10 of the 2017 season. For the punters out there, each of the Top 10 home’s away from home filtered by win percentage have proved profitable at the line.
The Broncos are under all sorts of pressure this week as they play host to the Storm. A loss on Friday night would be their eighth since the NRL season restarted nine weeks ago. To make matters worse for the 15th-placed Broncos, the Storm don’t often lose to teams at the bottom of the ladder.
Kicking To Victory
Kicks have taken on a bad name over the years. For some reason, a section of footy fans refer to a try coming from a kick as though it’s worth less than one that comes through the hands. While there is an element of luck to some kick-inspired tries and they can sometimes be a last resort, most have a degree of tactical awareness to them. The Penrith Panthers and their kicks to Viliame Kikau’s area of the field rather than to the corner – like most teams – is one example.
Many also think that a kick to end a set, or too many kicks in general, means a team is struggling to get up the field and score points. However, the graph below shows a positive relationship between the number of times a team kicks the ball, their total running metres, and margin of victory.
It’s not a glamorous job and rarely gets the recognition it deserves but a good kick to end a set, especially consecutive sets, can ultimately be what inspires a try later on. Nathan Cleary at the Panthers, Mitchell Moses at the Eels and Mitchell Pearce at the Knights all build pressure through a strong kicking game. It’s no surprise to see the three clubs at the top of the list in total kicks per game.
As touched on last week, the relationship between possession and margin is also a strong one. A team retaining possession results in running metres and assuming they’re completing sets at a decent rate to generate the high possession percentage, also a kick to end the set.
That’s a long way to explain a simple game plan: Hold the ball, get up the field, kick well.
Lining Up Underdogs
With the Broncos in disarray and the New Zealand Warriors dealing with a plethora of issues on and off the field, each playing one of the two best teams over the last decade isn’t ideal. But that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes, and for eager punters looking at handicaps, the lines given to these two underdogs will appeal.
The Broncos have a +18.5 head start on the Storm at the time of writing while the Warriors line sits at +24.5 for their clash against the Roosters.
History is against the underdog here, though. While a small sample size, in the 17 instances an underdog has kicked off with a line larger than +18.5 since 2015, the dog has covered just six times (35%). When things look too good to be true – especially in sports betting – they usually are. It’s worth noting Melbourne’s 75% cover rate at Suncorp Stadium since 2013 again here. Is that too good to be true, too?
Seibold’s Struggles & Tigers’ Streak
“Full support of the board.”
There isn’t a more worrisome phrase an NRL coach can hear, but with the Broncos board backing Anthony Seibold amid reports that he must win five of his final ten games to avoid the sack, the signs are ominous. Those signs continue when presented with the Strength of Schedule ratings for the remainder of the season.
The Broncos not only have the fourth-toughest schedule over the next four rounds (Storm, Sharks, @ Rabbitohs, @ Raiders), but the third-toughest schedule through to the end of Round 20.
Meanwhile, Wests Tigers haven’t played finals football since 2011 – the longest streak in the NRL. Fresh of a 48-0 win to put them 7th on the ladder, spirits are high. Proceed with caution though, Tigers fans. Your team still has the toughest remaining schedule in the competition.