WHY YOUR NRL TEAM CAN WIN THE NRL PREMIERSHIP
The purple wall. Melbourne’s defence has been peerless this season and, having conceded an average 11.5 points per game, they are on track to go down as the best defensive team in the NRL era. They also miss the fewest tackles (19.1) and concede the fewest linebreaks (2.4).
The best all-round team in the competition. Cronulla mixes defensive steel with real attacking power, and is ranked second for points scored (25.7 per game), tackle busts (28.5) and offloads (12) as well as sitting third for run metres (1489m) and line breaks (5.5).
They have strike power like no other side. There is plenty to like about Ricky Stuart’s backline, which boasts two of the competition’s top four try scorers in Jordan Rapana and Jarrod Croker (both 15) while Croker is the comp’s highest point scorer. Rapana leads the league for line breaks (22) and tackle busts (111) while Joey Leilua is second for tackle busts (97).
The best pack in the competition. Going into round 23, David Klemmer had made more metres than any other forward (170m per game) while James Graham was fifth with 153m. Also, Graham (18.4 per game) and fellow prop Aiden Tolman (16.6) led the league for most runs.
* NORTH QUEENSLAND
No one is better at controlling field position. On the back of the likes of Jason Taumalolo, Matt Scott and James Tamou rolling up their sleeves, the Cowboys make more metres than any other team. Paul Green’s side then leads the way in forced drop outs (2.5 per game) and is second in tackles inside opposition 20 (30.6 per game).
The Wayne Bennett factor. The Broncos are in a slump, having won four of their past 12, but they have come from a similar position to win the title before. In 2006 Brisbane had a run of five wins from 13 mid-season before recovering to win the title. If anyone can get them to lift, it’s the mastercoach Bennett.
Uncertainty. No team is better at creating second phase play. Penrith boasts more offloads than any side this year, with hulking five-eighth Bryce Cartwright (56) leading the league and in-form back-rower Trent Merrin is fifth and combined they give the Panthers a real x-factor.
Shaun Johnson. There’s no way the Warriors can win their maiden title without their No.7 firing. He leads the league for try-assists and is just 15 points away from surpassing Stacey Jones as the side’s all-time leading points scorer.
* WESTS TIGERS
They’ve turned their defence around. There hasn’t been anything wrong with their attack this year while fullback James Tedesco is in form reminiscent of Jarryd Hayne in 2009. Importantly, the Tigers have turned around their horror defensive record, conceding conceded the fewest points and the second fewest linebreaks in their past four matches.
* GOLD COAST
Ash Taylor. While Jarryd Hayne’s shaping as the ace up the sleeve, the rookie halfback has been their most important player all year and has been a big reason why the Titans are surpassing all expectations. He leads the league for most drop outs forced (21) and looks the complete package.
Source: Fox Sports Stats