Positional analysis: 7 key questions to start the year

Our newest SC Playbook NRL contributor Michael Fisher crunches the key statistics to help you gain an edge on SuperCoach rivals.

Pre-season Strategy Playbook

First off, thanks to nrlsupercoachstats.com for their incredible stats, which I’ve utilised for this analysis.

“Steadily develop indirect tactics, either by pounding the enemy’s flanks or falling on his rear” (From “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu).

I often ponder this theory. In SuperCoach terms, what this means to me is taking any positional advantage you can get. In this article I’m looking at this literally, in terms of what player positions can give my team the biggest advantage.

Perhaps the greatest example of the position debate in years gone by is Cameron Smith in the pre-Damien Cook era. In both 2016 and 2017 Smith averaged around 15 points better than the next best player in the hooker position.

For a more recent example, we need look no further than Teddy, who averaged 15 points better than the next best fullback last season (excluding 2-gamer Charlie Staines).

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He also averaged 12 points better than any other player in Supercoach for that matter.

Not owning Teddy prior to his run of big scores signalled the death nell on the season of many SuperCoaches, yours truly included.

So, to dive deeper, I’ve analysed the top averaging players in each position vs the rest.

One challenge with this, as we regularly hear with investment disclaimers, is that past performance is no guarantee of future results. Another issue is that a key part of building a round 1 squad is about picking undervalued players.

However, one strategy that has attracted a lot of discussion lately is ‘points over cash’. Furthermore, trading high-ceiling players in at the right time can be crucial to any SuperCoach campaign. This was a key learning from site founder Tim Williams’ run to finishing 2nd overall in 2020.

I think this is a salient point from Tim, especially given what I perceive to be an increase in ‘high-ceiling’ players in SuperCoach. However, I also think there’s a lot of merit in finding consistent guns who can chalk up SC points for your side week in week out.

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To summarise, I’d say SuperCoaches need to get the right players, in the right positions, at the right time. This article takes a look at the position part of that equation.

I think it’s also worth considering a popular strategy from Fantasy Premier League, being ‘price points’ or ‘price brackets’. The idea is to pick players at price points that have several good options, so that it’s easy to trade/swap to another player.

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I think the difference in the application of this strategy between FPL and SuperCoach is greater price-rises in SC. Nonetheless, I can still see an application for the concept.

This strategy also adds merit to the case for starting with the top priced guns, who give you the option to trade down if you need.

So, all that being said, I’ve picked three key statistics to take a look at in each position over the last three years.

  1. The highest individual scores.
  2. Player averages.
  3. % of 60+ scores.
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“SC is all about ceilings” – (Tim Williams, probably)

There is a trend toward higher individual scores over the last three years in SuperCoach.

This dates back to the ‘penalty era’ of 2018, moving forward to the ‘6-again era’ of 2020.

The challenge this poses is central to the point of timing, as those of us who missed out on Tedesco’s big scores last season so brutally found out.

Looking at the contributions of each position to these scores, we can see the increase in fullback and CTW high scores in particular. So, trading in players in these positions at the right time was all the more crucial.

There is one more point I noticed in pulling together the below, and it could be absolutely crucial. The final round of the season is more likely to generate a mega individual score from a player. I’ve indicated those scores that occurred in the final round in bold.

(Notes: 1. I’ve utilised a player’s actual position in a game to generate the above. 2. Alex Johnston, Daniel Tupou, Nathan Cleary and Damien Cook tied for the 20th highest score in 2020, so I’ve represented this as 1 for CTW, 1 for HK and 1 for HB).

Highest individual scores – 2020

203Cody Walker5/8
199James TedescoFLB
178James TedescoFLB
176James TedescoFLB
172Matt IkuvaluCTW
172Kalyn PongaFLB
166Clint GuthersonFLB
159Kalyn PongaFLB
158Kalyn PongaFLB
158Charlie StainesCTW
157Tom StarlingHK
154Alex JohnstonCTW
152Tom TrbojevicFLB
145Maika SivoCTW
144Brett MorrisCTW
142Addin Fonua BlakeFRF
142Dane GagaiCTW
141Latrell MitchellFLB
140Luke Keary5/8
138Nathan ClearyHFB
138Damien CookHK
138Alex JohnstonCTW
138Daniel TupouCTW
159.8AVE (TOP 20)

Highest individual scores – 2019

186Nathan ClearyHFB
167Tom TrbojevicFLB
161Latrell MitchellCTW
159Cameron Munster5/8
156Daly Cherry-EvansHFB
155James TedescoFLB
152Maika SivoCTW
152Tom TrbojevicFLB
150Cody Walker5/8
146Damien CookHK
145Paul MomirovskiCTW
141Corey Harawira-Naera2RF
139Nathan ClearyHFB
138Jason Taumalolo2RF
136Joey ManuFLB
134Ben HuntHFB
134James TedescoFLB
133Mitchell MosesHFB
133James TedescoFLB
132Manu Mau2RF
147.45AVE (TOP 20)

Highest individual scores – 2018

194Tom TrbojevicFLB
180James TedescoFLB
173Gareth Widdop5/8
158Tom TrbojevicFLB
156Josh Addo-CarrCTW
153Rhyse Martin2RF
148Latrell MitchellCTW
147Robert JenningsCTW
144Robert JenningsCTW
139Ryan JamesFRF
139Phillip SamiCTW
138Jai Arrow2RF
138Jarrod CrokerCTW
138Michael GordonFLB
138Joseph Tapine2RF
137John Sutton2RF
137Mitchell MosesHFB
135Will HopoateFLB
134Mitchell MosesHFB
134Matt Moylan5/8
148AVE (TOP 20)

Player averages

Now let’s take a look at the best averaging players by position. No surprises here that fullbacks have ascended to the top, largely thanks to the likes of Teddy, Ponga and Turbo.

So, does this make Fullback the most important position to ‘gun-up’ in? Yes and no, in my fence-sitting opinion.

Yes, in the sense that SuperCoaches need a player to captain each week. The highest averaging position/player seems the logical place to get this from. No, in the sense that starting teams are largely about player value. This brings into question the need for dual gun fullbacks in my opinion. More on that later.

Note that in all the below diagrams and tables I have included duals, except for CTW duals, who I have always allocated to the CTW position. This is on the assumption that a CTW dual is always best selected in the CTW position.

I’ve also only included players who played in 10 or more games in any given season.

60+ Scores

It could also pay to look at consistency of guns in your starting team. Second-rowers are the standout here. Front rowers, on the other hand, saw a dip last season. This could be partially due to the rule changes to speed up the game.

The best vs the rest

Finally, let’s take a look at the difference between the best (top 5) and the rest of the players in each position. Hookers have climbed to top of this chart. Although several other positions also continued to ascend.

Interestingly, the gap between the rest of the field and the top 5 in the fullback position narrowed in 2020.

So, what can we make of all this? I think we need to come back to the earlier point about selecting the right players, in the right position, at the right time. Consequently, each position poses unique questions for each SuperCoach to consider.

Here is one question for each position that the data has me considering.

Let’s start at the top, or is it the back, uh anyway, fullbacks are who I’m talking about first.

1. Do we need dual gun fullbacks?

I don’t think this one is clear cut as it seems. I’ll be locking in at least one captaincy option (most likely Teddy), then looking at fullbacks in terms of value. Papy will be hard to pass up if goalkicking as we now expect following the trials. If not, however, it opens the second fullback spot right up in my opinion.

I consider Papy’s goalkicking to be a crucial factor for a further reason. If he gets the tee, his ceiling could reach the realms of Turbo, Ponga and Teddy. That’s four players who could go massive on their day. Fullback rotation strategy, anyone?

James Tedesco9582%
Kalyn Ponga8078%
Ryan Papenhuyzen7153%
Clint Gutherson7055%
Dylan Edwards6973%
Top 5 FLBs7768.20%
Other FLBs51.734.80%
Difference (top 5 – all)25.333.40%
Tedesco, James8476%
Trbojevic, Tom7758%
Tuivasa-Sheck, Roger7170%
Munster, Cameron6943%
Ponga, Kalyn6865%
Top 5 FLBs73.862.40%
Other FLBs45.826.43%
Difference (top 5 – all)28.035.97%
Tedesco, James7464%
Trbojevic, Tom7459%
Ponga, Kalyn6665%
Walker, Cody6163%
Munster, Cameron5948%
Top 5 FLBs66.859.80%
Other FLBs54.641.33%
Difference (top 5 – all)12.218.47%

2. Can we trust any of the Supercoach guns in CTW?

Only one player (Nofo) has featured consecutively in the top 5 and he’s got a pretty tough draw to start the season. Yikes.

On the other hand, CTW featured regularly in the high scores list. Therefore, timing looks all the more crucial in this position. If you do manage to jag a monster score, I think there’s a strong case for selling at a profit afterwards.

If any OOP (out-of-position player) shows gun qualities, it makes sense to me to jump on quick.

David Nofoaluma7670%
Brett Morris7260%
Daniel Tupou7154%
Isaah Yeo6979%
Zac Lomax6860%
Top 5 CTWs71.264.60%
Other CTWs45.524.98%
Difference (top 5 – all)25.739.62%
Mau, Manu7383%
Bateman, John7275%
Mitchell, Latrell7059%
Nofoaluma, David6550%
Harawira-Naera, Corey6043%
Top 5 CTWs6862.00%
Other CTWs43.724.98%
Difference (top 5 – all)24.337.02%
Holmes, Valentine6761%
Ferguson, Blake6542%
Mitchell, Latrell6445%
Marsters, Esan6150%
Blake, Waqa5950%
Top 5 CTWs63.249.60%
Other CTWs43.521.66%
Difference (top 5 – all)19.727.94%

3. Is five-eighth a good place to save money?

A bit of a leading question with the likes of Watson, Moylan, Lam and Milford available. Nonetheless, it’s a valid one in my opinion.

The gap between the top 5 and the rest of the five-eighths decreased last season. However, I think this is susceptible to change if Walker’s increased role in South’s attack continues / Munster gets the goalkicking at any stage / Dylan Brown goes on a run.

Cody Walker7456%
Cameron Munster7067%
Shaun Johnson6869%
Dylan Brown6438%
Jarome Luai6240%
Top 5 5/8s67.654.00%
Other 5/8s46.628.00%
Difference (top 5 – all)21.126.00%
Munster, Cameron6943%
Ponga, Kalyn6865%
Walker, Cody6564%
Johnson, Shaun6353%
Moses, Mitchell6250%
Top 5 5/8s65.455.00%
Other 5/8s44.924.96%
Difference (top 5 – all)20.530.04%
Johnson, Shaun6456%
Walker, Cody6163%
Munster, Cameron5948%
Widdop, Gareth5948%
Sutton, John5729%
Top 5 5/8s6048.80%
Other 5/8s44.024.30%
Difference (top 5 – all)16.024.50%

4. Is it worth considering anyone other than Nathan Cleary at halfback?

Cleary’s ascendency has left others in the HB position in his wake. Even more so with Johnson injured and the dual statuses of Dylan Brown and Jarome Luai removed.

The lack of halfback options presents an opportunity, but I’m not sure I favour anyone other than Cleary to capitalise on it.

One that many will be considering is Mitch Moses. He appears in the top 20 scores list twice in 2018 (although he only averaged 41 that season!) and once in 2019.

I can see merit in rolling the dice on Moses given the Eels early season draw. However, it concerns me that his average in 2019 with Dylan Brown in the side was 55, compared to 62 without. This is remarkably similar to Moses’ 2020 average (54), when he played the full season with Brown.

Nathan Cleary8378%
Shaun Johnson6869%
Dylan Brown6438%
Daly Cherry-Evans6460%
Jarome Luai6240%
Top 5 HBs68.257.00%
Other HBs43.422.88%
Difference (top 5 – all)24.834.12%
Cleary, Nathan6857%
Johnson, Shaun6353%
Cherry-Evans, Daly6242%
Moses, Mitchell6250%
Hunt, Ben6038%
Top 5 HBs6348.00%
Other HBs42.720.48%
Difference (top 5 – all)20.327.52%
Johnson, Shaun6456%
Cherry-Evans, Daly6233%
Cleary, Nathan6260%
Thurston, Johnathan5638%
Reynolds, Adam5229%
Top 5 HBs59.243.20%
Other HBs43.322.54%
Difference (top 5 – all)15.920.66%

5. How relevant is front-row this year?

It can be hard to get excited about the front-row position in SuperCoach. The guns look to lack the same ceiling as other positions. It’s also one of two positions in which the top 5 average decreased from 2019 to 2020 (the other being five-eighth).

I often find it difficult to identify worthwhile trades in this position due to the low ceilings of players. One that I think we will need to plan for is Payne Haas. He can probably wait a couple of rounds after his return in round 4. Therefore, a case can be made for a mid-ranger who has upside that can be traded to Haas later on, if you can find a good one.

Payne Hass7588%
Patrick Carrigan6779%
David Klemmer6760%
Aiden Tolman6553%
Josh McGuire6465%
Top 5 FRFs67.669.00%
Other FRFs45.920.10%
Difference (top 5 – all)21.748.90%
Haas, Payne7890%
Fisher-Harris, James6658%
Fonua-Blake, Addin6660%
Klemmer, David6681%
Papalii, Josh6561%
Top 5 FRFs68.270.00%
Other FRFs42.115.33%
Difference (top 5 – all)26.154.67%
Fifita, Andrew6852%
Taupau, Martin6558%
James, Ryan6339%
Tapine, Joseph6344%
Kikau, Viliame6152%
Top 5 FRFs6449.00%
Other FRFs41.514.53%
Difference (top 5 – all)22.534.47%

6. How quickly should we stack our pack with second-row guns?

I think the simple answer is ASAP. However, this year is quite unique in terms of the number of intriguing mid-rangers available in this position.

The ascendency of Angus Crichton and Ryan Matterson is notable. They are strong candidates for inclusion in SuperCoach teams for those who can find a way to fit them in.

Angus Crichton7677%
Cameron McInnes7683%
Ryan Matterson7594%
Jason Taumalolo7288%
Tohu Harris6970%
Top 5 2RFs73.682.40%
Other 2RFs47.123.84%
Difference (top 5 – all)26.558.56%
Taumalolo, Jason7883%
Murray, Cameron6970%
Matterson, Ryan6754%
Fisher-Harris, James6658%
Klemmer, David6681%
Top 5 2RFs69.269.20%
Other 2RFs45.722.71%
Difference (top 5 – all)23.546.49%
Trbojevic, Jake7170%
Taumalolo, Jason7065%
Crichton, Angus6964%
Martin, Rhyse6857%
Arrow, Jai6452%
Top5 2RFs68.461.60%
Other 2RFs45.923.20%
Difference (top 5 – all)22.538.40%

7. How risky is it to start without a gun at hooker?

The difference between the best and the rest at the hooker position concerns me. Say I start with Connor Watson at hooker and he goes down injured, it could be tricky to move up to a gun. There are plenty of mid-range options available (Watson, Lam, Hodgson, Jayden Brailey). However, I’m not sure I’m prepared to risk it.

Cameron Smith7975%
Cameron McInnes7683%
Harry Grant7180%
Damien Cook7070%
Api Koroisau6659%
Top 5 HKs72.473.40%
Other HKs45.020.83%
Difference (top 5 – all)27.452.57%
Cook, Damien7661%
Smith, Cameron7467%
McInnes, Cameron6874%
Tevaga, Jazz5750%
Farah, Robbie5443%
Top 5 HKs65.859.00%
Other HKs40.216.36%
Difference (top 5 – all)25.642.64%
Cook, Damien7877%
Smith, Cameron6457%
Hodgson, Josh6355%
Farah, Robbie6255%
McInnes, Cameron6046%
Top 5 HKs65.458.00%
Other HKs43.723.34%
Difference (top 5 – all)21.734.66%

So, there you have it. More questions than answers in this article. Hopefully you can answer them with further research! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

7 Responses to “Positional analysis: 7 key questions to start the year”

  1. Kooragang RFLC

    Thanks Wade, you’re 100% right – timing of selection trumps pretty much anything if you’re willing to take the gamble and select a gun at CTW. Knights/Titans/Panthers all have good(ish) opening rounds, which brings Brian Kelly and To’o into the picture. Massive shame that KP’s out, otherwise The Don would’ve been a lock in R1

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