Second-year syndrome: Fact or myth?

With the likes of Bronson Xerri and Maika Sivo in the firing line, we scan the records to test whether second-year syndrome relates to SC.

Expert Analysis Pre-season

So you’ve heard of second-year syndrome in the NRL.

The theory that the first year a gun rookie is exposed to the NRL they are new and catch teams and coaches off guard.

But come the second season the team of coaches from all clubs have fully analysed their game and coached their players in ways to negate the strengths of the gun rookie resulting in a drop in performance.

Sign up to SC Playbook for detailed pre-season analysis of every top 17 player from every club in the competition and more + over 200 additional articles once the season kicks off.

Well today we’re going to look at the theory in a SuperCoach light. To do this properly firstly we have to look back a bit before we look forward.

Please note some of the players we are looking at below may have made their debuts earlier but for the purposes of this SuperCoach analysis we are looking at the first year they became relevant SuperCoach guns.

*Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a key on all SuperCoach relevant abbreviations.

Then we will analyse how they faired in their second year.

So as an experiment we have picked six of the best SuperCoach breakout players in 2017 and 2018 to see how they performed the following year.

Below are the breakout stars of 2018 and how they fared in 2019.

Player2018 points2018 Ave.2019 points2019 Ave.Ave. +/-
Kalyn Ponga131366136568+2
Jamayne Isaako13375694945-11
Jai Arrow135264105362-2
Matt Lodge126953131563+10
Shaun Lane130354128656+2
Reimis Smith5735284837-15

To note:

– For Ponga, an increase in SuperCoach points from goal-kicking helped him slightly better his average PPG despite the failed five-eighth experiment early in the season.

– Isaako was the opposite with a significant decrease in SuperCoach points from goals. He dropped from scoring 15.7PPG for goal kicks in 2018 to 9.4PPG in 2019.

– Matt Lodge’s increased role and minutes clearly had a lot to do with his improved average.

– Reimis Smith dropped significantly which is probably consistent with the erratic nature of the CTW position for most players.

Below are the breakout stars of 2017 and how they fared in 2018.

Player2017 points2017 Ave.2018 points2018 Ave.Ave. +/-
Angus Crichton1510691521690
Esan Marsters69353145861+8
Coen Hess1331581345580
Nick Cotric118950115748-2
Lachlan Fitzgibbon80758129362+4
Dylan Edwards8065840551-7
Matt Eisenhuth62357129754-3

To note:

– Esan Marsters gained the goal-kicking duties for the Tigers in 2018 hence the sharp increase in average.


So what can we deduce from the two samples? It’s hard to get anything conclusive out of the data. There was no major correlation in why scores differentiated.

The main note to be taken when considering boom rookies from the prior season is that forwards will naturally be more likely to gain an increase in minutes than their backline counterparts.

A likely increase or similar minutes means forwards are the safest options if concern arises over second-year syndrome.

Of the seven forwards listed, just two (Eisenhuth and Arrow) produced smaller averages, both by minor margins.

Casting aside players who averaged around 80 minutes last season (Nikora, Bateman), this would suggest the likes of Luke Garner, Payne Haas, Cameron Murray and David Fifita are most likely set for SuperCoach improvement.

Backs are already playing the full 80, and if they’ve had stats to propel them to the top of SuperCoach charts they are far more likely to struggle to attain similar numbers.

Edwards, Isaako and Smith all experienced significant drops having been unable to back up their previous season’s exploits.

All in all, second-year syndrome impacts backs greater than forwards, but not significantly enough to suggest it should be a major concern when selecting your team.


Now the fun part! We have selected 13 of the best SuperCoach rookie/breakout players of 2019. Walson, Dez and Tim predict what we think they will average in 2020.

Player2019 points2019 Ave.WalsonDezTim
John Bateman143872757069
Cameron Murray159669726471
Payne Haas156778828381
Briton Nikora138060625657
Maika Sivo135659555262
Bronson Xerri118356586266
Ryan Papenhuyzen103952857780
Reuben Garrick125952505548
Paul Momirovski66555504843
Luke Garner80658635654
Brian To’o85157595350
Jayden Okunbor56657544842
David Fifita124254666673


MPG = Minutes per game

PPG = Points per game

PPM = Points per minute

BPG = Base per game (point accrued in tackles + runs + missed tackles)

POD = Point of difference

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