This week for ‘Your Edge’ we revisit a monster Round 10 performance off the bench and measure where it stacks up against others over the last 12 seasons. We also dig into which players generate the most metres per minute, the backs proving difficult to put down, and how the Warriors can avoid claiming their first-ever wooden spoon.
Take A Bow, Royce Hunt
If you didn’t see the game and only checked the numbers, you’d assume Royce Hunt ran the length of the field to score for the Sharks in Round 10. But those that didn’t know already would soon notice that the 24-year old is a 112 kg prop who would have been chased down before reaching halfway.
Are the numbers a typo?
No, Hunt – in just his 7th first-grade game – ran for 207 metres in 28 minutes off the bench. He joins two of the greats in James Graham and Andrew Fifita as the only three players to have crossed the 200-metre barrier in less than 30 minutes off the bench since 2008. At 10.35 metres per run and 7.3 metres per minute along with three tackle breaks, a line break and two offloads, it’s one of the best interchange performances we’ve seen in quite some time. It also puts Hunt amongst some of the best metre-eaters per minute in the NRL.
Top Metre-Eaters Per Minute In 2020
It’s no surprise to see Nelson Asofa-Solomona top the list with 3.64 metres per minute. The mammoth 200 cm and 115 kg prop averages 116 metres per game while he’s only surpassed 40 minutes once this season. Craig Bellamy uses him as an impact player off the bench and Asofa-Solomona plays it to perfection. It’s a role that appears to be the only option for Andrew Fifita if he’s to extend his career. He’s not looked himself for some time now, however, he offered some hope before going down with his latest injury. Struggling through his first three games of the season to average 115 metres in 39 minutes per game as a starter, Fifita managed 150 metres in 35 minutes per game off the bench. Up with Asofa-Solomona as premier metre-eaters per minute, it’s an ideal spot for Fifita to fill when he’s fit.
But it’s the big-minute players, Addin Fonua-Blake (55.5 minutes per game), Jason Taumalolo (67mpg), Reagan Campbell-Gillard (57mpg) and James Fisher-Harris (62mpg) that really impress. The amount of work they get through and the efficiency at which they produce is really highlighted here. All are considered elite players in their position, and with the game trending towards being faster with more fatigue, it’s the workhorse middle forwards that gives clubs bang for their bucks that will succeed.
Backs Doing The Hard Yards
To further cement his place as the best player in the NRL, James Tedesco is the only back line player to feature in the Top 20 in metres per minute (3.11 metres) this season. He’s a freak that few can even think about competing with him at the moment.
Back line players are key to getting a team up the field, though. Their tough carries get the set started and put a side on the front foot, or early ball on the edges give them room to move and pick up easy metres. Those that can absorb contact and still pick up more metres stand out.
Brian To’o is a fearless runner of the football and it shows. He pushes through the tackle to be a standout in both total metres and post-contact metres per run. James Roberts is one of the quickest players in the competition and will get downhill at the slightest sign of a gap. His speed is enough to get his head through the line at the very least allowing him to generate decent post-contact metres. Josh Addo-Carr is a combination of the two as a regular recipient of the ball when the Storm are working out of their own end. His speed and willingness to put his body on the line is why he’s considered a premier player in his position. But the strange name is Euan Aitken. He’s in the midst of a comeback season in a contract year and his yardage, especially after contact, will attract potential suitors for 2021.
Warriors Wooden Spoon Watch
The New Zealand Warriors have never finished an NRL season holding the wooden spoon. While they’d be given a pass for claiming it this season, it’s still something they’re looking to avoid. If they’re going to put some distance between themselves and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, it needs to come in the next four weeks.
If the Warriors can pick up a couple of wins over the next month (Tigers, Sea Eagles, Panthers, Bulldogs), they might be able to hold the Bulldogs off as they navigate a brutal end to the season (Knights, Eels, Sharks, Raiders, Sea Eagles).
Where the Warriors can take some solace is in the recent history of the wooden spoon at the halfway point of the NRL season. Eight of the last 12 wooden spooners were in possession of the tool at the halfway point in the season. While it’s a different year to any other, that’s an ominous sign for the Bulldogs despite leaping from 16th after Round 12 in 2019 to 12th by the end of Round 25.